The Woman Question: Reply to Melvin

GordThomps10 at GordThomps10 at
Tue Apr 23 09:16:58 MDT 2002

>> The demand for inheritance rights by property converts the
womb into the property of inheritance. The historic battle for reproduction
rights in its last stage in human history becomes a sharp form of the
struggle for reproduction unbounded by capital. Hence a class

We seem to be in general agreement. One point of terminology requires
correction: patriarchal society relies on patrilineal inheritance,
not matrilineal. The children inherit from the father, not from the
mother. It seems to be a fact of history that no class society
developed on the basis of matrilineal inheritance. Bourgeois
feminists will try to claim that this has something to do with
women's nurturing orientation; but, I don't accept genetic bases for
human behaviour.

>> Wow . . . . . huuuuuuummmmmm.
I have grown a little older and a little wiser and subjected to the same
ideological sphere. Trivializing violence is to go over to the side of the
bourgeoisie. You raise profoundly emotional, ideological and physiological
issues more than less out of my range. Nevertheless, I too have indulged in
"a little play acting." Ownership of human chattel and oppression of women is
as personal as it gets. "all that . . . skin  just hanging out there waiting
in plain sight, tempting" is going to continue to get many of us in trouble
long after state power has been consolidated in the hands of the proletariat;
after the state has withered away and the only thing left of value is the
residual impact in the realm of administration. Rape is violence and power
assertion as opposed to an "inability to handle a sexual urge."  As such
power is exercised through not simply the ownership of things but also
control of things with a capacity to dictate and dominate others. <<

We die without food, but we don't die without sex. Yet, for some
reason, sexual urges are believed to be an acceptable reason for
the breaking of some laws and some social norms even though we never think
that hunger is an acceptable defence in the prosecution of matters of
theft. Why?

To answer this question requires an understanding of what 'all that
skin' represents. Let's re-examine something I said in my posts on
Ecofascism, specifically with respect to 'romancing the native'.

I identified this a variation on a cultural motif that is as old as
the Sumerian Epic of Gilgamesh, in which the ruler of a sophisticated
cosmopolis is imbued with a spiritual quest which turns out to be
fulfillable only with the help of a spirit guide - the Wild Man of
the Steppes, Enkidu - who dies in the service of Gilgamesh, under attack
by a female deity representing the gifts of civilization. Quite
clearly, the Wild Man represents the animal nature to which the
civilized man feels he no longer has direct access. The remedy
clearly posited in this myth is vicarious acquisition of the personal
energy of a lesser being, by means of personal bonding.

This whole notion of interpersonal energy transferrence is much older
than Sumeria, as can be seen in any examination of tribal mythology.
In any story in which the spirit animal gives himself to the hunter
we see this principle at work. Although these animals are believed to
be the brothers and sisters of the tribe, they willingly give
themselves to the hunter to be eaten, just as the ox of Christian
pastoral mythology bows down to take up service for his master, and
the wife lays back and thinks of England for the good of society.

The story of the Boar of Cornwall seems to have originated as a type
of animal transferrence story, of a type common to Eurasian nomads in
 the same area in which the early proto-Celts are
believed to have arisen. These stories are believed to have been used
by shamans as a means of conceptualizing their passage into what they
believed was the spirit world. In the Boar story, the animal is
pursued and struggled with for over a year before finally
surrendering his life force to the superior Arthur, in much the same
way women are expected to allow themselves to be pursued for a
suitable length of time before surrendering their own life force. Arthur himself is
later vicariously possessed when the Normans rework this story in an
attempt to acquire the animal energy of the conquered Anglo-Saxons.
They expunge the homoerotic flavour by elevating Arthur's energy to a
higher spiritual level by means of the introduction of the Christian
spiritual quest, thus giving rise to the archetypical Hero myth. In a
cross-cultural context, vicarious possession is almost always a
matter of cultural imperialism, for which I have been using the term
'romancing the native' (from an excellent website on American

And so the Other becomes a source of fictive spiritual treasure
without end. The hideousness potential factor grows exponentially
with the irrationality of the fictive parameters. As is the case with
the moral suasion mechanism I was discussing in my Hutterite post,
irrational parameters have no practicable effect, and therefore no
real existence. Therefore, the act of possession has no logical end.
This gives rise to what I call the "You broke my heart, so I busted
your jaw" syndrome, a typical example being the husband who feels he
has the right to whale the tar out of the wife and kids because they
offended his pride or 'questioned' his authority. Or the president of
the United States bombing the crap out of some country because it
offended his sense of how the world should be run.

