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Times are hard and there is an upsurge of class feeling. This feeling is not necessarily the same as class consciousness, and it often takes unfamiliar forms. But it is there, in the Arab Spring, the Indignados, Occupy, Idle No More, the South African and Greek strikes, the Chinese and Portuguese demonstrations—and in billions of conversations all over the world.
There is an upsurge of interest in gender and feminism too, and among the same people. Yet most of the available feminist ideas ignore, or even deliberately obscure, the relation between gender and class. In this article we seek to put that right. We offer some new and perhaps surprising ideas about what gender does, in theory and in our everyday lives.1
We think there are three likely reasons why the connection between class and gender has become tenuous as a subject for serious study. The most important reason is that for three decades identity politics has dominated the places where Western feminist theory is produced: in the media, the academy, among policy wonks and in the ways we have learned to live our lives. The discourse of identity politics dictates that class and gender (and race and sect) are of equal importance in explaining social relations and social change. We approach inequality differently. We see class as prior, causal and the motor for change. And we argue that gender, like race, works to support class inequality and offers a powerful tool to those who would divide and rule.
The second reason class and gender are rarely treated in tandem is quite different. No one has any doubt that owners and managers exercise exquisite and finely tuned control of relations at work and over economic matters of all kinds. Yet there is a widespread reluctance to believe that the ruling class deliberately controls and manages gender to its own advantage. But there is great deal of evidence that this is exactly what ruling classes have striven to do throughout history. Part Three of our article makes this argument via a detailed case study of neoliberalism and gender in the United States.
The third reason the relation between class and gender has been obscured comes from the left. In the 1970s socialist and Marxist feminists revived Frederick Engels’s classic The Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State as a foundational text of the women’s movement. Left-leaning feminists took from Engels that “the family” was the source of women’s oppression. In Part Two of this article we argue at length against this notion.
So we need to begin again. Here we start from scratch to reconsider gender in a way that makes sense historically, and across cultures, but is also relevant to the whole range of social issues that confront us today. The argument we present is not difficult, but it is unfamiliar. It may even seem perverse, for the very reasons that the relation between class and gender has become obscured.
Part One: The basic argument
We begin Part One with a brief note on class to get across an absolutely key point: that social inequality in all class societies is arbitrary. This is the foundation for our argument about gender, which we get to soon enough.
Class is a relationship between those who work and those who live off their labour. It is everywhere held in place by violence.2 Class hierarchies, and consequent inequalities, are always and inevitably relationships based on spurious criteria. And however such class relationships are justified, validated and enforced in any particular society, they remain arbitrary, contradictory and contested.
Say that Group A are feudal landlords. They live off the labour of Group B, who are slaves, serfs, peasants, whatever. For the duration of this relationship, the Bs will be kept in thrall by social rules, expectations, rewards and violence.
Yet, however much Group A denies the common humanity of the Bs, there is no fundamental difference between the two groups, so the relationship can be reversed. The Bs could force the As to work and keep them working by the use of violence. It is easy to imagine a world turned upside down, and many people all over the world have used this striking image as a metaphor for radical change.3 Or class hierarchies may be challenged and destroyed from the outside. Group C may come along and usurp the land, mills and money, and then exploit both Group A and Group B.
The people who run any class society are always vulnerable to challenges from below. If those in Group A are to exploit Group B, they must find ways to reproduce the hierarchy and their claims to ascendancy. Moreover, they have to find some way of transferring their privilege as As, and their unequal share of land or goods, to the next generation.
But the justifications Group A offer for its privilege always smell fishy, because they are fishy. Group A may claim to have a longer history, more honour, a better name, to be smarter, blonder or anointed by a god. But every one of these attributes is cultural and variable. This means that such attributes can be learned, copied, redefined, stolen or usurped.4 After all, how blond is blond? And are bottle blondes OK? How well do you have to know the classics, or how tall do you have to be, before it counts?
Because the attributes that explain and justify inequality are precarious and dubious, they must be naturalised, that is, made to seem natural. The differences between the As and Bs must be made to seem unalterable, enduring and important. This is where a gender justification is needed, and has always been needed, throughout the history of class society.
The gender justification
Our argument starts with the idea that social inequality in class societies is based on arbitrary divisions between people that are ultimately enforced by violence. But violence by itself is never enough to perpetuate inequalities over time. So these inequalities must be finessed ideologically to manufacture at least some consent.
