Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Friday, March 16, 2007


A brief definition of Feminism may be impossible, since Feminists put out shoots into almost every other field. Nevertheless, there is some degree of consistency in their critique, despite the polemics that divide it. Besides pursuing the obvious goal of obliterating patriarchal power, Feminists seek to articulate new modes of inquiry -- critical, scientific, literary -- that escape traditional hierarchies by raising difference to the level of an ultimate term. However, the problem of essentialism continues to stir a fierce dispute within the field of Feminism. While all struggle to bring women's issues and concerns to the fore, factions disagree over whether some pan-historical or cross-cultural �essence� can be attributed to female nature. The debate rages most hotly across the Atlantic, as the more activist-oriented Anglo-American feminists object to the biologically grounded theoretical musings of the French movement. French writer Luce Irigaray, for example, is often attacked for essentializing the 'maternal' aspect of women. Whereas the French incessantly speak of 'sexual difference,' the Anglo-Americans generally turn their attention to the more socially constructed category of gender. Judith Butler, for example, argues that gender isn't a matter of sexual difference, but rather of 'performing' a certain role in order to concede to or trouble societal conventions. Certain feminists have said that the polemic rests on a mere problem of translation. Both sides, however, display a need to confront the work of Freud, whose essentialist theories of female sexuality serve as barriers to the articulation of a more positive, politically potent conception of femininity.
art and culture


Feminism: Heading to the women's conference, the author of "The Feminine Mystique" argues that sexual politics have become diversionary

By Betty Friedan

This article originally appeared in Newsweek Magazine, September 4, 1995

OVER AND OVER AGAIN IN CHINA, women would say to me with a smile, men with a smirk: "Women hold up half the sky." It's a ritual Chinese saying, somehow putting an end to further serious discussion. The woman knows the man doesn't mean it; she's not supposed to take it seriously. But as the word spread that 40,000 women from other countries were coming to Beijing in September for the U.N. World Conference on Women, and that these women objected when the Chinese government shunted their Non-Governmental Organizations Forum out to a resort under the Great Wall - that these women expected to be taken seriously - nervous Chinese men joked, "You women want to hold up more than half the sky now?"

The world's women now converging on Beijing suddenly loom as a great force at the very moment when deadly new games of violence and greed seem to be taking over the entire world. Are women irrelevant to those power players? They may think so; they may wish women would just stop talking about values, human rights, about the concerns of children and the environment, the old and the poor, the whole social agenda that men now seizing power in many lands want to reverse. But where are we heading?

I came to China in June at the request of the United States Information Agency to talk to women in five cities about the U.S. women's movement. I accepted because of my own concern over what message the Beijing meeting could offer at this moment about the future of the women's movement.

At the first World Conference on Women, in Mexico in 1975, most of the official delegates were men, or the wives or secretaries of male politicians. The real action took place at the NGO forum - the assembly of nongovernmental organizations traditionally held adjacent to the big U.N. conferences. When it became clear that various powers - Communist and Muslim, Vatican and fundamentalists, dictators and demagogues from Third World nations - did not want their women infected with ideas about equality and women's rights, we marched. And a global network of women was born.

Now, in 1995, ideas about the equality of women with men, about our right to participate in society, to earn fair pay, to control our own bodies, to speak with our own voice in political decisions, are taken for granted by most women in the United States (and increasingly in the world). But sexual politics - reifying women's oppression and victimization by men - has come to dominate women's studies and feminist thought.

Meanwhile, a growing resentment against women threatens our economic and political empowerment in ways that sexual politics can't solve - and may even exacerbate. I saw the "angry white male" backlash coming, even before the 1994 election, in new data on the fall-in-income in the last five years of college-educated white men. They have been the real targets of job downsizing. Their frustration is building - and talk-radio hosts, the religious right and the new leaders in Congress are manipulating that economic insecurity into rage against women and minorities. Increased violence against women, the political war on welfare mothers and children, and the new attack on affirmative action may be symptoms of that rage. Growing unemployment and the resultant backlash against women can also be seen worldwide. In Muslim countries, women have been pushed back under the veil. With the end of communism, women in the former Soviet countries are being told to go home again and losing political voice.

