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Millet, Firestone, & Morrison Sex status is a category with political implications.

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Presentation on theme: "Millet, Firestone, & Morrison Sex status is a category with political implications."— Presentation transcript:

1 Millet, Firestone, & Morrison Sex status is a category with political implications.

2 Kate Millet Sexual politics obtains consent through the socialization of both sexes to basic patriarchal polities with regard to temperament, role, and status. – Temperament: (masculine vs. feminine) based in needs & values of dominant group: what it admires in itself & finds convenient in subordinates – Sex role: a code of conduct, attitude, & behavior for each sex. Confines women to reproductive/domestic role, reserves for men sphere of human freedom – Status flows inevitably from this role assignment (124) 2

3 Biology Even sex, which is a biological drive, is expressed in behaviors that are almost entirely the product of learning – Even the act of coitus itself is the product of a long series of learned responsesresponses to the patterns and attitudes, even as to the object of sexual choice, which are set up for us by our social environment. (128) 3

4 Class While it may superficially appear that class trumps gender, so that wealthy women have higher status than working class men, this is not the case Just as the white sharecropper could always claim superiority due to his skin color, a truck driver or butcher always has his manhood to fall back on. Should this final vanity be offended, he may contemplate more violent methods. Poorer men will need to more frequently assert supremacy based on gender alone, while wealthier men need do so less often due to their greater power & security Chivalry & romantic love blunt the edges of patriarchy, but also disguise it. A gift from the ruling group. As working class ideal of brute virility (or at least middle class perception of it) becomes influential, it may replace gentlemanly sexism of the past (131-32) 4

5 Class Middle class women may stand outside the class system, having an indirect relationship to property and thus less of an investment in it – Women rarely able to rise above working class on their own Middle class and working class women set against one another – Security & prestige vs. freedom & involvement in the world (men get all of these) As race becomes a more salient political factor, racism is being eroded – Possible to imagine a time when sexism more of a problem than race in American politics – Racism a broadly acknowledged problem, sexism is not (132-33) 5

6 Force In the West, socialization has been so perfected that overt violence is less frequent – Condemn stoning of adulteresses as primitive – Yet patriarchal legal systems in depriving women of control over their own bodies drive them to illegal abortions; it is estimated that between two and five thousand women die each year from this cause. Men alone are psychologically and socially equipped to be physically violent, even before an assault a woman is almost universally defenseless both by her physical and emotional training – Only a fraction of rapes ever reported, shame deters women from prosecution In rape, the emotions of hatred, contempt, and the desire to break or violate personality, take a form consummately appropriate to sexual politics. (136-137) 6

7 Force Patriarchal societies typically link feelings of cruelty with sexuality, with the latter often equated both with evil and with power. – Pornography The rule here associates sadism with the male (the masculine role) and victimization with the female (the feminine role). – Emotional responses to violence against women curiously ambivalent – References to wife beating lead to laughter and embarrassment Misogynist literature & comedy patriarchy at its most frankly propagandistic. Its aim is to reinforce both sexual factions in their status. – After the end of censorship, masculine hostility psychological or physical) in specifically sexual contexts has become far more apparent. (137-38) 7

8 Anthropology: Myth & Religion Under patriarchy the female did not herself develop the symbols by which she is described. – Eve & Pandora Deep cultural legitimation for the subjugation of women – Women eating apart from men – Freud, penis envy, castration myth – Virginity & defloration: a sign of property received intact Patriarchy has God on its side. (139-45) 8

9 Psychology The large quality of guilt attached to sexuality in patriarchy is overwhelmingly placed upon the female, who is, culturally speaking, held to be the culpable or the more culpable party in nearly any sexual liaison, whatever the extenuating circumstances. – Woman is still denied sexual freedom and the biological control over her body through the cult of virginity, the double standard, the prescription against abortion, and in many places because contraception is physically unavailable to her. Continual surveillance of women by men in positions of authority Obliged to seek approval of men in power Man as default category of humanity (145) 9

10 Shulamith Firestone (1970) Sex class is so deep as to be invisible. Or it may appear as a superficial inequality, one that can be solved by merely a few reforms, or perhaps by the full integration of women into the labour force. – But the reaction of the common man, woman, and child - 'That? Why you can't change that! You must be out of your mind!' - is the closest to the truth. We are talking about something every bit as deep as that. This gut reaction - the assumption that, even when they don't know it, feminists are talking about changing a fundamental biological condition - is an honest one. That so profound a change cannot be easily fitted into traditional categories of thought, e.g., 'political', is not because these categories do not apply but because they are not big enough: radical feminism bursts through them. If there were another word more all-embracing than revolution - we would use it. (90) 10

