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[Xmca-l] Re: Analysis of Gender in early xmca discourse
Maria Cristina, and others,
I agree 200% that scarcity is a concept upon which capitalism flourishes. We know that the capitalist ideology, as it were, is used to control class, as our good friend Karl tells us.
I believe there are some who want to offer that the ideology behind capitalism as inherently intertwined with control and oppression, and is somehow immoveable, but that there cannot be good done with capitalism. But perhaps capitalism is just a tool, and this ideology and its identification with scarcity is the real problem for what capitalism has historically supported. Maybe with the proper fundamental values capitalism can work for a greater good. I don't know, I just offer that thought. Perhaps I am making a heretical statement by saying that.
I'm not sure where I stand, but I'm happy to explore the line of those thoughts, not because I believe in capitalism, but because I don't believe there is scarcity on this planet (unless we are talking about a lack of infinite oil reserves and forests and clean healthy oceans, then I agree). What I mean by scarcity is not so much in materials, but in innovation, in demand. I do not agree that innovation is scarce, neither is demand, and I believe that the reserves of human innovation are infinite, if we only choose to tap into them. When demand is scarce, then production diminishes. But when the grassroots demand change, production does increase, especially over time. I remember when being vegetarian was considered an oddity, and it was difficult to go grocery shopping, or to eat out at restaurants. Now it is much better for vegetarians. But that is because of demand, not production.
What I think is the basis of gendered discourse, whether you believe that innovation (and its link to demand) is possible beyond being a white male. I do not mean to insult white males as representing that because they are white and male that it denotes they believe that that is true; rather, I speak to the ideology and the logic of that ideology. Let me be clear about that, for the record.
I would like to offer, Maria Cristina, that what you call reproduction (if I'm understanding you), might be what I'm indicating in terms of demand. But I'm not sure. We can explore this together.
When we look at the dining room table example, the table is reproducing many domestic activities in the way it is supportive to the community of the household (in Greek parlance the oikia), regardless of gender. Because we all have to eat, regardless of gender. Almost all households have dining room tables, so I hope that is not a class-ist generalization that leaves out households without dining room tables. Far from it for me to be a furniture bigot.
What I am suggesting is that flipping the orientation from production to demand, we can start to see the world with less emphasis upon the colored glass of gender and race, and just think in human terms in relation to tools and the demand we have for them (outside the realm of commodities). Demand also can be a test for where gender is a dependent concept or independent one. My suggestion is not intended to dismiss the discussion of gender, but to consider how tools and their demand can indicate our values. And those values, as revealed, can in turn help to reveal what constructs the structure of gender ideologies. I believe there is a lot of work in this area in the world of anthropology, right Greg T.?
(Please know, this line of inquiry is a tool intended for exploration, and not to be weaponized.)
I think also this weaves well with the social reality of giving, something Maria Cristina you also include in this discussion. Much of what is given is either tools to help make a better life, or products that were created with those tools, and it is those tools that have demand, because of their social worth in the realm of giving (and not solely the realm of commerce).
I also would like to acknowledge what you say about there being many gifts around us. I am of the worldview that there is much about this world for which to be grateful. There is a lot to be said for cultivating gratitude in community, over competition. Thanks, Maria Cristina, for your participation and collaboration with me.
Last, I agree that the division between the private and the public, (the oikia and the agora), could be the result of patriarchy, but it could also just have to do with protecting the ones that you love from harmful adversaries. We cannot say with certainty that matriarchal societies would dissolve that barrier. Though it has an appeal, it may be too idealistic. When we identify our vulnerable selves, it usually has to do with intimate spaces, and these tend not to be on display in the agora. At the least we have been socialized this way, but could that be more the way we are wired as humans? I can't be sure so far in this line of thought. I'm open to see possibilities and other considerations.
What is prohibitive to women is not that there is a division between the public and the private, but that they are not safe to travel to the agora and to mill about the public space without being insulted or threatened. If that were removed, it might be fine to have that boundary between the private and the public. Men of course are not ridiculed in the oikia to the extent that women are in the agora, and so while men might be chastised for not knowing how to bake a casserole, or how the iron a shirt, or how not to mix darks with lights in the washing machine, their lives are never threatened for not knowing these things. Iinstead their fates are relegated to a bad diet, wrinkled clothes, and grey whites, which are frequently seen as charming signifiers of bachelorhood. Certainly, their lives are enhanced for knowing how to do these tasks, if only because they can share in the housework, as Alfredo has offered in sharing his story.
I am also reminded of something that was made apparent to me in an episode of the KPBS drama Indian Summers, which aired last Sunday. Without getting into the story, a theme in this episode had to do with the notion that insulting one's wife is the way for one man to deeply, albeit sinisterly, insult another man. That notion could be carried over to one's daughter I suppose, or one's mother or one's sister, even. Is this why, perhaps, women were kept back away from the agora or they were forced to be accompanied by a brother, husband, or father. And yes, we are talking about a patriarchy, but is the idea of insulting a man by insulting his wife generated by patriarchy? Women do not attack one another by insulting their husbands. Or their sons, brothers, or fathers.
So I wonder if this also has to do with keeping women away from the agora.
Let's keep reasoning with the seasoning of curiosity (as time permits, of course).