Clarity on what gender is: REPOST

1998 MIM Congress
Clarity on what gender is
by MC5
March 6, 1998

MIM has struggled mightily to bring back into vogue in the communist movement of the imperialist countries the Marxist-Leninist definition of proletariat. Too often categories of people not even considered workers by Marx — lawyers and journalists for instance — are considered proletarian by imperialist country so-called communists. Nonetheless, although MIM struggles mightily, people as diverse as Progressive Labor Central Committee members and Third World sojourners have admitted that they can see this question, if not the answer, principally because Lenin and Engels raised it so clearly.

When it comes to defining gender oppression, however, the communist movement is at an even greater loss than in defining proletariat. The main difficulty is in separating gender oppression from the economic materialist method. Understanding gender oppression requires an understanding of dialectics.

We proceed by discussing what gender is not and the role of reproduction as narrowly defined in gender and we end up concluding that gender must be located in leisure-time for a number of reasons. What dialectics helps us see is that many oppressions of biology are caused outside of biology or gender in the realm of class or nation. It is wrong to call such external conditions of gender gender itself, just as it would be wrong to say that the Japanese invasion of China was the substance of China’s development from feudalism to capitalism and socialism itself. The Japanese invasion of China was a decisive but external condition of Chinese class society’s development in the Mao era. Likewise, there are class, nation and cultural factors that influence gender, but they should not be mistaken for gender itself. At the beginning of humyn history reproductive-status was crucial to gender, but as time went on gender became increasingly located in leisure-time, and this is clearest in imperialist society.

The dynamics of reproductive-status itself do not point in any historical direction. The historical tendencies of child-bearing-status are bound up with other external conditions to such an extent that reproduction cannot be separated from the growth of the productive forces. To that precise extent, reproduction is a poor location to find gender, except at the very beginning of humyn history when reproductive capacity and its dynamics contributed to the formation of class society as much or more than the rest of the division of labor.

Once patriarchy formed from the advent of class society through the present day, gender oppression was something mainly historically shaped by non-gender factors relating to class and nation. While people of certain reproductive biology were selected for a certain kind of oppression, they were selected for such oppression for new reasons unconnected to the intrinsic nature of that reproductive status. Among other reasons, gender appears ahistorical, because it has never been the source of the principal contradiction except at the very beginning of class society. Despite this fact, that is not to say that gender has not existed independently of nation and class. We are merely stating that it does not attract humyn political and scientific attention in its own right until later in history. When starvation, illness and homelessness recede, gender in its own right and not something externally conditioned by other social factors starts to appear. This appearance coincides with a more widespread parasitism such that entire nations of millions live on the labor of others. Gender existed before parasitism, but it is increasingly noticed in parasitic society.

To understand gender it is necessary to know when a phenomena associated with child-bearing status or female biology is rooted in something external to gender.

MacKinnon and reductionism

Catharine MacKinnon has contributed to the discussion by drawing an analogy. She says work is to Marxism as sex is to feminism.

In one fell swoop, MacKinnon has actually defeated a metaphysical pseudo-Marxist approach to gender. No longer are we only talking about how the organization of work conditions gender, but we are talking about a basis of gender oppression itself. MacKinnon goes on to talk about rape, battering and sex harassment as the substance of feminism. Setting the going rate of gender oppression is pornography according to MacKinnon. Such is in contrast to the situation of work where class struggle of competition amongst capitalists and between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie sets the wage.

We should not be surprised that an imperialist country feminist would come to this conclusion. Any examination of wimmin in the Third World shows them confronted with high probabilities of starvation, illness and war caused by the organization of work, not gender oppression. It has been up to imperialist country feminists to say what gender oppression is, crucially, once economic needs have been satisfied. This is part of the reason that oppressor nation wimmin figure so prominently in feminist movements. Most of the problems burdening Third World wimmin in particular even relative to Third World men are caused by external nation and class forces. It is only where the class and nation oppressions and their external conditioning of gender are eliminated that we can see gender operating in its own right, with its own laws of development.