So, to get back to my comparison of food with sex, food merely perpetuates
physical existence, whereas sex is allegedly the gateway to the beyond, a
role specifically assigned to it in the Tantric sex rituals of Tibetan
Buddhism, lending this religion an aura of spiritual vampirism and leading
to autocratism in its leaders and placing them in a realm 'beyond good and
evil' as Nietzsche put it (a factor in the current Catholic Church sex

Here is what Thomas Jefferson - he of the unacknowledged interracial
offspring - has to say about master/slave relations:

 In Notes on Virginia, in a really
   interesting passage, he says, "The whole commerce between master and
   slave is a perpetual exercise of the most boisterous passions, the
   most unremitting despotism on the one part and degrading submissions
   on the other." And then a little later in the same passage he says,
   "The man must be a prodigy whose manners and morals are not corrupted
   by this institution." That, it seems to me, is as close to a
   confession as we are ever likely to get.

It would seem to me fairly obvious that toilers in general represent the
'animal' power from which the ruling class feels alienated in it's
'civilized' ways. As long as the insidious notion of energy transferrence
holds currency, there will be boisterous passions raised on entirely
irrational grounds; which is to say, upon anticipation of acquisition of
things that don't exist, through the agency of means that have no real
efficacy, by people whose ends could be met through cultivation of their
own person. I won't speculate on the added dimension of skin colour.

The question of what women represent to men is far too complex for me
to get into here, and you all know I don't have much patience for
gender role discussions, anyway. It is high time we all learned to
look each other in the eye and see each other as we are. Sex, as
Marlene Dietrich put it, is just a fact. Get over it.

>> Here is the rub. You tend to write - in my opinion, to present a set of facts
and circumstances to an audience for their consideration.<<

This is in response to Proyect's persistent and dishonest strategy of
filibuster. Rarely does he address my actual argument, even when
challenged to do so, preferring instead to litter the list with
strawperson, ad homina, question begging and outright lying. In
response by other list members, I see a lot of sympathy for utopian
socialist idealism. In my opinion, the only antedote to all this is
to supply as much background data as possible. I will be moving on to
a more theoretical level once I have finished with Georg Lukacs'
_Destruction of Reason_, which discusses the fascist use of
irrationality as a deliberate propaganda tool.

>> All of the above statement. In my estimate the Women Question changes its
shape but not its historical content, and this content emerges into view as  
the abolition of classes and the final liquidation of the status of labor
(giving birth!) as a commodity or relationship of property.

Pardon me, but the proletariat travels full circle in its historical  
evolution as the active ingredient in the LABORING PROCESS. Laboring process
is not a play on words but rather means the goal is the liquidation of
"status" or the emancipation of . . . .? <<

Melvin, your attempt to fit the woman question onto the Procrustrean
Bed of the class struggle has distorted your reasoning beyond
recognition, and hurts my brain. In other words, I don't understand
what you're saying.

The woman question is certainly bound up with class. But the ideology
used to rationalize this form of oppression is a relic of pre-class society,
the mentality of slavery. This is what I would call an instance of
combined and uneven development of history: the great emancipatoy
movements of history have largely left women behind in the ashes and
cinders of the Sacred Hearth. For a woman to learn to fight for her
own freedoms, she must first learn to throw off her slave-like

This slave-like mentality, this lack of a sense of self, results in
women experiencing depression at twice the rate of men, of women
attempting suicide at twice the rate of men, of women being inchoate
when they ought to be articulating demands for redress of grievance.
Feminist used to know this, back when they were still reading Phyllis
Chestler. But now they're all caught up in Strong Woman mythology,
and day-dreaming about running with the wolves.