Because inequality is arbitrary, those who benefit must make it seem obvious, normal and right. And, as we’ve suggested, this is best done by making inequality seem utterly and completely “natural”. The lie has to go deep to be persuasive, and gender goes deep. So gendered inequality—between women, between men, and between women and men—is ideal for naturalising and reinforcing class inequality. This is what gender does.
Like all experience, gender is embodied. So gender brings inequality into the most intimate and cherished parts of our lives. Gender informs all our close relationships, in bed, over breakfast, everywhere, day by day, in every interaction, as spouses, partners, parents and children, brothers and sisters, friends and lovers. All of us live gendered inequalities all the time. They infuse our bodies, our sexuality and our social practices.5
In any particular time and place, the cultural habits of gendering affect each child before she or he is born and for the whole of his or her life.6 We make love, take one another inside our bodies, give birth, nurse babies and drink mother’s milk. Yet at the same time, our words, and our wordless looks and movements, can reproduce gendered inequality as part of the best and most loving side of ourselves: “My father and mother love each other, and they love me. I want to grow up to be a man like my dad.”
And from gendered inequality thus naturalised, it is a short step to accepting institutionalised inequalities of all kinds. Or, to put it another way, inequalities at work and elsewhere would be far less acceptable if people had the daily experience of equality within intimate sexual and family relationships. If there were a radical discontinuity in people’s experiences of equality and inequality in different social settings, resistance to inequality would be more widespread, easier and much more threatening to those who are privileged in hierarchical societies.
For a class society to seem permanent and unalterable, class status also has to be transmitted to others. Gender again is crucial here. Parenthood and kinship provide lived justifications for passing on class inequality, in the inheritance of property and money, but also in the inheritance of being a slave, a serf or a worker.
Gendered stereotypes and class hierarchies
In Europe and the Americas today a powerful set of stereotypes shape our experience of gender and inequality. How they work is how gendered inequality becomes deeply naturalised.
We all know that the minute we challenge any stereotype we see immediately the contradictions it was meant to hide. But too often we dare not question stereotypes that are, after all, tools of power. These days, thank goodness, it is easy to see how a racial slur pigeonholes a person and is a clear act of aggression and oppression. Sexism works the same way, but because gender differences are more completely naturalised, it is often harder to see.
In Europe and the Americas dominant class and capitalist ideologies have for centuries conjured with a number of supposed universals to divide the world into unequal parts. These are familiar to all of us. The trick is that they work together, so that men are to women:
as strong is to weak;
as rational is to emotional;
as active is to passive;
as culture is to nature;
as public is to domestic,
as production is to reproduction;7
as adult is to child;
as able-bodied is to disabled;
as heterosexual is to homosexual;
as upper class is to working class;
as rich is to poor;
as white is to black;
as civilised is to savage;
as west is to east;
as modern is to traditional;
as Christian is to Muslim; and on and on.
This ideological structure is an enormously powerful device because it admits endless additions and permutations, and it resonates with the many changes it has survived over time. Because it is easy to slide and jump from one set of parallel categories to another, a bias in favour of men may also favour whiteness, adulthood, heterosexuality and a healthy, able body, as well as an upper class, Western imperial identity. So when gender is heavily marked to signify deep naturalised inequality between women and men, it can automatically serve to naturalise great inequality elsewhere.
The resonances between the different stereotypes are used in complicated ways. For example, adult male slaves in the United States were feared as irrational, like women. Nonetheless, as presumed heterosexuals they were seen as powerful, highly sexed and dangerous, yet in an ugly paradox, they were further stigmatised as “boys” and their labour and oppression made to disappear.
Similarly, recent Western sexism feminised gay men. But in a curious twist, lesbian women were often masculinised because the idea of heterosexuality in the dominant ideology actually depends on adopting a male point of view. So heterosexuality turns out to mean “having sex with women”. Meanwhile, in another variant on the same theme, brain scientists can’t decide if gay men are more, or perhaps less, masculine because they have sex with men.8 And in a further variation, lesbian sportswomen seem to have found it easier to come out than gay sportsmen, perhaps because, as Hadley Freeman writes, they are “expected to be unfeminine, or even masculine”, while gay men “are assumed to be nerdy, girlish, feminine—in other words, the opposite of how people think of male athletes”.9
The binary construction of interlocking stereotypes is powerful because it is so malleable. In any one setting it can account for virtually every prejudice going. And this makes it difficult to question any one stereotype, because challenging one can lead to challenging the lot, and that can pose a revolutionary threat to your entire world view and to the society in which you live.