All sex as rape

From MacKinnon, MIM drew the anti-Liberal revolutionary conclusion that all sex is rape. Since MacKinnon’s “post-Marxism” as she calls it is pre-Leninist, it has no sense of the problems with economist reformism, the need for a vanguard party or the precise intersection of national oppression with the organization of work. Hence, we depart from her at this point, while giving her her due. She got us to a point of analogy with Marxism and we were able to see from there how to come up with a non-economist, non-reformist anti-Liberal feminism.

MIM could have chosen to say all sex is prostitution and that would have preserved the anti-Liberal, system-view that MIM always brings to social analysis. There are two good reasons not to call all sex prostitution though. One is that the masses rightly or wrongly blame prostitutes for prostitution. MIM did not want to contribute to the political atmosphere of singling out one sexual lifestyle, group of biological wimmin or occupation as the problem for gender oppression. Secondly, prostitution is fundamentally about the cash-sex nexus, while MacKinnon says rape is not just the cash-sex nexus, because rape is set up by the institution of pornography which determines what is socially pleasurable. Whether or not MacKinnon is precisely correct about the superstructure element known as pornography is less relevant to us right now than the fact that calling all sex rape may get us out of the cash-sex nexus for analysis. One reason getting out of that nexus is important is that it raises the question of what would happen if cash were eliminated and sex for profit were impossible: would there still be gender oppression? MIM believes there would be.

Reproduction narrowly defined

To the extent that biological men may seek to control the reproductive capacities of biological wimmin, we want to ask whether there is another basis of gender oppression. However, it is important to note that this is strictly an issue of biology, one that could be eradicated by the invention of true test-tube babies that were easier to raise than in the womb. If technology makes it possible for any persyn to recreate humyn life, there will no longer be a drive to control biological wimmin’s biology in that regard. That aspect of gender oppression will be gone.

By discussing reproductive technology and its progress — including things like the morning after pill which is going to make the issue of abortion irrelevant soon — we do not mean to trivialize gender oppression. In fact, biology as a factor in gender oppression has been in place for all humyn history. It cannot be overlooked in a true feminist analysis. If in fact reproductive status can be implicated in gender we will have found a biological and hence material basis for gender. The development of test-tube technology is also something concrete and not just a matter of culture or a way of looking at something.

One question raised by the issue of reproductive capacity as a resource controlled by ruling classes is that by itself, there is no saying that having such a capacity would make one oppressed. Having the resource could in fact be seen as an advantage of power held by biological wimmin. “At home, barefoot and pregnant” is oppression, but how did it come about? Pointing to a biological difference of reproductive abilities in itself does not answer this question. We could just as well ask what did people with reproductive capacity ask for from men in return for access to that capacity? The question is parallel to asking how classes originated. Fundamentally this nagging question about reproductive status undermines its candidacy for being the substance of gender. It seems unable to explain the development of hierarchy, except in the crucial beginnings of class society as we will see in a minute.

We should also stop to consider the position of wimmin without reproductive capacity. Shall we say they are no different than men? Is their position solely determined by what happened to them earlier in life when they had that reproductive capacity? Again why did not older wimmin end up being the ruling group of society?

The most sensible discussions of the origins of patriarchy have to do with a division of labor in which physically stronger men made war while wimmin stayed home. Tribes sending their men to war had an advantage over tribes that sent their wimmin to war, not numerically in the number of warriors but in sustainability. Tribes with wimmin at home reproduced faster, while tribes that risked their wimmin in war at a time in humyn history when there was not much economic surplus relative to today– such tribes suffered systematic defeat for a lack of ability to create warriors over long periods of time. Through struggle, tribes that took wimmin as slaves and used only men as warriors survived. In a society with little economic surplus, physical strength and reproductive capacity did mean a lot. As the organizers of war, men became the state and thus had power. Societies in which wimmin were the organizers of war died out for lack of reproduction relative to male-warrior dominated tribes.

Today such factors are irrelevant thanks to the growth of the productiveness of labor. Does that mean gender oppression is gone? We think not. Would it be gone with test-tube babies? Not quite. We will return to this question later.

