Admin: theoretical discussion of gender split from the macho posting on libcom and SolFed thread.
It was my understanding opposing gender essentialism was central to feminism, yet in this thread behaviours are being labelled masculine or feminine with no explanation.
i think the usage is that masculinity and femininity are social constructs which are largely mapped to biological sex and sociallly conditioned through associational learning. That means they operate on a pre-cognitive/pre-rational level, and so even if you consciously have a bang on critique of gender roles you can still reproduce them, and still respond to subconscious gendered cues. I'm getting all this from Cordelia Fine's recent book btw, which is a very worthwhile read (i only got half way through but will finish it when get the chance).
The way it was explained to me (this isn't from Fine now) is what you could call 'halving the species'; human attributes are divided up into binaries, and these are arranged hierarchically. So:
Reason > emotion
Stoicism > sensitivity
Violence > care
Competitiveness > co-operation
Aggressiveness > conciliation
Assertiveness > passivity
'Patriarchy' (though i don't really like the term myself) thus means everyone is socialised into one side or the other (to everyone's detriment, since all of those attributes are part of being human and repression has consequences), with very traumatic peer pressure consequences for violating the norm, especially during childhood (often leading to depression and suicide). So whether or not we consciously agree with these roles (i'd imagine most libcommers reject them), we're still socialised into them and liable to reproduce them subconsiously, and suffer cognitive dissonance when they're challenged (e.g. a woman 'wins' at reasoning). So basically talking about masculinity and femininity as more-or-less stable categories doesn't require essentialism, imho. Although the fact these terms are used without explanation is perhaps an example of the 'exclusive discourse' problem identified earlier.
What i'd add to the above is I suspect gender roles are not arbitrarily constructed, but have to do with the structural requirements of the state, the left hand column being the attributes required for the realpolitik of public political life and the right hand column relegated to the domestic sphere, which then becomes a gendered division of labour... but that's going off into comfortable territory gender theory per se rather than the concrete manifestations in terms of macho forum behaviour etc.
I'm not sure how I feel about that. Though there has been a lack of focus on class in the past, I wouldn't say now the mantra of class has been picked up again we need to subsume everything else under 'good' and 'bad' class politics....
I think Fall Back's argument is that if you're not attentive to the needs of women, then you're not doing class struggle properly since women are 50% (or more) of the class. So it's not a case of 'economic (and implicitly male) class issues' over here and separate, neglected 'womens issues' over there. Gender issues aren't 'womens issues', they're class issues, and a failure to address them is a failure to do class politics, which is not just about economics but the assertion of our needs. I suspect Fall Back has in mind SF leafletting over abortion rights, campaigns around maternity rights, defence of creche facilities etc which we've all been involved in and have all had large majority male participation. So the argument would be we're not failing to do 'womens issues' which appeal to women, but failing at doing class issues in a way which includes half the class (after all women pay rent and have jobs too as well as specifically 'womens issues').
In my experience 'womens issues' don't i themselves attract women, because women aren't one-dimensional creatures. I've been on all-male picket lines over maternity rights and fairly mixed ones for Office Angels for example, or the much better gender balance of university occupations. So i think the focus on behavioural norms on this thread is probably more productive than thinking up some tokenistic 'womens issues' to tack onto our activities without looking at behaviour, informal hierarchies etc (i don't think anyone has suggested that, but it has come up in the past).
Anyway, another long intellectual post from an assertive male poster, er... what was that about subconscious reproduction of gender norms?