Re: PCT and Feminisms: asking again...

Alessandra Iantaffi (
Wed, 22 May 1996 17:00:15 +0100 (BST)

Dear Bob,

thank you for your interesting comments, it is good to know that other
people are interested in the topic. However I could not resist from
adding some comments.

You write:
> 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"?

I mean that, although men and women are comparable since both belong to
the category 'humankind', feminism and masculinism (if, and _only if_ by
the latter we mean traditional male-oriented theories on life) advocate
two very different ways of living, knowing and being in the world. The
opposite pole of feminism for me, and me alone as far as I know, is
something like 'passive acceptance of things as they are for women'. It
is a long way of saying it, and still does not convey fully what I
mean. Verbal labels are limiting (especially as english is my _2nd_

> 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.

I did not want to make women an universal class comparable to Marx's
proletariat... however I do understand it did seem that way. The
difference between men and women does, nevertheless, affect other
struggles such as class, race, disability, sexual orientation, etc... It
is a dichotomy which touches people of all colours, religions, social
class, abilities, and so on. It does not necessarily include them though.
I would actually say the contrary, that every other oppressed group
usually has this tension between men and women within them.

> 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?

It does not. But can the contrary be said? (See comments above) The black
movement has women like bell hooks to show that maybe when some black
leaders talk about blacks, they are talking about black men. Likewise,
however, many feminist writers, leaders, etc... only mean white women
when talking about women (and may I add british white women, for some
british feminist writers). Still, women can be found in all the other
oppressed groups, and actually women, don't exist in a vacuum, they
always belong to a certain race, class, nationality, have certain
abilities, etc...

> 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

We seem to come to similar conclusions... HOWEVER, I think we still need
a feminist movement, IMHO, to bring together women who struggle in
various groups to share their experiences. I really believe (and my
personal experience validate my constructs about this), that as women we
do have something to share BEYOND our posible belonging to other
oppressed groups. We also share the fact that we are NOT a minority: we
are a good half of the world population, and as such we have an enourmous


>. Thus, while I agree with all of your values, I still must ask,
> "why must the pursuit of equality be named 'feminism'"?

The pursuit of equality is called pursuit of equality (by myself, at
least), but feminism is the pursuit of true equality (the word equality
has been so abused in recent times!) for women (all women, in my
understanding and belief). It is specific, that is why we have other
specific groups, such as the disability movement, and the black movement
and so on... why can't we accept feminism? Or, may I ask, why do you have
a problem with this word? (don't take offence please, many men seem to
have the same difficulty... Maybe there is a negative shared construct
there, that most men, and some women have in common?) Feminism is not a
dirty word (or does not need to be).

> 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.

I do agree that pcp provides a good way of looking at the world from a
non-judgemental perspective.

> Thanks for the stimulating discussion

Likewise, and I hope you do not take offence if I defend my ground quite