For now we only note that reproductive status could easily be thought of as being crucial in the early stages of humyn history. It could be the basis on which much of our patriarchal superstructure is built. As time goes on though, the case for reproductive status being the center of gender weakens. Instead, it becomes more and more a resource to be manipulated by hierarchies created by dynamics external to gender.

Poaching in Marxism: a theft of part of the Marxist concept of reproduction

An extended argument of reproduction as the basis of gender comes from Maria Mies. In this concept, reproduction is broadened to include the idea of reproducing the wage laborer on a daily basis to be ready for work for wages by cooking, cleaning and knitting socks. This argument amounts to poaching within Marxism’s turf of the organization of work to find a basis for feminism. It amounts to a broadening of the concept of biological reproduction but a vulgar narrowing of the concept of reproduction of modes of production by Marx and Engels.

According to Mies we need to look at unremunerated laborers as the real vehicle of social change. Such unremunerated laborers Mies calls wimmin. She says they are more revolutionary than proletarians and do more work than industrial workers, especially in China and India where peasant wimmin do the work in the fields and at home while men forage for more advanced careers or simply work less.

While unremunerated labor is very important, we are dissatisfied with calling it gender. We are happier calling some wimmin in difficult conditions slaves than we are calling slaves wimmin. The Mies approach has the disadvantage of taking us away from biology and leisure-time activities and it creates a political excuse for equating imperialist country housewives with slaves and proletarians as a vehicle of change. Indeed, by the Mies interpretation, housewives in imperialist countries could be seen as more advanced than proletarians. To MIM this only reveals that we do not want those with conscious or unconscious pseudo-feminist agendas poaching in the Marxist scientific laboratory. (We believe Mies is an internationalist of some sort with only a somewhat conscious pseudo-feminist agenda.)

Other authors too have attempted to locate gender in the division of labor instead of recognizing the division of labor as something conditioning gender. What this line of thinking regarding the reproduction of economic relationships and the division of labor reveals is that some people recognize that Marx put his finger on the central scientific issues of societies such as ours that have not yet achieved superabundance. The approach of Mies is flattery of a sort to Marxism–the recognition that Marxism is so valuable it must be stolen for other purposes. However, we reject all attempts to rename parts of the mode of production or class as gender. Feminists should go get their own laboratory and quit trying to rename the oppressions elucidated by Marx in the analysis of class society.

Reductionism and imperialist society

The fact that the principal issues facing Third World wimmin are starvation, war, repression, homelessness etc. does not mean that gender oppression is starvation, war, homelessness etc. It simply means that the status of Third World wimmin as workers or peasants in countries oppressed by imperialism is more important than their gender oppression. Nor does the fact that First World wimmin are more likely to see gender as the principal contradiction mean that Third World wimmin are not in fact more gender oppressed.

It is in imperialist society where we can start to see more easily what gender oppression is when issues of starvation and national oppression have been removed. We agree with MacKinnon that sexual harassment, rape and battering are not gone. For that matter we should mention certain dynamics of divorce that make leisure-time something more like a business war.

MIM can calmly state that the subject of gender oppression is such that as long as there is imperialism and its attendant starvation, war, homelessness and illness, gender conflict will never be the principal contradiction. We firmly rebuke all the post-modernists “working on their own oppression” as if it were in any way equal in the humyn condition to that faced by the starving or homeless of the Third World.

In addition, we say that while gender oppression may be clearer in imperialist countries in some ways, biological wimmin in the imperialist countries are in fact gender oppressors, generally members of the gender aristocracy, parallel to Marx’s and Lenin’s concept of labor aristocracy.

Biological health status: a non-reducible material component of gender

Humyn biological development is an undeniable material part of gender. Consideration of children is especially in order. Children are almost universally sexually oppressed or less gender privileged than adults. Children are the oppressed gender regardless of genitalia.

As the body develops it becomes more useful for work. Such able-bodiedness issues are already covered in the concept of the mode of production. However, there are other aspects of the development of the humyn body that can only fall in the area of leisure-time–the capabilities of sexual experience or debatably, pleasure.

