Lack of reciprocity in May-December couplings

Apsken at Apsken at
Wed Nov 24 00:49:28 PST 1999

Personally I think the feminist analysis on this subject is correct. However, I also think that LBO-talk discussions are overpowered by academics, who tend to believe that U.S. academic culture is, or reflects, the world. It isn't, and doesn't, but it surely is vain, and that vanity terribly skews the debate.

My mother would have had a very different explanation for what we are discussing. She'd have regarded it as the proper result of gender interaction. She counseled my sisters to choose older men as partners, as she had, because men their own age would be immature and frivolous. She probably was right about that.

If several million mothers counsel their daughters similarly, as I think they probably do, the result is a cultural problem on quite a different level from the plane of our debate here (or if not the problem, certainly any prospect of solution[s] to the problem).

Long ago my comrades taught me that the personal is political. Life has taught me that the less that is so, the better. Depressing as it is to read some of the chauvinistic dodges and quips posted here in response to feminist points, I believe most of us lead our lives as honorably as we know how, and realize that we fall short of ideal in many respects. But for problems of power and oppression to become susceptible to (political) solutions, they must usually be de-personalized (socialized). Failing that, the cultural dimensions tend to be intractable, or nearly so.

Thus Kelley's point about the evident difference in seriousness that white men, here or elsewhere, display toward matters of race in contrast to matters of gender is accurate as far as it goes, but was not always so. Before the Freedom Movement changed the world, white people were just as evasive and obnoxious on matters of race as men are today with respect to women. Today, even with the persistence of white supremacy, white people no longer dare to be obtuse in public on matters of race and racism.

So, while we must continue to struggle on this level, as unsatisfying as the outcome seems to be, an even greater effort must be directed toward finding ways to address these aspects of oppression in a larger context than personal. Even then, the obstacles will be enormous.

Ken Lawrence

More information about the lbo-talk mailing list