So I've wondered how, at this time of global economic insecurity, women could even maintain their gains, much less continue to advance. And I've realized that they can't - not as long as they focus on women's issues alone or on women versus men. The problems in our fast-changing world require a new paradigm of social policy, transcending all "identity politics" - women, blacks, gays, the disabled. Pursuing the separate interests of women isn't adequate and is even diversionary. Instead, there has to be some new vision of community. We need to reframe the concept of success. We need to campaign - men and women, whites and blacks - for a shorter workweek, a higher minimum wage, an end to the war against social-welfare programs. "Women's issues" are symptoms of problems that affect everyone.

The women's movement is not going to fade away, but should become part of a mosaic, bridging the polarization. We must confront the backlash realistically; we must not allow ourselves to become part of the politics of hate. The basis of women's empowerment is economic - that's what is in danger now. And it can't be saved by countering the hatred of women with a hatred of men.

So, yes, I am concerned - but I'm optimistic, too, from talking to women from Russia, Brazil, India, Spain, Japan, Africa and others at the U.N. preparatory conference in New York. They were working to draft the document that will be adopted at Beijing. It contains every possible item of women's unfinished business of equality, the elimination of all forms of violence against women, from wife beating and the dowry system to genital mutilation, from the measurement of women's unpaid work, to new arrangements of work that will permit more of a partnership of men with women in nurturing children. It includes affirmative action for women in employment and in their representation in political leadership - including in the United Nations itself, proportionally to their numbers in the population. It gives women new control of their health, not only in their reproductive years but throughout the life cycle. The Vatican wants to change the word "woman" wherever possible to "mother". To define women as mothers in the face of the reality of an 80-year life span in which motherhood can occupy only a few years would be a paradox indeed.

In fact, the very holding of this conference in China seems a paradox. There is no women's movement in China, though they have equal rights - on paper. When I landed in Beijing in June, the nervousness about the coming meeting was palpable. I learned that the Chinese delegations to Cairo and the Copenhagen social summit had been shocked by the assertiveness of the women's caucuses there. Women like Madame Chiang Kai-shek and Mao's wife had terrifying power. Ever since Tiananmen Square, things have been too tense here to permit any kind of democratic demonstration. So the 40,000 women at the NGO conference must get their business done at workshops and plenary sessions. They may have fantasies of demonstrating in Tiananmen Square, but I do not fancy the thought of American feminists ending up in Chinese prisons.

The message from Beijing must be a reverberating vow that women will not be held down, put back or marginalized by any new government, political or religious power.

On Aug. 26, 1970, the 50th anniversary of American women's gaining the right to vote, I led 50,000 women down Fifth Avenue in a Women's Strike for Equality - the explosion of the modern women's movement. This year, on the 75th anniversary, I leave for Beijing. Our job now is to move beyond polarization to a vision of community that can unite us as decent people. Are women strong enough to join or even lead men in finding that new vision? We won't stop talking about human values. But women, after all, cannot hold up more than half the sky.

The Socialist Feminist Project

(roubado por ai - Monthly review - para ler mais tarde)
by Nancy Holmstrom


Notes From
the Editors

The Commercial Tidal Wave
by Robert W. McChesney & John Bellamy Foster

Students and Workers in the Transition to Socialism: The Singer Model
by Staughton Lynd

Also by this Author:

The Necessity of Gangster Capitalism:
Primitive Accumulation in Russia and China
by Nancy Holmstrom and Richard Smith

Nancy Holmstrom teaches philosophy at Rutgers University in Newark, New Jersey. She is the editor of The Socialist Feminist Project: A Contemporary Reader in Theory and Politics (Monthly Review Press, 2002), and co-editor of Not for Sale: In Defense of Public Goods (Westview Press, 2000).

This essay is adapted from the introduction to The Socialist Feminist Project: A Contemporary Reader in Theory and Politics, edited by Nancy Holmstrom (Monthly Review Press, 2002)

Some would say socialist feminism is an artifact of the 1970s. It flowered with the women’s liberation movement, as a theoretical response to what many in the movement saw as the inadequacies of Marxism, liberalism, and radical feminism, but since then it has been defunct, both theoretically and politically. I think this view is mistaken.

Socialist feminism should be seen as an ongoing project. It is alive and well today and it existed before the women’s liberation movement as well—though both now and then, not necessarily in that name. It has sometimes been called Marxism, sometimes socialist feminism, sometimes womanism, sometimes materialist feminism, or feminist materialism, and sometimes is implicit in work that bears no theoretical labels. Though the term “socialist feminist” can be used more narrowly, as I will explain, I am going to characterize as a socialist feminist anyone trying to understand women’s subordination in a coherent and systematic way that integrates class and sex, as well as other aspects of identity such as race/ethnicity or sexual orientation, with the aim of using this analysis to help liberate women. As Barbara Ehrenreich said in 1975 the term socialist feminism “is much too short for what is, after all, really socialist, internationalist, antiracist, antiheterosexist feminism.”