The dynamic of humyn development also helps us to point to a hierarchy, a development of gender oppression intrinsic to gender. The use of children’s bodies for sexual pleasure by adults is perhaps gender oppression at its sharpest. While MIM is holding out for scientific evidence on the biological basis for sexual pleasure in adults, we have no doubt that there is a biological difference between children on average and adults. This is not to say that we uphold society’s definition of adulthood. We believe it highly desirable to give the legal right of consent to 13 year-olds and instruct children on control of their own bodies.

Historically, the physical development of children is also important in being able to resist or not resist repression. To this day, children are subject to the physical force of adults, while many adults make up for their physical weaknesses by using industrial goods such as guns that children do not know about or have access to. Thus sexual and physical capacity points to a clear hierarchy in gender oppression and we can thus locate humyn biological development as a crucial perhaps decisive locus of gender and gender hierarchy.

Thanks to post-modernist feminism it has become popular to believe that economics may be a better subject matter of science than biology. Yet we believe that physics, biology, geology, chemistry and political economy are all subjects of the materialist method. The biology of children is crucial in understanding gender as an object of materialist analysis.

Adult physical capacities dictated by biology should also be examined. In China for example, Deng Xiaoping instituted the one-child policy and allowed the return of feudal values without putting up a fight in the superstructure. Hence, parents seek to have boys to pass on property through a family name that has in all likelihood existed for at least 2000 years. The parents use sex-determination technology to abort female fetuses. There is also a huge practice of female infanticide in India and China.

Another reason given for female infanticide is that on farms, parents want someone to work. Men carry water better and do not leave the neighborhood when they get married. These ideas play a role even though many wimmin do carry water, maybe even most of the water.

These aspects of gender oppression in China reduce to class and superstructure. There is no need for a concept of gender per se to explain them. The ancient superstructure tied up with maintaining the family’s name may go back to the time of warring tribes in slave society already discussed. Physical strength and reproduction mattered then. They don’t anymore, but tradition continues in the realm of ideas, simply because leaders like Deng Xiaoping didn’t knock tradition down.

The idea that boys carry water better is less and less relevant. It also fits in well with the idea of wimmin as having a relative physical disability, a small one to be sure. However, it is not a gender issue, because such parents would also abort any child deformed in such a way as not to be able to carry water.

In choosing to recognize three, but no more strands of oppression–class, nation and gender–MIM reasoned that disability is tightly bound up with class. Able-bodiedness is both a cause and consequence of class.

Before a baby is born in China and India, disability is a consideration, mainly as a class consideration. This is so true that men face a shortage of potential wives and end up paying ever-larger dowries in China now that Mao is dead. Somehow, the shortage of wimmin is not seen as putting wimmin in a position of power, and dowries are paid to brides’ parents.

When we examine modeling and prostitution in the imperialist countries, though, we see that able-bodiedness– good health is still important in leisure-time even for adults. It is not that wimmin with whatever health problems cannot perform sexual services for money. Being unable to carry water relative to men hardly matters to models or prostitutes. At the same time, we do not see adult models or prostitutes with open sores or missing limbs attracting the largest sums of money for their services. Hence, we say that health-status is an irreducible biological component of gender as seen in leisure-time activities of the parasitic classes.

The huge variation in pay for models, prostitutes and actresses is not just huge variation based on nation and class. Even within the oppressor-nation there is huge variation, and that variation is connected to the substance of gender oppression that cannot be reduced to nation or class. A portion of that variation is the biological health-status of gender. It becomes more relevant in societies with more leisure-time. Nonetheless, we cannot say gender oppression or privilege is the same for all people in societies of high leisure-time, so it is not just the flip-side of the organization of work in the sense that labor-aristocrats and other bourgeois classes have more leisure-time. If parasitism were all that is involved in gender oppression, there would be no totem-pole by which some oppressor-nation wimmin can translate their gender privilege into radically higher pay than other oppressor-nation wimmin.

