Tribal Traditionalism: Part 1 Female Genital Mutilation

Mike Friedman mikedf at
Wed Apr 17 09:08:17 MDT 2002

You are correct to condemn blanket criticisms of tribal
trditionalism. But your "workerist" approach abstracts from reality.
By denying the reality of racism and sexism and the validity of
particular struggles against them by the oppressed, you condone those
forms of oppression. You -- not feminists -- perpetuate division
within the working class. Oppression of women is real and particular.
It affects women of all classes. At its intersection with class, it,
and not feminism, divides the working class. Racism, and not those
who prioritize the struggle against it, divides the working class.
And as long as male workers oppress women, they are agents of
oppression and of division of their own class. Female genital
mutilation, sterilization abuse, sexual harassment, etc., are
expressions of the oppression of women, per se, and not of workers.
You can't resolve this oppression "just" for working class women. As
long as the working class (particularly the organized working class)
doesn't confront the oppression of ALL women based on their gender,
ALL African Americans based on their race, etc., it allows itself to
be divided. The onus is on the working class, not the feminists,
bourgeois or otherwise. Revolutionary triumphs in many countries have
shown that the ascension of workers to power does NOT automatically
resolve the oppression of women. Women have had to undertake a
struggle around their particular needs, often AGAINST the workers
state, itself (although this would fall into the category of what we
used to call a non-antagonistic contradiction), to make headway
against sexism. The most that can be said is that the working class
in power has no vested interest in racism, sexism, homophobia or any
of the multiple -- and real -- forms of oppression perpetuated by the
rulers of our society, and which have existed at least since the dawn
of class society.


general line of advancement of the struggle against the bourgeoisie. To more
than less (the more than less means 51% and this is a slim margin from any
perspective) correctly decipher an issue and present it in an irresolvable
manner places one in opposition to the leading section of the working class
and splits the working class movement. The presentation of a social issue in
a manner that splits the working class is a method that merges one with the

This is most certainly a radical petty bourgeois formulation.  "Some issues
important to women - 51% of the world's population," is quite frankly a
non-Marxist formulation in today's world. What women are you talking about?
Why the classless assertion and formulation? One cannot support "women" as
such without merging with reaction, because society is profoundly rent with
class contradictions. To heck with the women of the bourgeoisie. What
Comrade, it is time to surrender classless formulations.

"FEMALE GENITAL MUTILATION" is apparently the reason for condemning tribal
traditionalism, in part 1 of your statement. You do not speak of specific
acts of cruelty but rather  "tribal traditionalism."  Well, only the
class-conscious proletariat can bring to end specific acts of cruelty and
outlaw them in society. There will still be a more or less lengthy period of
time to raise the cultural level of the propertyless masses. Is FEMALE
GENITAL MUTILATION as cruel as lynching, which of course was part of our

There is another issue at stake, which in the last period of history was
formulated as "bourgeois cosmopolitanism," or the imposition of the culture
of the imperial peoples on the world peoples.  Blanket condemnation of
"tribal traditionalism" is nothing more than Great nation chauvinism and
splits the forward moving sections of the world proletariat. Such is the
historical evolution and bankruptcy of "female ideology" as a current.

Melvin P.

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