As carriers of the residue of the ancient bunk, women act as a
conservatising force in society at large; and in the waning days of
the power of the Church, it is the role of women to infect their children
with the habits of dependence requisite to the smooth functioning of
a hierarchical society.

But more importantly, and I want everyone to pay attention to this
point, it is within the family that demagogue-responsive psychology
is formed. The habits of dependance are inculcated at a pre-rational
level, and at such an early age, that they give the appearance of
being primordial, instinctive, cosmic absolutes, giving rise to all
sorts of nonsense about the collective unconscious - the natural
territory of right-wing demagoguery.

It is for this reason that Family Values have
taken on mythic proportions in the mind-set of the Evangelical
Christians, and it is for this reason that marriage is being pushed
as the solution to welfare under Bush's faith based initiative.

It is no accident that they are reviving the Kinder, Kirche, Kuche
approach as a political solution to serious social problems.

>> "Economic autonomy" is not possible for the majority of men in
society. <<

One of the things accomplished during the second wave of feminism was
the clearing away of some of the legal residue of women's chattel
status, still on the books four decades after the "Persons" case had
declared women to be persons. For instance, it is no longer legally
possible for a bank to refuse to open an account for a woman simply
on the grounds that her husband doesn't want her to have one. Today
the biggest obstacle to economic autonomy is the wage gap. In much of
the world, much of the work done by women and children is unpaid, and
where wages are involved, they are handed over directly to the
husband or clan patriarch.

>> By "heterosexual ideology" I understand you to mean male supremacy in
as much as a homosexual couple cannot produce - on the basis of common sex
organs, children, which is the essence of inheritance and hereditary

That's actually not what I had in mind. I meant the ideology that
purports that momogamous heterosexual coupling, sanctioned by church
and bourgeois jurisprudence, is the best thing since sliced bread -
better than drugs, even, if you can believe that. Supposedly, the
union of male and female results in the super-duperest energy
transferrence thingy since energy transferrence thingies were invented.
Romantic love has been made to pick up some of the slack of that
older opiate of the masses, religion.

While the 'Romeo and Juliette" play still provides one of the best
discussions of the threat that freedom of romantic choice presents to
family politics, it has at the same time laid the basis for a new opiate
of the masses - the escapist notion that you can, must, and should find
total personal fufillment with one individual life partner. It's part and
parcel of the idea that utopia can somehow be created within the Hallowed
Precincts of the Sacred Hearth.

>> A demand to protect homosexual members of society from
violence and exclusion was converted into a phony liberation movement. This
was the hand of the bourgeoisie pushing the petty bourgeois radicals.
Liberation from what may I ask, Heterosexuals? This was an ideological trap
carefully constructed by the bourgeoisie. <<

I doubt it. Queer theory strikes at the heart of the same family
values ideology that keeps women dreaming of domestic bliss and keeps
proletarian men tied to the mouths that need feeding. It deconstructs
gender role theory and provides research for groups fighting back
against discrimination in employment, housing etc. Just as women's
liberation is by no means a done deal, gay liberation is far from a
fait accomplis.

I signed Mathew Shepherd's commemoration book in my own name and on behalf
of my brother who was unable to attend the vigil that day. I keep hearing
from groups like the Human Rights Campaign that corporations are
increasingly adding things like partner b enefits to employment packages.
But at the same time, I hear from more revolutionary groups that police
harassment and hate crimes are on the rise.

>> These classes have a
spontaneous tendency to move in a direction of their perceived material
interest within the boundary of the quiet changes of the mode of

Right. Which is why we have to concentrate on the areas where class
and sector politics intersect. As long as 51% of the population can
be held in reserve as a pool of cheap labour, wage discrimination
against women will keep wages low for everyone. Many of the demands
of the sectors can be posed in terms of the enlightened self interest
of the aristocracy of labour. This is how to unite the working class
and its allies, not by treating identity as some kind of inviolate

>> It cannot be won on the basis of gender and sex but rather
a class program that changes the status of labor as the basis for its  

Right on.

No Name Ned

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