Despite the fact that sex with young children is the most taboo of all, such young children do not command more money for their services than adults. Business booms in adults. Thus as measured by the cash-gender privilege conversion ratio, the gender privilege ranges from that of young children being the lowest up to prostitutes and models of adult biological females who are physically able and tend to identify with male ideas of pleasure the most.

It is also clear this substance of gender is the substance of gender, because biological men are paid less in modeling and prostitution– and only those two occupations. We now turn to a deeper look at prostitution.

Prostitution: permanent vs. contract

The greater expense of wedding parties and gifts to the family to either get rid of or obtain a womyn bring us to an area that gives greater insight into what gender oppression is in China. Both in the Third World and in the imperialist countries we have permanent full-time prostitution called marriage and we have contract prostitution called crime.

In the Third World, the shortage of wimmin is created by class structure and the ancient superstructure of patriarchy. Meanwhile, in the imperialist countries, the price to biological men of permanent prostitution is closer to an issue of intrinsic gender oppression.

In imperialist countries, wimmin are not starving or homeless generally, and those that are we exclude for the moment as wimmin whose problems are principally class and nation. Thus it would seem that oppressor nation wimmin can marry more for reasons of romantic love, for pleasure. That is to say the cash-sex nexus is weakened and what MacKinnon is saying comes more into play.

At the point where partners somehow do escape the cash and power connection to sex — which seems dubious — we would be talking about the sex of two men together. Regardless of genitalia, anyone who experiences sexual pleasure will be considered male. Uncorrupted sexual pleasures of two such men together is a purely speculative idea, because as of now there is no way to extricate sex from the situation of class society. Those biological wimmin that regularly claim they can experience sexual pleasure above national and class oppression are what MIM calls gender aristocracy, unless they are simply lying for the benefit of their class and national position, in which case we would simply refer to them as members of oppressor classes or nations. The claim of biological wimmin to experience sexual pleasure and that MacKinnon and MIM are wrong, is similar to the belief of Liberal anarchists that it is possible to rise above capitalist society with a lifestyle. Such Liberals of class and gender essentially see no class structure or patriarchy or assign it a very small role.

Before we completely eliminate the cash-sex nexus from further considerations, we would like to look more closely at divorce. In the situation of older generations in the oppressor-nation where wimmin never worked, there is again a class issue at work in divorce court, one so obvious that courts now recognize that wimmin who gave up their careers are entitled to half the spouse’s earnings and wealth. We do not wish to stake our argument on such older generations. As it turns out, alimony and child support payments tend to go well beyond what is necessary for survival, especially for wimmin who do work, which is not to deny the uneven situation especially in the older generations. After divorce, wimmin’s per capita income declines precipitously while men’s rises.

Yet even with regard to older generations still alive, it would be difficult to say that wimmin chose their marriages “in order to survive.” For younger generations, the old conceptions of divorce are even less relevant. Despite the fact that wimmin are better and better off in Amerika, divorce courts continue to innovate to protect wimmin.

In the name of protecting wimmin and children, the function of divorce court is to ensure the continuity of permanent prostitution. Since oppressor-nation wimmin no longer starve in imperialist countries, the stakes had to be raised considerably to ensure the continuation of permanent prostitution. A womyn who marries Donald Trump is to be assured of becoming a millionaire whether divorced or not. Becoming such a millionaire is not part of the organization of work but part of the organization of leisure-time.

In this way, the cash-sex nexus is maintained. To do otherwise would be to admit that wimmin marry for their own pleasure apart from cash. In a romance culture purified of the cash-sex nexus, men and wimmin would take their chances with their pleasure and emotional pain. Such pleasure of biological wimmin we call “gender aristocrats” is more prevalent than in previous history, but it is still not a pleasure purified of cash or power influences.

