NOW and Marxism

Louis Proyect lnp3 at
Sat Aug 10 06:23:35 MDT 2002

Xyxyxyyx (Xyxy) Xyyxyx wrote:

> And I resent the idea that any (especially heterosexual) man (even you
> Lou, who I respect very much) would tell ME, a lesbian woman, that I
> have been a very bad girl (more or less) by reacting with anger and
> defensiveness to "family-values" rhetoric. I find it paternalistic and
> further evidence of the low-level of feminist analysis on this list.

Actually, there is not much out there at all in the Marxist wing of the
Internet. I peek in on the Marxist-Feminism archives from time to time
( and in the month of July there
were only 10 messages, all of which were announcements or crosspostings
from the bourgeois press, etc. In other words, all the symptoms of a
moribund list.

Generally speaking, on that list and other lists that involve some of
the M-F principals past and present (Cox, Henwood, Kathe Pollitt), some
of the most passionate exchanges have been over "sex work" (ie.,
prostitution) and pornography. Unless I am missing something, those
sorts of issues have very little to do with the everyday concerns of
working women, but address more the wing of the feminist movement that
can recite Foucault chapter and verse.

30 years ago, when I was a member of the Trotskyist movement, the
woman's liberation movement was a powerful and vibrant force that
expressed itself through street actions and other forms of mass protest.
Obviously, this has subsided. To an extent, the h-humanities book review
that I crossposted here (and which Nancy Brumback announced she had no
interest in reading) explains what happened. To some degree, academic
feminism has had a disorienting effect on students:

"The second part of _Disciplining Feminism_ describes the rise of
feminist studies, with the key dilemma centered on whether the field
would focus on activism or intellectual pursuits. Messer-Davidow argues
that while it should not have been an either/or choice, in practice it
was. Feminist studies scholars increasingly emphasized the production of
scholarship and knowledge about women, and de-emphasized, although not
consciously, *direct community activism*."

I actually have witnessed the most extreme form of this development with
my own eyes. Six years ago the nearly all female and minority clerical
work force at Barnard College, organized by the UAW, went on strike
after the administration demanded cutbacks in their medical benefits.
The President of Barnard College is Judith Shapiro, a leading feminist
theorist, forced these women out on the picket line for more than six
months in one of the city's most visible labor struggles. The school,
which is staffed heavily with feminist veterans, found few willing to
take the side of the strikers who sat out in front of Barnard's gates
with their children on a daily basis.

Feminism, like socialism, is an ideal. I saw this mailing list as an
opportunity to critically examine the socialist movement, which has
tended to go up blind alleys because of the inability of the movement to
see its own warts. Although I am not as immersed in the literature of
the feminist movement, something suggests to me that a critical
examination can only help there as well.


Louis Proyect

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