All relations of inequality are resisted, fought over, negotiated and re-enforced. In every village and city the exploited and downtrodden know that things could be different and better. There may be limits to what they can imagine, but they do resist. They may mutter, turn away, tell jokes about the landlord, curse the priest, miss church, poach rabbits, arrive late for work, smoke in the toilet, quit, desert, elope, run away to sea, organise, preach, pray, build political parties, demonstrate, burn down the big house, go on strike and throw up the barricades. Or just fart silently when the great lord walks by.10
The opposite is true too. From the top, the ruling class and its agents are always pushing down, trying to make changes which favour themselves. Ideology is not simply something which takes place in the heads and psychology of individuals. It is enforced.
“Ruling class” is now almost a taboo phrase in Britain and the US. Yet unequal class relations are still very much with us, and somebody is still in charge of them. To avoid seeming old fashioned and monotonous, we refer variously in what follows to elites, managers, landlords, the ruling class and the corporate elite. But in every case, we mean the people who run and enforce the system.
So, who exactly enforces class and gender inequality? In the small kingdom of Hunza in the Karakoram in 1800 the mir, or ruler, and the big landlords in every village could intervene directly and daily in everyone’s life to protect their privilege. In the much larger north Indian kingdom of Oudh in 1800 the ruling class had to act through a wide variety of local enforcers. In the UK, or the US today, complex networks, based on private school education, intermarriage, holiday homes and interlocking corporate directorships, tie the ruling class together.11 They too work through an army of enforcers, whose work it is, whether or not they identify with the ruling class.
The ruling class, though, is not something distant. Take a class society where large landlords exploit sharecroppers. The landlords, their younger brothers and their agents will be found in every village. Or take a capitalist society, where corporations employ workers. In every town there will be employers and senior managers who identify with the controlling capitalists.
This means that in villages and cities the ruling classes and their henchfolk watch and listen to what people say and do. Landlords, bosses, foremen, bailiffs, priests, social workers, judges, police, elders, chiefs, politicians, teachers and line managers monitor the rules that keep inequality in place.
Roger Law of Spitting Image, the popular TV satire of the 1980s, offers an example: “When we made our first puppet of Margaret Thatcher, we had no idea how uncomfortably close we would become.” Later Thatcher closed down a commissioned exhibition of the puppets at the National Portrait Gallery: “Thatcher’s modus operandi was to place her people at the top of institutions and very quickly everything would fall into line”.12
Ruling classes, women and men, manage the rhetoric and practices of gendering with ferocity and great care. After all, this is one important way their privilege is created and sustained. Gendered labelling and struggles over gendered practices are also a constant feature of everyone’s life. They happen at home, at school, at work, in the fields and in the church, in the mosque and in a million conversations every day.
As Roy Porter writes of early modern Europe: “Patriarchy’s scandalous secret…is that it had to be obsessively vindicated—often in grotesque or brutal ways like witch hunting or wife beating. Scolds were routinely chastised if they behaved as though they wore the trousers; fops were taunted, ‘rough music’ directed against cuckolds for letting the side down. Above all, masculinity was systematically beaten into boys. As with army recruits today, early brutalisation was believed to be an indispensable training for later instinctive exercise of authority”.13
When enforcing gender differences, violence is never far away. Mothers and fathers hit immodest daughters; playground bullies beat up sissy boys. The landlord’s enforcer in an Indian village may rape and kill the wife of an insolent labourer. A woman who defies the priest may be driven from the village, and an openly homosexual man may beaten or raped. Women who complain too loudly may be forcibly medicated.
Ruling classes may sometimes also use race, sect and nationality to divide and rule. But always they use gender. Race works better than gender to separate and stigmatise people. But it usually requires more violence to keep racialised inequality in place.
The violence associated with heavily marked racial divisions is often explicit, rigidly exercised and relentlessly vicious. Gendered violence, by contrast, is more likely to be contingent and unpredictable. Mothers and fathers may well hit immodest daughters, but as they do so, they will argue with each other about what is acceptable behaviour from a 12 year old girl. Playground bullies may be beat up sissy boys, but the bullies themselves may also be punished if they get caught. In an Indian village the landlord’s enforcer may rape and kill a labourer’s wife, but the target chosen may be intentionally random. A gay man may be beaten or raped “just because” he is in the wrong place at the wrong time. Some women who complain may be medicated, but others may flee or fight back.