Divorce court is an alliance of paternalist pseudo-feminists seeking to tell tall tales of oppressor-nation economic deprivation on the one hand, and rich, usually educated, “pussy-whipped” men on the other hand. The term “pussy-whipped” is the righteous term of the lumpen males like Eldridge Cleaver who often go too far in opposing all feminism and not just pseudo-feminism, but it is correct in a class sense. If divorce courts did not award wimmin the wealth of men, there would be no way for men to use their money to assure their wimmin that giving sexual access will be worth their while financially. True, rich men when divorced by their wimmin complain loudly, but never loudly enough to change the rules. It is after all rich men who continue to make laws and run the judiciary system.

For some reason, ruling class men still prefer to have the advantage over other men in obtaining access to wimmin. The splitting of wealth with older wimmin by ruling class men has no other explanation. We believe this is all rooted in the leisure-time pleasures of men. Something that can be done with money is purchase of a certain leisure-time lifestyle.

The economic conditions of the oppressor-nation people and the large settlements in divorce court — larger in richer families, not larger in families where wimmin suffer more from starvation or career loss — point to a society of leisure-time where the cash-sex nexus is in force more than ever but for different reasons than in societies where the development of the productive forces is lower. Indeed, since oppressor-nation wimmin can begin to entertain their own ideas of sexuality, the cash-sex nexus had to be increased drastically to maintain its hold at all. A court innovation of just this generation is “palimony.” Palimony was invented to assure that gender interactions between the contract level and the permanent level did not slip through the cracks of the cash-sex nexus. It has become difficult to tell the difference between spending money on luxuries in leisure time and having sex.

Again, the pseudo-feminists will retort that their divorce court interventions were aimed at reducing gender oppression. From our point of view, it is again just another example of how pseudo-feminists will do anything to avoid hitting the nail on the head. We repeat: gender oppression cannot be eliminated by dating advice, by dating preferences or by divorce court policies. Inequality is inequality and should be addressed head-on at the system-level, not by awarding half of the male economic power in divorce court. The divorce court reform of pseudo-feminists only reinforces the cash-sex nexus with a vengeance. It is a continuation of the intertwining of power and desire, such that the two become confused.

Gender oppression as by-product of leisure activity

Capitalism could function without rape and sexual harassment. These oppressions are separate and essentially they are by-products of leisure-time activity that should not be located in the mode of production.

Whether it be modeling, prostitution or divorce court, clearly men are willing to pay for something in connection to their leisure-time desires. White rich men even have to endure being charged with rape by Black wimmin and they cannot charge Black wimmin with rape within our culture. The ability of Black wimmin to charge white men in court and not vice-versa for rape shows that the dynamics of such oppressions can only be found in leisure-time.

Stupid reductionist pseudo-Marxists and pseudo-feminists have proclaimed that merely being paid for sex — the existence of “sex objects” — is oppression, never mind the amounts of money involved in the imperialist society. We at MIM do not agree.

In the first place, wimmin who can use their looks or sex not to work, they obviously have some kind of sexual privilege that can be translated into class status. Even some young wimmin who would attract rich men may be stuck in grinding poverty because of national oppression, closed borders. They may have nothing else going for them, but well-paid models are gender aristocrats or higher on the patriarchal totem-pole. Health status and pornography standards (perhaps not in the sense MacKinnon means) ordain which wimmin are most gender privileged, which wimmin will make $100 an hour or $100,000 a night for past services in some divorces and which wimmin will be available to the poorest men.

The high-paid prostitutes, models, actresses and housewives such as Marla Trump are not themselves oppressed. They form the anchor for gender oppression of others. Just as in capitalism there must be sweepstakes winners and capitalists who make it “on their own” to show that the system works. There must be winners in the patriarchy to ensure compliance up and down the line. If all the winners were of one biology, revolution would develop much more easily. Yet just as there is a split in the working-class internationally between proletarians and labor aristocrats, there is a split in biological wimmin internationally between wimmin and gender aristocrats.

Whether or not there is a biological component to male desire or whether it is all determined by pornography, that desire can be measured by the legal and illegal things men do to satisfy it. All gender oppression which is not a vestigial superstructural remnant from tribal slave societies is a by-product of this desire. Even appropriation of humyn bodies for pharmaceutical testing is gender oppression, but it is mainly determined by class conditioning. Only in leisure-time (e.g. pharmaceuticals related to leisure-time) can we locate gender oppression in its own right.