Today the socialist feminist project is more pressing than ever. “[T]he need of a constantly expanding market for its products chases the bourgeoisie over the whole surface of the globe...transforming the world in its own image,” was the Communist Manifesto’s prescient description of what is now referred to as “globalization.” “The Battle of Seattle” against the World Trade Organization (WTO) and the demonstrations that have followed in Davos, Quebec City, Genoa, and wherever world economic leaders meet, express peoples’ growing awareness of and protest against capitalism as a global force beyond democratic control. The brutal economic realities of globalization impact everyone across the globe—but women are affected disproportionately. Displaced by rapid economic changes, women bear a greater burden of labor throughout the world as social services have been cut, whether in response to structural adjustment plans in the third world or to so-called welfare reform in the United States. Women have been forced to migrate, are subject to trafficking, and are the proletarians of the newly industrializing countries. On top of all this they continue to be subject to sexual violence and in much of the world are not allowed to control their own processes of reproduction. How should we understand these phenomena and, more importantly, how do we go about changing them? Feminist theory that is lost in theoretical abstractions or that depreciates economic realities will be useless for this purpose. Feminism that speaks of women’s oppression and its injustice but fails to address capitalism will be of little help in ending women’s oppression. Marxism’s analysis of history, of capitalism, and of social change is certainly relevant to understanding these economic changes, but if its categories of analysis are understood in a gender- or race-neutral way it will be unable to do justice to them. Socialist feminism is the approach with the greatest capacity to illuminate the exploitation and oppression of most of the women of the world.

The broad characterization of socialist feminism I am using allows for a range of views regarding the relationship among the many facets of our identities. Some of us would make class fundamental from an explanatory point of view, while others would refuse to give a general primacy to any one factor over others. Despite these differences in our perspectives, in the broad sense of “socialist feminism” that I am using here, all socialist feminists see class as central to women’s lives, yet at the same time none would reduce sex or race oppression to economic exploitation. And all of us see these aspects of our lives as inseparably and systematically related; in other words, class is always gendered and raced. We should promote conversation, dialogue, and debate among these different perspectives, but it is important to see that the conversation takes place within a common project that underlies the differences. The project has a long history.

What we now call feminism came to public attention in the eighteenth century, most notably in Mary Wollstonecraft’s A Vindication of the Rights of Women (1792), where she argued for equal opportunity for women based on a rational capacity common to both sexes, expressing “the wild wish to see the sex distinction confounded in society.” Her feminist aspirations came together with socialistic aims in the thinking of a number of utopian socialists, whose visions of socialism included not only sexual equality in the family and society at large but the end of the sexual division of labor—Wollstonecraft’s “wild wish” which is radical even today. Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels shared these aspirations and deepened the critique of naturalistic justifications of all social hierarchies. But Marx and Engels were impatient with blueprints for a good society and focused instead on developing a theory of history, society, and social change which would be the basis for the realization of these ideals. It is worth pausing briefly to consider what Marx and Engels said, since Marxism has had a great influence on feminism, whether it has been appropriated, rejected, or transformed.

To summarize many volumes in a paragraph: according to Marxism’s historical materialist approach, history is a succession of modes of production like feudalism and capitalism, each constituted by distinctive relations between the direct producers and the owners of the means of production who live off the labor of the producers. History, says the opening lines of the Communist Manifesto, is the history of class struggles...freeman and slave...lord and a word, oppressor and oppressed.” But, although oppression and exploitation are common to all class societies, the relations between oppressor and oppressed have varied; in other words, exactly how each ruling class manages to live off the labor of the producers differs from one mode of production to another and each must be understood in its own terms.

