Sexism as Social Relation
By sexism we mean an ideology that claims fundamental differences between people on the basis of their sex. Sexism combines descriptive elements (“men are rational, women are emotional”) with moral demands (“women must concentrate on family and children”). This results in sex roles that both restrict the personal freedom of individuals and systematically discriminate against those identified as “women” or “homosexuals” (see below). However, analogous to racism, sexism does not only exist when there is tangible discrimination; the postulation of sex roles is in itself already a sexist act.
We recognize, of course, that from the point of view of medicine and biology it makes sense in certain cases to distinguish male and female members of the species Homo sapiens from one another1; however, from this typology there is no valid deduction to be made on social sex roles.
Patriarchy and bourgeois society
On the basis of theoretical elements formulated in different but fundamentally similar forms by Roswitha Scholz and Silvia Federici, we consider the dominant variant of sexism in Western industrial nations as its specifically capitalist-bourgeois form. In contrast to pre-modern modes of production, the commodity-producing system is based on a clear separation of productive activity into wage labor and other “private” activities. Only the former, in the sense of capitalism, can be attributed to the sphere of economy at all.
While in the European Middle Ages, for example, women fulfilled important economic functions despite their generally oppressed position (women, not men, were responsible for administering family wealth), their role in the bourgeois model10 is limited to the sphere of the domestic sphere defined as non-economic11: While the man is supposed to secure the monetary income of the “family” through wage labour, the woman’s task is to carry out reproductive work, i.e. washing laundry, cooking food, keeping the house or apartment clean, raising the children and ensuring the man’s emotional and sexual well-being. The “classical role model” is not “classical” but bourgeois and, from a historical perspective, not particularly old. From a material point of view, “female” reproductive work is just as indispensable as “male” gainful employment for the maintenance of social production as a whole and thus for the generation of social wealth. The separation of spheres that is constitutive for bourgeois sexism (Scholz speaks of the ” value separation” (Wertabspaltung)) ensures, however, that the domestic work done by women is made invisible. Thus the woman is not only degraded to an unpaid worker, a kind of slave, she is also prevented by ideological mystification (“housework is an expression of love for the husband and an inner need of women”) from soberly viewing patriarchally organised housework as what it is: an ideologically masked transaction that in most cases does not even satisfy the conditions of capitalist equivalent exchange.
In the 19th and early 20th century, the intensification of housework and the resulting excessive demands and physical and psychological expenditure were deliberately brought about by the state and capital. Through the rationalisation of reproductive work,12 the exploitation of male workers and thus the production of surplus value could be increased. Women also fulfil the function of “emotional lightning arresters” for the male half of the proletariat.
Although in many states the achievements of the feminist movement have made it possible to achieve greater financial independence for women, the separation of reproductive and gainful employment remains an important social and economic factor even in the digital age. In many cases, women are subject to a double burden, which consists of taking care of both the household and earning money.
Homophobia as a form of sexism
The linguistic usage of everyday life does not use the word sexism to describe sex relations as such, but only one of its effects, the oppression of women (patriarchy). This misconception ensures that homophobia, i.e. hatred of people with homosexual preferences,13 is perceived as a phenomenon separate from sexism.
Only the one who has no theory of sexism can believe that. Homophobic thought must be understood as a result and a segment of sexism. Without the presupposition of normative sex roles, homophobia can not be formulated. The assertion that sex with a man is okay for women, but forbidden for men, inevitably implies different rights and duties based on sex and is therefore automatically sexist. When a gay man or lesbian woman is persecuted or even murdered, it is a matter of “punishing” those who have dared to rebel against the anti-humanist principle of sex norms. In the face of homophobic forms of sexism,14 any homosexual act as such is an antisexist act.
Unlike patriarchal oppression, homophobia can regularly take the form of a murderous desire for annihilation. In contrast to heterosexual women, homosexual people are not indispensable for the reproduction of the human species, male labour and sexism. The ideology of eliminatory homophobia is particularly virulent when fascism gains momentum.
