Marx and Woman (was Re: Gender & Free Speech)

Yoshie Furuhashi furuhashi.1 at
Sun Mar 26 15:59:19 PST 2000


>Oh, history. So we should just accept whatever local consensus obtains
>hereabout? Now you sound like Rorty as hsi worst.

Rorty doesn't think of history in terms of objective social relations, while I do. Pragmatists would find it difficult to part company with nationalists, because of their idea that "social conventions" are totally contingent, with no necessary relation to any mode of production.

>Umm, because the thing has pretty much the same intrinsic properties
>whichever side of cervix it is on at around time of delivery.

It has not been intrinsic properties that have made some humans "persons" and others "nonpersons." Infants had the basically same intrinsic properties in ancient Greece as they do now. Likewise, medieval serfs had the basically same intrinsic properties as modern farm workers, if we focus our attention to anatomy. It is ensembles of social relations that make what we are politically. Anatomy doesn't explain the politics of reproduction. Just as skin color didn't explain slavery.

>If late term fetuses are people, then their rights to life are more important
>tahn women's rights to be free of gender oppression.

I agree with you: you can't have women's reproductive rights and fetal rights at the same time. So, it now boils down to whether people value women's equality with men more than a philosophical question of whether fetuses are "persons." If yes, birth is a sure & acceptable line of demarcation; if not, it is not. While women don't have full reproductive control over our bodies, we are second-class persons, and vice versa.

>but like them I think
>some issues don't present interesting moral questions

Actually, me too; abortion doesn't present interesting moral questions for the Japanese (not because we are anti-sexist obviously but because we are not metaphysically inclined, I believe); for many Americans, sadly it does.

>Why not assume as the norm that ll disagreementys are to be

In thought, they always are, but in practice they aren't (as Spinoza, among others, said). It's legally OK now for individuals to be opposed to abortion & say so because they think abortion is murder, but they should not bomb abortion clinics, kill doctors & other medical workers, block women from entering clinics, etc., thinking that their idea that abortion is murder should justify a war on abortions and abortionists. BTW, *if* abortions were murders, anti-abortionists would be *morally (if not legally) justified* in waging a just war against women who aborted, abortionists, and the state that allowed genocide. If you want to be *logically consistent*, that is.

> > Well, there is a historical reason why in ancient Greece there was a
> near-universal consensus that slavery was not wrong, while the same
> consensus did not obtain in America. First of all, slavery in ancient
> Greece was not the same as modern American slavery.
>Some of it was worse. Your point?

Since capitalism was absent in ancient Athens, there was no material condition that would make for the hegemony of the idea of equality; but in America, slavery was embedded in capitalism, so slaves, free blacks, and abolitionist whites never thought that slavery could be morally justified, in the face of the idea of human equality.

> > Surely you can have burning moral indignation without being committed to a
> belief in the existence of transhistorical standards of justice?
> >>
>Yes, but I don't see why I should go out of my way to find an excuse for
>saying that slavery might be right in the appropriate circumstances or a
>suitable point of view. That's what rejection of "transhistorical standards
>of justice" amounts to, okaying slavery from some point of view. Why does
>taht have anything to recommend it?

Slavery has not been (and will not be) right since the rise of material conditions that would allow us to abolish slavery. It doesn't matter to us if ancient Greeks thought slavery was OK; they are dead now, and their pre-capitalist society long gone. If there existed "transhistorical standards of justice," it would mean that we never had change in modes of production or that modes of production did not in any way determine ideas.


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