11 Until a certain level of evolution had been reached and technology had achieved its present sophistication, to question fundamental biological conditions was insanity. – Why should a woman give up her precious seat in the cattle car for a bloody struggle she could not hope to win? But, for the first time in some countries, the preconditions for feminist revolution exist - indeed, the situation is beginning to demand such a revolution. (90) – Unlike economic class sex class sprang directly from a biological reality: men and women were created different, and not equal. Although, as De Beauvoir points out, this difference of itself did not necessitate the development of a class system - the domination of one group by another - the reproductive functions of these differences did. (93) 11

12 The biological family - the basic reproductive unit of male/female/infant, in whatever form of social organisation - is characterised by these fundamental - if not immutable – facts: – 1. That women throughout history before the advent of birth control were at the continual mercy of their biology - menstruation, menopause, and 'female ills', constant painful childbirth, wet-nursing and care of infants, all of which made them dependent on males (whether brother, father, husband, lover, or clan, government, community-at-large) for physical survival. – 2. That human infants take an even longer time to grow up than animals, and thus are helpless and, for some short period at least, dependent on adults for physical survival. (93-94) 12

13 – 3. That a basic mother/child interdependency has existed in thus has shaped some form in every society, past or present, and the psychology of every mature female and every infant. – 4. That the natural reproductive difference between the sexes led directly to the first division of labour at the origins of class, as well as furnishing the paradigm of caste (discrimination based on biological characteristics). These biological contingencies of the human family cannot be covered over with anthropological sophistries. Anyone observing animals mating, reproducing, and caring for their young will have a hard time accepting the 'cultural relativity' line. (94) 13

14 But to grant that the sexual imbalance of power is biologically based is not to lose our case. We are no longer just animals. And the kingdom of nature does not reign absolute. As Simone de Beauvoir herself admits: – The theory of historical materialism has brought to light some important truths. Humanity is not an animal species, it is a historical reality. Human society is an antiphysis - in a sense it is against nature; it does not passively submit to the presence of nature but rather takes over the control of nature on its own behalf. This arrogation is not an inward, subjective operation; it is accomplished objectively in practical action. Thus the 'natural' is not necessarily a 'human' value. Humanity has begun to transcend Nature: we can no longer justify the maintenance of a discriminatory sex class system on grounds of its origins in nature. Indeed, for pragmatic reasons alone it is beginning to look as if we must get rid of it. 14

15 The end goal of feminist revolution must be, unlike that of the first feminist movement, not just the elimination of male privilege but of the sex distinction itself: genital differences between human beings would no longer matter culturally. (A reversion to an unobstructed pansexuality Freud's 'polymorphous perversitywould probably supersede hetero/homo/bi-sexuality.) – The reproduction of the species by one sex for the benefit of both would be replaced by (at least the option of) artificial reproduction: children would born to both sexes equally, or independently of either, however one chooses to look at it; the dependence of the child on the mother (and vice versa) would give way to a greatly shortened dependence on a small group of others in general (95) 15

16 Toni Morrison (1971) It is with some trepidation that anyone should undertake to generalize about still another group. Yet something on that order is legitimate, not only because unity among minorities is a political necessity, but because, at some point, one wants to get on with the differences. – What do black women feel about Womens Lib? Distrust. It is white, therefore suspect. They look at white women and see them as the enemyfor they know that racism is not confined to white men, and that there are more white women than men in this country, and that 53 percent of the population sustained an eloquent silence during times of greatest stress. (454) – Early Womens Lib focused on rate of women in professions, getting women into the workforce, not getting better jobs, adult education, or how to be head of household (455) 16

17 Black women are different from white women because of how they view themselves differently, are viewed differently, and lead a different kind of life. (455) – Black women have not had the experience of being sheltered and domineered housewives, and have on the whole had to work and often raise families by themselves In a way black women have known something of the freedom white women are now beginning to crave. But oddly, freedom is only sweet when it is won. When it is forced, it is called responsibility. (457) 17

18 Black women have found it impossible to respect white women. I mean they never had what black men have had for white mena feeling of awe at their accomplishments. – Whether vying with them for the few professional slots available to women in general, or in moving their dirt from one place to another, they regarded them as willful children, pretty children, mean children, ugly children, but never as real adults capable of handling the real problems of the world. White women were ignorant of the facts of lifeperhaps by choice, perhaps with the assistance of men, but ignorant anyway. They were totally dependent on marriage or male support (emotionally or economically). They confronted their sexuality with furtiveness, complete abandon or repression. Those who could afford it, gave over the management of the house and the rearing of children to others. – Black women believed that black men chose white women because white women would be subservient (458) 18

19 If Womens Lib is about breaking the habit of genuflection, if it is about controlling ones own destiny, is about female independence in economic, personal and political ways, if it is indeed about working hard to become a person, knowing that one has to work hard at becoming anything, Man or Womanand if it succeeds, then we may have a nation of white Geraldines and white Sapphires, and what on earth is Kingfish gonna do then? (259) 19

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