Sexism and everyday life
TO BE TRANSLATED
Association for the Design of History calls not only for an end to all discrimination against women, homosexuals and other victims of sexism, but also for the abolition of sex roles themselves. We are committed to a future in which the idea of stereotyping people on the basis of biological sex would only lead to incomprehension and indignation. The communist state must be a society in which free persons (not “men” or “women”) are equipped with the same rights and duties, and in which physical sexual characteristics are only an external characteristic, analogous to body size or hair colour. The abolition of sexism will make patriarchal oppression and homophobic discrimination impossible and will finally allow humanity to develop its true potential. The human type of the future will be ethically oriented, emotionally mature, self-confident, caring and strong at the same time. Rational regulation and organization of human generic life (Gattungsleben) and its cybernetic superstructure are inconceivable without the abolition of the ideology and practice of sex segregation.17
At the same time, we need to be attentive: It is not enough just to promise the vision of an antisexist society to be realised. The ideal can only be realised by people who are actively involved in everyday life and politics to combat patriarchy. Just as we cannot expect the working class to want to abolish capitalism before practical successes have been achieved with immediate consequences, we must not indulge in the dangerous fiction that a feminist movement can be built solely by referring to the utopia of a “post-gender society”. Only the practical and theoretical support of feminist struggles and the implementation of tangible improvements for a significant number of women and homosexuals can give antisexist ideas credibility and contribute to overcoming the division of the working class. Transformative accelerationist politics is based on the mediation of utopia and present.
Within transformative or left-wing structures, the illusion that antisexism is merely a question of confession must be resolutely repressed. All persons who have grown up within sexist conditions reproduce these through their intuitive behaviour, regardless of how they position themselves theoretically or ethically on the subject of sexism. Because sexist behaviour is to a large extent unconscious, an antisexist communication practice must be learned extensively in the presence of a) female, and b) theoretically educated persons. Such a practice does not simply consist of learning a “politically correct” language, but requires the abandonment of various discriminatory and exclusionary habits. These include sexist or homophobic jokes, frequent interruptions of persons identified as female, as well as their underestimation and sexual objectification.
To suppress everyday sexism, massive campaigns of education and media are necessary at the societal level. The transformative movement as a whole must increasingly use intellectual and material resources to educate men and women about the nature and fatal effects of sexism. We must anticipate violent counter-reactions: Some men, instead of subordinating themselves to the real reason [Realvernunft] embodied in the transformative process, will jealously defend their privileges, deny the existence of sexism and/or apply strategies of victim blaming. But even some women will devote energy to maintaining sex norms and side with their objective oppressors. We must consider individuals and organizations that propagate and disseminate sexist ideas as political opponents.
1. Formally, we could even distinguish between A-humans and B-humans, whereby A-humans are defined as those whose height in cm is an even number …
2. In Marxism, ‘fetishism’ describes the ideological mystification of social relations as natural characteristics of objects or persons. The exchange value appears as a property of the commodity itself, although it is determined by the production process of society as a whole. The work of an engineer is considered more valuable in itself than that of a cashier, although (or because!) wages are nothing other than the result of the situation on the labour market. Likewise, the socially determined characteristics of women (gender) present themselves as natural characteristics of female persons (sex).
5. Even radical leftists and feminists treat men and women differently, at least on an unconscious level, and reproduce thinking within sex categories through their everyday actions.
6. An epistemological rule according to which the most sparing sensible explanation for an observed context must at first (!) be recognized as the best.
8. Bourgeois sexism evokes subservience and a lack of ambition in “female” persons, while it transforms “male” subjects into infantile emotional cripples.
9. See also: de Beauvoir, Simone: The Second Sex.
10. The model is bourgeois because it is the result of the bourgeois economic and social order (capitalism), and because it was also propagated and lived by the bourgeoisie; in the 19th century, a large proportion of proletarian women did not only housework but were also in (less well paid) gainful employment.
11. Ironically, economics literally means “housekeeping”, from ancient Greek oikos, house, and nomos, law …
12. On the basis of Taylorism, courses were offered for women to teach them how to act as a “good housewife”. The standards of cleanliness for workers’ flats were massively increased in the course of this development.
13. This includes bisexuality.
14. This also applies to the bourgeois sexism of Western industrial nations. It should also be noted, however, that conceptually any form of homophobia is sexism, but not any sexism necessarily has to be homophobic.
15. “Male sexuality” does not mean the “innate” sexuality of people with a Y chromosome, but the mode of male sexuality preformed by patriarchy.
17. In the long term, this social mechanism must incorporate possibilities for the fully artificial reproduction of humanity in order to further decompose the foundations of sexism (and racism) and ensure the integrity of the human species. But this is (still) a dream of the future.