Ideologically and practically, gender is a more complex and clever way to divide working class people than either race or sect. At the same time, gender also divides people in the upper classes. However, the people at the top share privileges that give them a considerable incentive to negotiate gender relations among themselves.
For the rest of us, when gender is effectively made to seem natural, inequality and class conflict are often experienced as a battle between the sexes. In any particular setting, some men are certainly likely benefit from the oppression of some women, and from the ideologies that prize men over women. This is, in part, how gendered inequality works. But neither “men” nor “women” are the problem. For one thing, it is not possible to explain actual changes in relations between people in terms of such universal categories. But also even mild carping of the “just like a woman” or “all men are bastards” type hides class privilege from us and is a powerful form of divide and rule.14
Explaining degrees of violence, and whether or not it is explicitly gendered, must be part of any comparative analysis of what gender does. But we should be careful. “Violence” is usually a catch-all term used by people in power. As such, it is rarely used to include institutional violence, such as arrest, imprisonment, targeted killing, or presidential kill lists. Moreover, it often includes crimes that hurt no one physically, like breaking a shop window and stealing a television. And we also need to be wary of the media focus on extreme violence, from the shock and awe assault on Baghdad, to the exaggerated coverage of the Boston marathon bombing. A focus on extreme violence also works by creating a culture of fear, and particularly fear for people you love. And fear can be used to enforce inequality very effectively indeed.15
Moreover, this focus obscures more ordinary forms of violence that are just as important in enforcing inequality.16 And violence is only a part of enforcement. Watch television and count the number of times and the variety of ways different masculine and feminine styles are heavily marked in features programmes, the news and ads.
Gendered marking changes over time and place. The history people bring to the present also matters. There are no “dowry killings” among people who do not pay dowries. This may be obvious, but most cultural differences are complex and make comparison difficult.17
Greater equality benefits most men and women, as Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett have so impressively demonstrated.18 When women gained the vote and abortion rights in the UK and the US, a few individuals, women and men, may have lost out. But the vast majority of the population, men and women, gained from universal suffrage, electoral democracy and by being able to separate sex from reproduction by legal means.
Unfortunately, however, the opposite is also true. The greater the inequality in any particular place and time, the more gendered differences will be emphasised and enforced. When inequality increases, though forms of oppression may shift, it is likely that the vast majority of women and men will suffer more.19 Both women and men of the ruling class benefit from inequality; most working people, men and women, do not.
The idea of gendered marking is useful here. It helps us to think comparatively and evaluate changes over time. As a rule of thumb, when gender is used to enforce increasingly unequal class relations, gendered differences are more heavily marked. And, typically, the converse is also true.20
Gender and race
So far we have been using the notion of gender casually. Now we need to explain more exactly what we mean by gender, and why we talk about gender, and not about “women” and “men”.
Our explanation owes much to the ways many of us now understand race.21 We know that differences in skin colour are real, and biological. But we also know that these differences are trivial compared to what all people have in common as human beings. Skin colour differences are also unimportant compared to the other biological differences between human beings—differences of anatomy, metabolism and dispositions to sickness and health.
We also know that differences of skin colour have been marked in very different ways at different times and places. In the United States during slavery a drop of African blood meant that a person was classified as black.22 In South Africa a distinct mixed category of “coloureds” existed under apartheid. Brazil also had slavery, but in that country there was, and is, a graded continuum of skin colour and appearance.23 In each case, we can explain the particular racialised divisions between people in terms of history, capitalism and class struggle. We do not need to believe in race.
We approach gender in a similar way. As with skin colour, there are biological continua linking sexual traits. It may be the case that this person has a penis, and that person a clitoris and a vagina. But not all penises are the same, neither are all breasts, nor are all adults equally fertile.
We are all, of course, completely familiar with such variation, and we are also aware that gender differences may be more or less marked at different times and places. This variation makes two questions important. First, when and why do such differences become particularly salient, heavily marked and used to discriminate between human beings? And second, who benefits and who is hurt when such marking takes place?
Of course, sex organs, however they look and function, are important, but they are no more important than the liver or the heart. Moreover, sex organs matter mostly in their sameness, not their difference. Through our sexed bodies, people share experiences of touch, stimulation, orgasm, affection, intimacy, growing up, growing old, reproduction and love.24
Biological gender differences, like racialised differences, are real, but it is the socially created racial and gender differences that matter. Both have been used to legitimise great inequality and suffering.
