Re: PCT and Feminisms: asking again...

Robert Parks (
Tue, 21 May 1996 11:36:02 -0400

Dear Allesandra,

Thank you for continuing to search for ways to reconcile your value
commitments (e.g. equality) with the apparent postmodern or relativistic
constructions of PCP. As a novice in PCP (I'm a political scientist) I find
the discussion interesting.

You said:
> I don't see feminism as the opposite pole for masculinism, as
>they are (to me) two incommensurable realities.

I understand the notion of incommensurability to mean separate and
incomparable realms. I'm not sure why you say that feminism and masculinism
are incommensurable. What do you mean by this? What then IS the opposite
pole of "feminism"?

> Unfortunately, in many societies, this difference has
>become a way of justifying the supremacy of half of the population on the
>other half. Within this we have also managed to develop other forms of
>supremacy, oppression and discrimination towards people with different
>skin colour, different abilities (mental and physycal), different
>religions, and so on.

This seems to be an absolutely central, crucial interpretation. But lets
look at the sort of intellectual move you are making here. You have placed
the struggles of the oppressed "WITHIN" the struggle of women. You would
like to make women a "universal class" like Marx's proletariat, whose
liberation cannot be accomplished without the liberation from all other
oppressions. Thus, since the oppressions of Blacks occur WITHIN the
framework defined by an unequal sexual division of labor, the equal
opportunity of women to pursue power will free us from racial inequality of
all kinds? will free us from ethnic oppressions? will free us from economic
exploitation of all kinds? It would be comforting to believe this. Theories
of oppression need a universal class to overcome descrimination, just as
the freeing of the slave also frees the master in a Hegelian dialectic.

But what sort of an argument could be made to persuade us that women are a
universal class. You will have to argue that working people aren't a
universal class, that liberation of blacks and other minorities won't free
us from oppression. Why does the struggle of women encompass and
incorporate all other liberation struggles?

Of course, its a convenient and enticing intellectual move. For women can
then speak for all other oppressed people - black, brown, working poor and
homeless, etc. But my experience with the women's movement is not that it
is a revolutionary group forming a universal class for liberation. It just
doesn't appear that the conditions for formation of such a universal class
among women is possible. So anyone looking for true liberation will have to

>However, my main
>concern is not about getting women to the top, but to change the
>paradigm. Some women at the top have values that are no different from
>those of the men in similar jobs, and that is no surprise when they have
>grown up 'breathing' those values all around them. We live in a world
>that, by large, ignores, (through laws, customs, traditions, etc..) that
>women exist or, better, that they have equal rights. Personally, I don't
>want to be hired on a job _because_ I am a woman and that company needs
>more women in their staff for their E.O. image, but i don't want to be
>_stopped_ getting _any_ job I want because I am a woman either. (Sorry, I
>realise this is not very clear). EO is not, IMHO, about creating more
>creches and giving more training, but about getting laws, a government
>and a tradition that value and include my existence as a woman (and that
>might mean creating more creches and training, but in a different light).
>Say whatever you like, but at the moment we don't have one either in the UK
>or in Italy. It might be useful to say that 'my' feminist model comes
>from women like Luce Irigaray (who does, by the way, a brilliant critique
>of Freud) and that does not always fit with what people in the UK and in
>the USA understand by feminism. To cut a long story short I am a feminist
>because I want a more 'inclusive' society, but this inclusion, sometimes,
>might have to come through the acceptance of differences.

Well said. I can't disagree with any of your aspirations. They are mine also.
I just am not able to promote the interests of women as women in any
different senset than I would like to promote the interests of racial
groups, geographical interests, religious groups, etc. - or even the
interests of men. The whole point is to find a universal HUMAN INTEREST to
guide us in discovering the interests of each group. Elevating the
interests of women above those of others - incorporating all other
oppressions - does not appear to me consistent with the notion of a human
interest. Thus, while I agree with all of your values, I still must ask,
"why must the pursuit of equality be named 'feminism'"?

> In this light,
>I dare come back to my original question: what about PCT and Feminisms?
>Can they cohabit under the same sky? I honestly know too little of PCT
>to have an answer, any ideas/comments?

I guess your real concern is with how to privilege your values in an
empirical study (which isn't difficult if you construct a scale measuring
your values). The answer that has been pursued by Lois in her discussion of
postmodernism seems to be that postmodernism IS a "feminist" approach to
live... that it does (at least part of) the work of feminism without the
name. Therefore, you don't need to worry, because PCP does at leat part of
the work of feminism by bracketing everyone's values, and thus undermining
the privileging of men's constructs.

Thanks for the stimulating discussion