gender trumps class?

Jose G. Perez jgperez at netzero.net
Wed Aug 14 05:56:32 MDT 2002


I think you're positing this on such a high level of abstraction that it
gives me a nosebleed.

It isn't really that complicated.

Think about all the *genuinely* proletarian men or women married to
bourgeois imperialist bankers and big entrepeneurs.

You can't cause there ain't none cause no-one subjects themselves to
traditional factory wage slavery voluntarily.

For one thing, if it is voluntary it ain't slavery.

And it isn't simply a question of "lifestyle" or "income level," although
those are tell-tale indicia.

You ask, what about "about THEIR relationship to the means of production,"
meaning by "THEIR" individual bourgeois women.
The question does not make sense. Class social relations are not the
relations of individuals to things, but rather, social relations, i.e.,
relationships between groups of people MEDIATED by  things. And the groups
are broader than just the subset of individuals with a direct relationship
to the means of production, the things.

Human society had acquired over time very definite and distinctive
structures and forms of organization. One of these forms is the family (or
if you prefer, the "household"). Yes, individuals have an insertion into the
social relations derived from the way solcial production is organized, but
families/households do also have a place in overall social relations. The
unoccupied spouse of a bourgeois is NOT a member of the reserve army of the
unemployed, no matter what his or her "profession," they're a member of the
class of the idle rich.

You *complain* that in analyzing the social position of members of
households, class "trumps" gender where women are concerned. But aren't you
just belaboring the painfully obvious? Isn't this just a description of the
real world? Or can you describe the day to day existence of a female
Rockefeller or Kennedy to show how it is really quite comparable to that of
a Mrs. González?

That it is TYPICALLY a "high social status" male that imparts his standing
in social relations to the household as a whole is simply a way of saying
that this is a patriarchal society. Raising it as a *complaint*  about how
current-day society is organized is like complaining about the chauvinistic
"gravetyism" of (needless to say, male) physicists, who always talk about
objects with mass "attracting" each other rather than being repelled. But
what are we going to do, bring Isaac Newton back to life and demand he
change his description  of the laws that actually describe just how objects
behave, in order that the objects should behave differently?

Isn't the complaint that Marxists in analyzing social relations ascribe to
the (female) spouse the position in society of her male companion a little
bit like that? The descrtiption doesn't make society that way; society is IN
FACT that way.

Or look at it another way: the fact that a drone husband of a female CEO
derives HIS social status from HER social position in no way makes the drone
a member of an oppressed sex, or a victim of sexual oppression. These are
fundamentally *SOCIAL* and not *individual* phenomena, however much an
individual case may typify or seem to contradict the broader situation in
society as a whole.

All that said, trying to make draw political conclusions out of an analysis
that gender (or race, or nationality, or whatever) "trumps" class, or
vice-versa, is apolitical moralizing. It don't matter  who trumps what
"fundamentally"; politics takes place on a different plane, you can't go
from "fundamental" analysis to day-to-day politics. Political developments
follow their OWN logic in which issues which may seem "fundamentally"
unimportant play an absolutely decisive role.

José


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