Identity Politics

Inez Salinas isalinas0 at
Tue Feb 12 18:14:53 MST 2002

Danielle stated:
>> >> I would have to agree, based on my time as an activist for
>>gay/transgender rights.  Whatever discrimination I face as a
>>lesbian and as a transsexual, it pales to the daily exploitation
>>I face as a worker. <<

Joan replies:
>>I get impatient when people try to reduce women's and gay liberation to the issue of sexual liberation. While that is an important issue, it is by no
>>means the whole story.
>>Many posts ago, I briefly alluded to the rancour in the ranks of
>>the '60's feminists who were discomfitted by the presence of
>>lesbians in their ranks. In part, this discomfort stemmed from the
>>fear of "authoritarian" power which typicaly imbues the ranks of
>>middle class youth, as we see in today's anti-globalization
>>Typically, lesbians then and now are confronted on a day to day
>>basis with the legal and economic forms of anti-woman
>>descrimination prevalent in patriarchies. And, typically, lesbians
>>bring their experience from day to day struggles into the
>>political struggles of feminism. This kind of effectiveness is not
>>always appreciated by "feedom-loving" youth.
>>Contrary to Louis Proyect's assertion in his critique of Stephen J. Gould:
>>      the inappropriately located clitoris does not get directly
>>      stimulated during coitus. This leads him to the observation
>>      that evolution follows no rational design. If it did, the
>>      clitoris would be more strategically placed. (Those of us
>>      who were politically active in the 1960s will recall that
>>      this accident of evolution was one of the main causes of the
>>      woman's liberation movement of the period, as expressed in
>>      Anne Koedt's pamphlet "Myth of the Vaginal Orgasm."),
>>sexual liberation was largely a media hype, having the effect of
>>downplaying the ugly truth of the misogyny that underlies much of
>>the practice of the patriarchy. (Once again, I remind readers
>>that I use the term "patriarchy", not to designate a social
>>structure, but to refer to ideological themes that uphold class
>>societies which depend on the institution of the family as a
>>guarantor of inheritance).
>>Typically, lesbians in North America have not benefitted from the
>>economic boom of the post-War period; and it was the disparity
>>between the "revolution of rising expectations" and the stark
>>reality of life amongst us poor white trash that served to impel
>>women - and especially lesbians - to fight for economic and legal
>>equality. Typically, it has been lesbians who have suffered most
>>from the combined double-whammy of office automization and
>>downsizing that has devastated the female ranks of the middle
>>income work force in North America. When, after 17 years of life
>>in the tullies (the bush), disability forced me to return to
>>urban life in 1992, I had the distinct impression I had wandered
>>into a war zone.
>>The whole downtown core had effectively been deserted. Office
>>buildings stood, empty; the once proud flagship of the Hudsons
>>Bay Company was boarded up; temping agencies not only didn't want
>>to talk to me, they were actively hostile when I phoned back to
>>make enquiries as to the progress of my case. I have already
>>described some of the difficulties attendant upon my acquisition
>>of computerized office skills - the many harbour crossings in an
>>open skiff in inclement weather with a delicate outboard motor
>>always ready to fail at the most inopportune of moments - with
>>which I had hoped to be able to make a living as a temp worker. I
>>knew I lacked the disposition requisite to effective careerism -
>>you've all seen a taste of my evil twin, Kali the Destroyer of
>>Worlds - and I have no talent for middle class networking and
>>office skills.
>>These basic skills (the UIC programme would only train me in
>>basic skills; and I couldn't afford anything else) are
>>practically useless nowadays. Gone are the days when anyone who
>>knew her alphabet could walk into any office anywhere and operate
>>the typewriter. Now, it is necessary to have in-depth experience
>>with specific office suites, and to keep up with the upgrades
>>that come out every few months. In other words, in order to be
>>able to stay employed, it is necessary to dedicate your free time
>>and disposable income to re-learning entry level skills in order
>>to stay current with market demand.
>>My knowledge of the gay rights struggle comes mostly from my
>>brother, who was active here in Edmonton during the '80's as a
>>member of the Metropolitan Community Church. My impressions from
>>first contact in the early '70's to the present are that it is,
>>as mentioned by previous posters, largely a middle class
>>phenomenon of male yuppies, who not only do not speak for me, but
>>are openly contemptuous of poor white trash, poor dykes, and
>>middle class feminists. This, despite the fact that it was dykes
>>who rushed to the aid of gay men when the HIV crisis first broke.
>>My brother has a copy of _Queer and Loathing_, a collection of
>>essays by AIDS activist David. B. Feinberg. I can't find the
>>exact citation at the moment, but one of these essays briefly
>>mentions the shock of a yuppie activist who discovers that life
>>on the other side of the tracks just ain't that nice. Evidently
>>accustomed to middle class groups with lots of funding, this
>>individual was disoriented to find himself in an office run on a
>>shoe-string budget. Didn't know what to do.
>>Female yuppies can be just as obnoxious, in their own way. I
>>remember the young lawyer who came to our law firm in Prince
>>Rupert. Lawyers fresh out of law school typcially know nothing
>>about the nuts and bolts of the legal system - they're full of
>>theory and hubris, and a few other things - and it is typically
>>the task of the senior legal secretaries to sort the newcomer
>>out. This particular lawyer resented the fact that her income was
>>the same as that of the senior secretaries, and less than that of
>>the office paralegal - who had worked her way up the hard way.
>>This lawyer came into the firm full of herself, clearly expecting
>>adoration from her less auspicious "sisters" in the clerical
>>pool. She was oblivious to the fact that our regard for a senior
>>male lawyer was based on the very genuine appreciation he evinced
>>for the entire clerical staff. She, herself, on the other hand,
>>cracked jokes about us as her "slaves".
>>Her secretary quit, taking with her 12 years of legal experience.
>>Women's liberation, and gay liberation, is not about the right of
>>men to wear high heels, as Gary McLennan keeps suggesting; nor is
>>it about the right of Afghani women to throw off the burkha, as
>>the Western media keep insisting; nor is it about "making the
>>personal political", as various identity movemnents have
>>It is about the right of Afghani women to refuse to be treated as
>>slave labour in the Taliban's poppy fields. It is about the right
>>of cocktail waitresses to refuse to be categorized as prostitutes
>>when they bring rape charges to court. It is about the right of
>>individuals to choose to live alone rather than submit to legally
>>binding domestic contracts called "marriage". It is also about
>>the right to express one's sexuality naturally, without
>>requirement of self-censorship.
>>The personal *may* have political implications. But, as I keep
>>reminding people when the subject of religion comes up, not every
>>sigh of the opressed has revolutionary implications. Individual
>>rights, the establishment of which was the crowning glory of the
>>European bourgeois revolutions, are only part of what Marxists
>>defend, and seek to extend to the non-priviledged layers of
>>society in a concrete way. It is way past time we Marxists put
>>these types of issues back on a sound footing, based on analysis
>>of concrete social reality.
>>And I am *not* going to allow Louis' petulant little holey men to
>>hijack this discussion.
>>This discussion is too important; and I am *not* going to allow
>>their petty little egos to stand in the way.
>>Joan Cameron

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