The specific economic form in which unpaid surplus labor is pumped out of the direct producers, determines the relations of rulers and ruled....It is always the direct relationship of the owners of the conditions of production to the direct producers...which reveals the innermost secret, the hidden basis of the entire social structure, and with it...the corresponding specific form of the state.1

Not only the state, but the family, art, philosophy, and religion—even human nature—all take different forms in different modes of production. Marx goes on to say that what is basically the same economic basis can show “infinite variations and gradations in appearance,” depending on specific historical conditions, which have to be studied in detail. In other words, within capitalism different forms of government and art and family are possible because capitalism is not the only influence. Nevertheless, the relations of production have an explanatory primacy within Marxist theory because they constitute the framework within which other influences occur. And this is because the relations of production provide the “laws of motion” distinctive to each given mode of production. Thus capitalism, the mode of production most studied by Marx, is understood to be a unique historical form aimed at the maximization of profit in a competitive market system. This forces capitalists to strive continually to develop the productivity of labor and technology; for, according to Marx’s theory, profit has its origin in wage labor. Though, unlike in slavery or serfdom, labor is legally free in capitalism, workers in capitalism are also free of any means of subsistence of their own; this forces them to work for capitalists and produce the profit that drives the system. Given these essential characteristics of all capitalist societies, while different and changing forms of government are possible, the constraints of capitalism rule out possibilities such as a true monarchy or a workers’ government. Just what forms of family are possible within capitalism has been a matter of some debate.

Given the concepts’ centrality in their theory, Marx and Engels focused on the oppression and exploitation inherent in the relationship between wage laborers and capitalists. They paid less attention to other forms of labor—for example, the labor of peasants or of women in the family—and to other kinds of oppression simply because they were not as central to their project of understanding capitalism and overturning it. Marx and Engels believed that if they could understand how capitalism worked and help make workers’ conscious of their oppression they could contribute to workers’ self-emancipation. They believed that the self-emancipation of the working class—men and women, of all nations races, and creeds—would be the basis for the end of all other forms of oppression. With the establishment of the first real democracy, the rule of the immense majority—that is, socialism—class oppression and antagonism would be replaced by “an association, in which the free development of each is the condition for the free development of all.” As to how such a society would be organized, they pointed to the Paris Commune of 1870 as “what a workers’ government would look like,” but otherwise said very little.

Tragically, the first successful socialist revolution took place in Russia—a country that lacked the large working class and the material development that Marx saw as necessary for socialism—and no successful revolutions followed in Western Europe where these necessary conditions did exist. In the early years of the revolution when Alexandra Kollontai was in the government and women were organized independently within the Communist Party, remarkable gains were made for women, from the end of legal restrictions on sexual behavior including homosexuality and abortion, to preventing women’s jobs being given to returning soldiers (they were allocated on the basis of need rather than sex) to the provision of communal restaurants, laundries, and childcare. However most of these gains were eliminated later on and women were certainly not emancipated in the Soviet Union. But this does not show, as many commentators would have it, that “socialism failed women.” Men were not liberated either. This was far from the socialism-from-below that the classical Marxists had envisioned. Whatever the inadequacies of Marxist theories on what they called the “woman question,” there was no opportunity to correct them, for, as Marx had predicted in The German Ideology, without the necessary conditions for socialism, “all the old crap”—exploitation and oppression—would return. And indeed it did, in the form of Stalin’s dictatorship, which expropriated the name of Marxism, established a mode of production Marx had never foreseen and destroyed the vision of socialism for millions of people.

In the mid-1970s many women within the women’s liberation movement found themselves dissatisfied with the prevailing analyses of women’s oppression. Liberalism was not radical enough, and radical feminism ignored economic realities. But Marxism was tainted, as Adrienne Rich describes, “by the fear that class would erase gender once again, when gender was just beginning to be understood as a political category.”2 Seeking to combine the best of Marxism and radical feminism, these women developed a theory they called socialist feminism. When socialist feminism is intended in this way—as differentiated from Marxism—”Marxist feminism” is then understood as a perspective which gives primacy to class oppression as opposed to other forms of oppression—or going further, that reduces sex oppression to class oppression. (Radical feminism asserts the reverse relationship.) While the terms “Marxist feminism” and “socialist feminism” can be used in these narrower senses, the distinctions are to some extent verbal. As Rosemarie Tong concedes in Feminist Thought: A More Comprehensive Introduction, not everyone will agree with her classification of feminists into “Marxist” or “socialist.”3 For Tong, “[a]lthough it is possible to distinguish between Marxist and socialist-feminist thought, it is quite difficult to do so.” While there are theoretical differences among socialists and feminists on various issues, which in some contexts are important, the terms “Marxist” or “socialist” or “materialist” do not necessarily denote different perspectives. In Feminist Politics and Human Nature, Alison Jaggar suggests that socialist feminism may be a more consistent Marxism.4 Which term a feminist chooses to describe herself reflects her particular understanding of Marxism and her theoretical and political milieu, and perhaps her personal experience, as much as it does the substance of her position. For example, Margaret Benston’s classic 1969 article “The Political Economy of Women’s Liberation” is described as a Marxist feminist analysis of household labor because she used Marxist categories and clearly saw herself as writing within a Marxist theoretical framework.5 In fact Benston modified Marxist categories in ways that other feminists would say showed that Marxism was inadequate and needed a distinctive socialist feminist theory.6 Her article stimulated quite a debate regarding how to understand household labor within Marxist/socialist feminist terms—the so-called domestic labor debate.