All human beings everywhere have used sexual imagery to describe their world and their social relationships. However, the character of such images and their relation to social experience is neither fixed nor universal, though they are often vivid and very rich.25 Sexual imagery can also be used to describe anything: material objects and virtual states, as well as events and places. If we think of gender analytically as a way of discovering when and how people use sexual imagery to describe their experiences in the world, this allows us to talk comparatively and historically about gender relations without assuming that we know anything about “women” or “men”.26 This also allows us to see that in any local setting, sexual images are only one among many sets of metaphors used to describe human beings.
This does not mean that people are gendered in random ways, nor are we being postmodern here. The mode of production and the particular form of class society matter greatly in determining how people are gendered. Our project is to ask when and where gendered metaphors and labelling are prominent, and whose interests are served when gender is heavily marked.
So we use the notion of “gendering” for analytical clarity. We also use it because we want to dislodge, as thoroughly as we can, the fierce dichotomy between “women” and “men” that dominates our lives and fills our heads with nonsense. To do this we must consider gendering as a process and avoid the circular reasoning that comes when you try to explain something in terms of itself. Explaining changes in the relations between women and men in terms of the differences between women and men is circular.
Describing “women” and “men”
There is a better way of thinking of gender relations. In all unequal societies, there are different styles of masculinity. It is useful to think of these as elite, ruling class or hegemonic masculinities on the one hand, and working class or subordinate masculinities on the other. And there are different styles of dominant and subordinate femininities.27
Such an approach works well because it focuses immediately on inequality. The various masculine styles of Prince Charles, Barack Obama and a Wall Street trader look and feel quite different from the masculine styles of a car worker, a train driver or a jazz musician. Things can also reflect dominant or subordinate gender styles, as is evident from the clothes the men wear, the cars they drive, and whether they drink wine or beer.
Dominant and subordinate masculinities are constructed in relation to each other and are an expression of class conflict. The same is true of the differences between the rich woman and her cleaner.28 Of course, there are shadings between the two. But once we have the idea that dominant and subordinate masculinities and femininities are related to each other, it becomes evident that, whatever else they are, gendered styles are also expressions of class interest.
Of course, people can and do play with these styles in complex ways, as individuals and collectively. You can dress up, you can dress down, and you can get it spectacularly wrong. And, as we shall see, challenges to gendered conventions can also be a very effective threat to privilege and class hierarchy.
Ambiguity, anomalies and contradictions
In unequal societies the apparently self-evident categories of “women” and “men” have ideological force precisely because they hide a greater truth: anatomy is not destiny. And whoever is doing the labelling has a great deal of power and is making a claim to superiority.29
Here we need to push our earlier comparison between race and gender a bit harder to get to an important idea about ambiguity, anomaly and contradiction. This idea comes from anthropology.30 The starting point is that the natural world is of a piece, and continuous. As human beings we divide this world up into socially relevant continua. The shading of skin colours of human beings is one such continuum. Variation in height among human beings is another.
Put height on a graph and you will see that a small number of human beings are very tall, and another small number are very short. The largest proportion is in the middle. So, for instance, among Europeans, on average, the Dutch are the tallest. People who live around the Horn of Africa are also, on average, very tall. Gender doesn’t come into the bell curve for height at all.
But of course you can also divide the height continuum by gender. Then men as a category are likely to be on average somewhat taller than the women of any particular group, whether Dutch or Somali. But a glib statement that men are taller than women is untrue, and makes life much harder for tall women and short men wherever they live.
Continua lie behind the ways we characterise all aspects of our bodies, including reproduction, sexuality and desire. In fact, the entire gamut of social behaviours can also be seen in this way. Take, for example, the continuum between life and death. Then consider the debates about living wills, brain death, assisted dying, euthanasia and organ donation. So too the battles over abortion are fought to resolve such unclarity, as are the debates on the morning after pill, IVF treatments, surrogacy, and the adoption of children from Russia and Africa. Or consider how we alter our bodies, through grooming, make-up, designer gear, a face-lift or penis enhancement, to feel good about ourselves and to make ourselves attractive to others.31
When people chop up continua, whatever system they arrive at will be riven with overlaps, gaps and contradictions. Wrestling with these areas of ambiguity and anomaly is the very stuff of social life. Sometimes, though, we barely recognise it as a social process at all: as when we divide the spectrum of visible light into the colours of the rainbow. At other times the process is fraught with pain and oppression. During American slavery, for instance, it made a difference to be a light-skinned house slave or a darker field hand.32
As with race, when gender categories are sharply defined, the people and behaviours that fall in between present acute problems for those who would defend inequality.