On this one point, we will express our debt to Shulasmith Firestone, who recognized that extinguishing the romance culture would be necessary for wimmin’s liberation. Our departure from Firestone is that we are not in any way in debt to Freud and we believe that gender oppression is not just in culture. It has material bases in humyn sexual development, perhaps adult hormone levels as well. MacKinnon and Foucault made excellent points about the reinforcement of sexual pleasure as intertwined with power, but in MacKinnon’s case, she found herself willing to get involved through the courts, and thus departed from the logical conclusions of her own theory, which should indicate that revolution is necessary. Her interventions in the courts only increase hierarchy in sexual desire.

Material bases

We have already mentioned that we know there is one material basis of gender oppression in reproduction, especially historically. It is material, because it would take a technology of test-tube babies or the equivalent to eliminate difference. It is something tangible, not just an idea belonging to the superstructure.

Aside from the material basis in hormones giving rise to desire usually suspected in gender oppression, there is a question of health-status. People of biologically superior health-status are better workers, and that’s a class thing, but if they have leisure-time, they are also better sexually privileged. We might think of models or prostitutes, but professional athletes of any kind also walk on this fine line. Athletes, models and well-paid prostitutes are not oppressed as “objects,” but in fact they hold sexual privilege. Older and disabled people as well as the very sick are at a disadvantage, not just at work but in leisure-time. For that matter there are some people with health statuses perfectly suited for work but not for leisure-time. None of these are cultural factors. They are material biological factors in gender oppression, an inability to even function in leisure-time being a kind of oppression–a substance intrinsic to gender oppression, which might be inborn in the case of some disabilities.

The ratio of men to wimmin is another material fact of life impinging on gender oppression. The higher the ratio, the greater the extent, but the shallower the depth of gender oppression. There will be more men per womyn to harass each womyn, but the possibilities of evading any particular man are greater as men fight for the right of access to wimmin.

Finally, with regard to the cash-sex nexus, in extremes it is a matter of class. However, when applied within the parasitic leisured classes, the cash-sex nexus becomes a dynamic strictly rooted in leisure-time. From the biological womyn’s point of view in the parasitic class case, it is only a question of how to spend leisure-time, not whether there will be leisure-time. Should she buy more jewelry or spend more time reading books? For more jewelry she should have more sex in her spare time. She simply converts one leisure-time privilege to another. It is a choice amongst leisure-time activities.

Regardless of biology, whoever suffers violence on account of this leisure-time is gender oppressed. Murder victims in “crimes of passion” are gender oppressed. They have lost both their work and leisure lives for reasons rooted in leisure time. Victims of fraudulent pharmaceutical devices to improves sex lives are also oppressed, but in no overly important way. Just as in yacht crashes, victims of crimes of passion or luxury surgery do not have to come from the oppressed classes and nations. That is another reason we know that gender exists as a third strand.

In a society of loose sexual mores or where prostitution is otherwise legal, we see that it is not possible to attribute crimes of passion to the organization of work. It might be possible to buy the services of a prostitute, but still people commit crimes of passion and battering. It is also be possible to hire people to cook, clean and deliver groceries and still there are crimes of passion in such parasitic classes. In fact, within its own dynamics, imperialist society is tending toward “service society.” That means restaurants and laundries are proliferating and wimmin are returning to work. This reveals that gender cannot be irreducibly located in the division of labor or the cash-sex nexus. Which oppressor-nation people will be sought in leisure time the most and which will be most inclined to violence in connection to leisure pleasures, these questions cannot be answered just by looking at the organization of work.

Sexuality with its irreducible health-status component is something tangible, and therefore subject to material analysis. The privileges associated with sexuality vary persyn to persyn within the same nation, class and reproductive status. That has to do with the dynamics of leisure-time.