In the 1990s the term “materialist feminism” gained currency, coined by feminists who wanted to give some grounding in social realities to postmodernist theory. However, materialist feminism is “a rather problematic and elusive concept,” in Martha Gimenez’s apt characterization, in that sometimes it is used more or less as a synonym for “Marxist” or “socialist feminist” combined with discourse analysis (as in the work of Rosemary Hennessy), while it is also used by cultural feminists who want nothing to do with Marxism.7 Yet another term that does not necessarily signal a distinct theoretical perspective regarding the relationship among class, sex, and race is “womanist,” a term preferred by some women of color who feel that “feminist” is too one-dimensional and who want to indicate solidarity with men of color as well as with women. Similarly, those who call themselves “multicultural” or “global” feminists would be socialist feminists in my broad sense. Feminists use a particular term to situate themselves within particular debates.

It is “socialist feminism” in the narrower sense that has declined. Developed by feminists who accepted Marxism’s critique of capitalism but rejected the view that women’s oppression was reducible to class oppression—which is how they understood the Marxist analysis—they argued that women’s position in today’s society was a function of both the economic system (capitalism) and the sex-gender system, which they called patriarchy. Some socialist feminists preferred to speak of one system they called capitalist patriarchy. But whether they preferred one system or two, the key claim was that the mode of production had no greater primacy than sex-gender relations in explaining women’s subordination. Many saw the Marxist emphasis on wage labor rather than on all kinds of labor, especially mothering, and on the relations of production rather than on the relations they called “the relations of reproduction,” (sexuality and parenting), as sexist. Convinced that “the personal is political” they wanted to give theoretical and political attention to issues of sex, sexuality, and relations in the family which some utopian socialists had addressed but which most Marxists ignored.

This distinctively anti-Marxist version of socialist feminism declined I believe, for both internal and external reasons. Socialist feminists of the 1970s had criticized liberal and Marxist writers for using categories that were “gender-blind”: “the individual” in liberalism, “the working class” in Marxism. Such categories ignore sex differences among individuals and workers, feminists argued, and hence neither liberalism nor Marxism could explain women’s oppression. But women of color could and did make the same criticism of feminism, including socialist feminism, for using race-blind categories: “working class women,” or simply “women.” To accommodate race oppression (and heterosexism and other forms of oppression), there seemed to be two choices. If we need to posit “a system of social relations” to explain sexism as they argued, then to explain racism (and other forms of oppression) we would have to posit systems beyond capitalism and patriarchy. This option raised a number of questions including: What exactly constitutes a “system”? How many is enough? How are they related? How does the resulting perspective differ from simple pluralism? The other option was to go back to a theory like Marxism which aims to be all-inclusive. Since socialist feminists had distinguished themselves from Marxists because they were unclear how to integrate different forms of oppression without reducing one to the other, this did not seem an attractive option, but neither did the multiplication of systems. Hence there was and remains a lack of clarity, and disagreement as to exactly how different forms of oppression are related.

Socialist feminism as a theoretical position distinct from Marxism also declined for external reasons, both intellectual and political. On the intellectual front, it would be difficult to overemphasize the influence postmodernism has had in the academic world. Starting from valid critiques of many theories’ overgeneralizations and neglect of historical and political context, postmodernists ended up arguing from very anti-theoretical positions. Their emphasis on the local and particular, their attack on what they call “totalizing narratives” and on the very notion of truth and causality, were deeply discouraging to feminists trying to develop a coherent and systematic theory of women’s oppression. The insight associated with postmodernism (though actually it was not new) that social and political power influence science, led many to scepticism. Also despite the inconsistency, it led many to claim that everything is socially constructed thereby eliminating the distinction between sex and gender that had been so central to feminist critiques of gender relations. But if the body disappears in significations, what is the basis for arguing for reproductive rights? Given that some of postmodernism builds on insights associated with feminism and presents itself as radical, its effect was disorienting to say the least.

