[Marxism] Male and White Supremacy was ...White chauvinism

Carrol Cox cbcox at ilstu.edu
Mon Jun 21 11:35:17 MDT 2004

Jurriaan Bendien wrote:
> I'd be interested to know what your definition of "sexism" is. Words like
> this can get thrown about quite a bit, including by people who like to
> impose moral straightjackets on others, but their meaning is often either
> obscure, or diversely interpreted, or unargued for.

The meaning of _words_ as words is merely the history of their use. And
since there are far more 'things' in the world than words in any
language clearly every word has to be used in multiple senses. But
defining the meaning of words does _not_ determine the nature of those
things out in the world.

My _own_ use of both "sexism" and "racism" is that they name the
ideologies corresponding to male supremacist or white supremacist social
relations. And of course, core to those ideologies is the assumption
that "sex" and "race" name real things rather than historically
generated social relations.

[For the historical rather than "biological" status of "the female (or
male) sex" see "The Birth of the Two-Sex World" By Stephen Jay Gould,
New York Review of Books, Volume 38, Number 11 · June 13, 1991 (a review
of Thomas Laqueur, _Making Sex: Body and Gender from the Greeks to
Freud_, Harvard UP, 1990).]

[For racism and "race" see "Slavery, Race and Ideology in the United
States of America," by Barbara
Jeanne Fields. New Left Review, May/June 1990. This is available at:
  http://folks.astrian.net/godzilla/Politics/fields-ideology.html ]

I don't think the terms sexist and racist are very useful terms to label
each other on this list, but I _do_ think that reluctance to discuss the
actuality of serious sexist and racist aspects of the left (and
specifically the marxist left) in the U.S. forecloses serious discussion
of our tasks in building a mass left movement in the united states or in
enhancing the marxist presence in that movement.

The basic text for understanding the intertwined history of marxism and
"the woman question" is Lise Vogel, _Marxism and the Oppression of
Women: Toward a Unitary Theory_ (Rutgers UP, 1983). Also by Vogel,
_*Woman Questions: Essays for a Materialist Feminism_ (London: Pluto
Press, 1995).

Crucial to an understanding of _both_ racism and sexism is Stephanie
Coontz, _The Social Origins of Private Life: A History of American
Families, 1600-1900_ (Verso, 1988, 1991). Out of print, I believe, but
probably one could find used copies on the internet. Coontz, Laqueur,
Gould, and Martin Bernal in Vol. I of _Black Athena_ all tell the same
story of the radical change in the rationalale for oppression and
exploitation that took place in the late 18th & early 19th centuries.


P.S. "Chauvinism" is not the best term to use in discussing the social
relations and corresponding ideologies that are relevant here -- it puts
the emphasis too much on individual subjectivity.

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