The problem with MacKinnon’s pre-Leninist post-Marxist feminism is that it does not follow through the logic of reformism. Drawing the line from the womyn’s point of view so that more men go to prison for rape and lose more money for sexual harassment does nothing to extinguish gender oppression, as Firestone would say of the romance culture. Quite the contrary, since we are already the world’s leading prison state, we ask MacKinnon, so what is “the” womyn’s view of this? How many more men should be in prison? What should the Black womyn think about the fact that Black men are already in prison at rates last seen for Russians living under Stalin in war time? (At Northeastern University there was a forum initiated by Black wimmin last year who had the perception that Black men were dating white wimmin, when in fact the shortage of available heterosexual Black men is statistically related to prison and poor health care leading to death.)

Should not men separate from wimmin entirely if the cost of their interaction is prison, the creation of bureaucracies, sexual harassment and stupendous law-suits? What MacKinnon is doing only reinforces the message that desire is important to protect– so important we are willing to put more men in prison and have more law-suits rather than separate the sexes or abolish dating. As usual it will be the upper-class, “pussy-whipped” men willing to put up with this from the world’s MacKinnons and see it as gallantry. Even MacKinnon’s compatriot Dworkin admits the Congress passes their ideas for legislation as if they had no idea what they were doing. They can afford the law-suits and the lawyers to prevent prison. It just makes sex that much more of a challenge and statement in one’s leisure time. It’s exactly that intertwining of sex and power that MacKinnon describes so well as the basis of rape and harassment, but fails to uproot with her pre-Leninist reformism.

Opponents of gender as autonomous strand rooted outside the organization of work

There are three basic sources of opposition within Marxism to the idea that gender is an autonomous strand of oppression. All criticisms can be reduced to one of these following areas:

1. Gender oppression can be reduced to class or class and nation oppression. There should only be one strand or two strands of analysis of oppression. Economist readings of gender oppression as causing higher profits belong here.

2. Gender oppression is superstructural, meaning not in the realm of the dynamics of matter, but simply as ideas in the superstructure created by class society. These ideas may continue to exist after the classes that created them are gone. They have to be actively battled in the realm of ideas.

3. Some of what Marx and Engels called the mode of production is really gender and should be renamed such. This is the angle in which pseudo-feminism moves in with its agenda to subvert the anti-imperialist movement from within. An example would be calling the reproduction of labor-power gender and the work of Maria Mies.

Outside of Marxism is another influence impinging on the discussion of the Maoists on gender–post-modernism. According to post-modernists, the truth is relative, and hence the oppression of starvation and war cannot be rated any different than the reception of persynal insults. As such post-modernism sometimes centers entirely on language.

On the other hand, post-modernists may tend to side with MIM on one question of separating different kinds of theories of gender as third autonomous strand of oppression. They will side with us in saying that genitalia are not the substance of gender, an idea that anything connected to a certain biology is gender. They will contend that gender is socially constructed, only to such an extent as to deny materialist science.

By making clear what gender is and what it is not, MIM frustrates the patriarchal reductionists on the one hand who say there is no such thing as gender oppression and the post-modernists and pseudo-feminists on the other hand who think gender inclusive language or doing laundry might be the principal contradiction in the world. MIM’s theory of gender identifies precisely something that cannot be included under the rubric of the mode of production and it does so in a way that makes clear that gender cannot be a principal contradiction while there is still imperialism while at the same time naming gender as part of the fundamental contradiction. Because MIM’s gender theory is so, it attracts an unholy coalition of enemies ranging from reductionists to post-modernists and advocates of viewing gender as biology.

We do not deny that imperialism conditions gender in very important ways or that patriarchal ideas in the superstructure must be actively swept away or they will not fall of their own accord. Yet if all we can do is talk about how external conditions influence gender then we should admit that gender is not an object of materialist analysis in its own right and we should reduce our analysis to two strands. MIM holds that instead, historically reproductive status was very important to gender and today, the dynamics of leisure-time and humyn sexual development are the material basis of gender. As such the discussion of gender apart from the organization of work known as the mode of production is necessary as part of any elaboration of the fundamental contradiction of oppression that Mao spoke of.


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