Turning to political causes, the decline of women’s liberation and other social movements had a profound impact. The explosion of writing by feminists of all persuasions (indeed the creation of these “persuasions”) was a product of the women’s movement of the 1960s and 1970s. Consider the fact that a number of very influential articles of this period began as position statements for activist groups (the Redstockings’ Manifesto, the Combahee River Collective’s Statement), or as collective papers (Heidi Hartmann’s and Gayle Rubin’s—two of the most influential of this period). New movements stimulated new theorizing; for example, the gay and lesbian movements gave rise to the academic field Queer Studies. With the move of many activists into social policy and service work for women, into academia, and into families and middle age this essential active stimulation was lost. It is not coincidental that the hottest feminist theorizing of the last decade was of a highly academic sort—postmodernism—while the dominant politics have been the most local and particularistic form of identity politics. Moreover, of course, we have to appreciate the context in which all this has taken place, namely, the general rightward political drift throughout the world during the 1980s and much of the 1990s.

My own opinion is that critiques of Marxism as sexist for focusing on relations of production and for ignoring labor in the family are misguided given the primary aim of Marxist theory, as explained above. It was not sexism that led Marx to say that in capitalism women’s household labor was unproductive for he said the same thing about a carpenter working for the government. Although both are obviously productive in a general sense, Marx was seeking to understand what is productive from the point of view of capitalism—that only labor produces surplus value. Moreover, to understand how various aspects of society including different forms of oppression, interrelate—and, more important, how to change them—we need a theory that addresses these questions. That is precisely what historical materialism aims to do both in its sociological aspect and in its account of historical change. Hence it remains vitally important. Though any theory developed over a century ago needs some revision, in my opinion Marxism’s basic theory does not need significant revision in order to take better account of women’s oppression. However, I do believe that the theory needs to be supplemented. Feminists are justified in wanting a social theory that gives a fuller picture of production and reproduction than Marx’s political economic theory does, one that extends questions of democracy not only to the economy but to personal relations. They are also justified in wanting to pay attention to the emotional dimensions of our lives, both to understand how oppression manifests itself in the most intimate aspects of our lives and also, most importantly, to give a more complete vision of human emancipation. The potential is there in Marxism. Marx’s subtle understanding of how economic relations penetrate into our very being make him “a great geographer of the human condition,” in Adrienne Rich’s characterization. But these insights were underdeveloped. Furthermore, Marx’s and Engels’s commitment to a genuinely democratic socialism led them to ignore questions of what socialism would look like, saying they did not want to “write recipe books for the cooks of the future.” But what economic democracy would look like is an extraordinarily complicated question and explorations would have been helpful. Moreover, this omission made it easier to equate socialism with what existed in the Soviet bloc or in the social-welfarist capitalism of Western Europe. Today we need these prefigurative visions of socialism more than ever and feminists have much to contribute to them.

Socialist feminist theorizing (in the broad sense) is flourishing, particularly in empirical work by historians and other social scientists. This work has been influential, showing that feminist theory is still a collective enterprise, as its practitioners always stress. What is now called “intersectionality”—that is, the recognition that a woman’s position is always a function of her class, ethnicity, and so on, as well as her sex—is paid at least lip service by most feminists. Often, however, this recognition is expressed simply as a list of “isms,” of which “classism” is given least attention or else is conflated with racism so that white is invariably coupled with middle class and black with poor. It is only in the work that I am calling socialist feminist in the broad sense that these aspects are integrated coherently and systematically. A socialist feminist perspective also informs what activism there is, including most significantly, labor activism. While this is probably due more to the fact that the workforce of the United States is increasingly female and minority than to the influence of socialist feminist theory, nevertheless it is significant. Even NOW (the National Organization of Women) is considerably more class and race conscious than it was in its early days when it focused on the ERA (Equal Rights Amendment) and the legalization of abortion while virtually ignoring the Hyde Amendment which denied the use of Medicaid funds for abortion.

