Misc. threads

Chuck Grimes cgrimes at tsoft.com
Thu Mar 23 00:54:15 PST 2000

Uh, I don't think I'll ask her that, because, among other reasons, BE is admirable and MS is annoying. What are you getting at? What does she dodge? Why is the hard part about class so manly, anyway? Isn't one of her recurring points that it isn't? And isn't she right about that?

Doug -----------

Sometimes it is just easier to apologize for a mean spirited, surly and thoughtless remark, than it is explain it. So I apologize. It was a stupid thing to say. The explanation follows for what its worth.

Here is the section:

"We should recall that the original radical--and, yes, utopian--feminist vision was of a society without hierarchies of any kind. This of course means equality among the races and the genders, but class is different: There can be no such thing as "equality among the classes." The abolition of hierarchy demands not only racial and gender equality, but the abolition of class. For a start, let's put that outrageous aim back into the long-range feminist agenda and mention it as loudly and often as we can."

My immediate reaction was, yeah, well fucking, duh!

So, where was I coming from? Ancient history.

I had this argument with friends over class v. gender discrimination in 1970 just as Ehrenreich. For some reason the above passage reminded me (and pissed me off) of thirty years ago and how priorities were shifting toward discrimination in line with a civil rights movement--in line with a fight against a moral hierarchy rather than an class hierarchy. Gender was something that could be tackled through protests on social policy, where as the issues of economics and class were much more difficult. And, of course there was a personal side. I am obviously not a woman, not black, not disabled, so why should I care? Class was my only excuse and a thin one at that, but I was sticking to it. I have no moral ground to stand on in any of this.

The people I was arguing with where my roomates and later work mates, Mike and Gail. Gail was finishing her thesis in Sociology--portrayal of women in media. Mike and I were involved with a related version of the same argument in the disability project we worked for: the economics of disability versus the issues of discrimination (this should give Marta a laugh or sigh). After Mike left two years later, the program got involved in a discrimination case by firing the only two black employees. Naturally this was at the height of the early struggles over affirmative action--where exactly the same argument was going on--economic rights versus civil rights. (If anyone cares to remember affirmative action was a half-assed compromise between the two). So, as absurd as this was, I had to sit through a grilling from Elaine Brown who got called in to mediate the labor/discrimination dispute in a program devoted to ending discrimination.

What's the point?

If you follow a moral philosophy, which is what is embedded in the arguments over discrimination, you will end up in precisely the kind of moral dilemmas that Ehrenreich illustrated with the conflict of between affluent women and their cleaning crews. After the detail is stripped away, it leads to the same absurdity as sitting in a room arguing with the Panthers in a labor dispute (like where was the fucking university administrator who refused to sign off on funding the program, unless it conformed to personnel policies, i.e. was setup as a labor hierarchy?). The program shouldn't have been set up in an economic hierarchy in the first place, then the moral dilemmas that followed wouldn't have come down the way they did. Yes, I know, that was sort of Ehrenreich's argument in the piece. Except she really didn't make it that way.

But it isn't enough just say it or write it. The dirty fingernails comment was spinning off the question of exactly how. Not in theory, not in advocacy, not in polite discussions over Harpers, but in reality, in the actual lived context. This isn't something that can be figured out on paper or visited in a field study. It has to be worked out in bitter battles, face to face--like the kind I had and lost.

Well it's a very old argument. Thirty years is a long time to cover the same ground, over and over and over. I am sure this probably doesn't make much sense. It was a stupid comment that I wish I hadn't posted.

Anyway, that's the background.

Chuck Grimes

More information about the lbo-talk mailing list