I believe the time is right for a positive reappraisal of the socialist feminist perspective. The brutal economic realities of globalization make it impossible to ignore class, and feminists are now asking on a global level the kinds of big questions they asked on a societal level in the 1970s. A number of developments in the United States are also significant in this regard. Most important is the fact that the increasingly female and minority composition of the workforce makes it more apparent that sharp splits between class oppression and sex or race oppression, or between workplace and community issues are untenable practically and theoretically. The commitment of the new leadership of the AFL-CIO to organizing has raised peoples’ interest and their hopes. Students across the country have become active around the issue of sweatshops and have linked up with labor groups around the world. A conference was held at Harvard a few years back on Students and Labor. This was followed by a long and successful Campaign for a Living Wage, at Harvard, in the spring of 2001. Two conferences on Academics and Labor have taken place. The academic focus on cultural issues to the exclusion of politics is beginning to seem one-sided, even self-indulgent, to more and more people. I believe the grip of postmodernism and identity politics is loosening as attacks have increased from all quarters. Even within identity politics there is some indirect attention to class, as for example in “white trash” literature. However, we must not leave these criticisms to the right (and to those on the left such as Todd Gitlin). It is essential to retain the insights of the 1960s. Socialist theory and practice that failed to give serious attention to issues of gender, race/ethnicity, and sexuality would have little credibility today. And so, in addition to criticism, it is important to offer positive examples of analyses that integrate class with those other aspects of identity. It is also important to pursue theoretical discussion within the broad socialist feminist perspective regarding the relationship between class and other aspects of identity and the meaning of “material” and “economic.” The recent internal critiques of postmodernism by feminists who have tried to take it in a more realist and materialist direction have broadened this discussion. With economic questions once again central to many feminists’ agendas, and with the apparent decline of postmodernism, this is an opportune time to reconsider how Marxism can help us comprehend the global reality of women’s oppression and how Marxism itself needs to be revised or supplemented.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

check this comment

"Às vezes parece que nos descartamos das responsabilidades - tudo a culpar os homens por serem machistas, mas muitas muitas mulheres também o são. Estou farta de coitadinhas - gaijas, toca a por os ovários a mexer! E então? Também vamos passar a vida a queixarmos-nos por vivermos num país atrasado que não dá um chavo por nós (mulheres e homens)?? Toca a construir cenas!!! A dar-lhe de gás!"

read whole comment

Friday, December 08, 2006

who's afraid of feminism

Why Not Feminism?

"It's anachronistic; no woman I know would unapologetically describe herself as a feminist. If the concept and importance of gender equality as an issue has crossed her mind, then there is only one acceptable way of communicating this: "I'm not a feminist, but..." for this read, "please don't think I'm a lesbian/man hater /being difficult..." In short, feminism is a dirty word, and only by denying it are we happy to use it in our vocabulary."

by Emma Cosh

Sunday, December 03, 2006


Two of the latest techno tracks that been pushing thru my brains revolve around the subject of ice, so to speak. Patrice Baumel's Shower Of Ice and The Field's Over The Ice. Ok, I like techno but what the heck does this relates even remotely to the subject of this blog? Or feminism? Well, let me see, Lea Klus, Magda, Ellen Allien, Miss Dinky, M.I.A., Gudrun Gut, Ada, Sylvie Marks, Nora Below, Water lilly, and though the average of women behind the dj deck or even putting out records on the major techno labels is still ridiculous the thing is that once on the harfloor we could care less if the one behind the pulse drive is from Venus or Mars. Rave on!

Monday, November 27, 2006

Cyberfeminism is not a fragrance

Saturday, November 25, 2006


Hi everybody! Finally a few minutes to post something. I guess we'll try to give some background to Deborah Tannen's 'The Feminine Technique' as soon as we both got some thinking time available, specially concerning Christena Nippert-Eng's notion of gender as a sociological achieved attribute opposing to the sex attribute, which is biological ascribed. So, it seems that normally we balance between malish/femalish behavior according to specific needs, contexts, time of the day and whatnot, as the true evil chameleonic pricks/prickettes we really are.

In the meantime, I've been engaged in malish stuff, like reading this nasty Steve Shaviro article about Porn and Marxism (and everybody likes hates porn, right!?) Why Porn now?, it looks that everything comes down to the regular shopping spree. Richard Dawking's never ending crusade against all those oh so! reasonable and peaceful people engaged in religion, I'm an Atheist, BUT…, dog bless him, and last but not least, a first-class-cunts hi-tech sexist and hilarious gadget review blog for male idiots like me and you.

Now I'm going back to my manish affairs, be sure to go the feminine way on the comments,
ta da!