The problem may hinge on the blurring of categories. So, for example, when light-skinned people with some African ancestry crossed the colour bar and “passed” in the US, they posed a threat to the system of racial segregation. If their deception was discovered, they were punished. At other times the people in between are set apart and celebrated, like the Virgin Mary. More often they are stigmatised and harmed. Or both may happen: the cross-dressing virgin maid Joan of Arc was first a war hero, then burned as a witch, and then canonised as St Joan.33 As Laura Miles has pointed out, “there was an important class dimension to her story. Joan had strong support from the peasant class as a military leader and visionary, but met suspicion and betrayal from the aristocracy. The Catholic church sought to mark her transgendered behaviour as blasphemous, as a way of pursuing the class interests they shared with royalty and the aristocracy”.34
Similarly, alternative sexualities are also framed by class and struggle in complicated, historical and mediated ways.35 Lesbian and gay sexual practices have often been hidden because they disrupt elite investment in the strongly marked categories of “women” and “men” linked by heterosexual desire and practice. Transgendered people can present an even greater threat.
However, dividing people up into LGBT—lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered—identities is only one among many possibilities.36 There are also times and places in class society when “homosexuality” is hardly marked. But this can change quickly in response to the interests of a dominant elite, as with the trial of Oscar Wilde.
Consider two such examples when gender was suddenly heavily marked in order to reinforce inequality. One moment was the great wave of mutinies that swept through the British Royal Navy in 1797. Before those mutinies same sex relationships were tolerated in the navy. Occasionally a man was flogged for “uncleanness”, and very rarely indeed a man was executed for rape of another man. But when the mutinies threatened to spread to the Mediterranean fleet, Admiral St Vincent immediately sentenced two men to death for buggery to create a fearsome example. When the men’s shipmates demonstrated in support of the two, four more men were hanged as ringleaders. Vice-Admiral Thompson resigned in protest against hanging them on a Sunday. But speed was of the essence in punishing sodomy to forestall mutiny. As Horatio Nelson, one of the judges at the court-martial, put it, “Had it been Christmas Day, instead of Sunday, I [still] would have executed them”.37
In Germany after the First World War socialists and communists were closely associated with a strong movement for gay equality. This was a positive marking of gender from below. When the Nazis came to power, they sent socialists, communists and gay men to concentration camps. This was horrific gendered marking from above.
At different times different kinds of gendered ambiguity, or anomaly, have been the focus of attention. Biological intersexuality has sometimes been a “problem”. In an ethnography of the medical treatment of intersexed children, Karzakis tells a story of minute cruelty by surgeons, doctors and psychologists who felt they had to make these people unambiguously one sex or the other.38
Resistance often follows the fault lines of the labelling process itself. A common form of transgression is to break the rules about sexual etiquette and modest dress. Sometimes the resistance is aimed at gender discrimination. Women’s liberation activists in the US had the idea of burning their bras. Take Back the Night and SlutWalk demonstrators also aim to shock.
But just as often gendered resistance is an aspect of class struggle. Lady Godiva rode bare and bare-back into Coventry in a protest over taxes. In opposition to authority, young men moon and streak naked across football fields. During the Women’s Revolt against the British in Eastern Nigeria in 1929, women protested injustice by exposing their genitals. Gendered resistance can be left-leaning, like Pussy Riot, or right wing, like the Islamophobic Femen, bare-breasted activists
Violence, including sexual violence, also needs to be understood in terms of continua. We return to this point at the end of Part Three.
Part Two: Families in prehistory
In the same way we want to escape from universalising stereotypes of “women” and “men”, we also need to beware of universalising “the family”. This is easily done. Yet there are many kinds of family in class society, and many ways of structuring intimate relationships and nurture. Moreover, we need to be wary of being ethnocentric: capitalism is only one kind of class society, and recent in history.
However, “the family” and “family values” are key ideas in the present dominant ideology in Europe and the Americas, and they are trotted out all the time. For instance, the right wing philosopher Roger Scruton recently claimed that the EU, immigrants, same-sex marriage, and even wind turbines, threaten Englishness and hard-won privileges and freedoms. He admonished the Conservative Party for its recent electoral humiliation, writing: “Conservatives believe, with Burke, that the family is the core institution whereby societies reproduce themselves and pass moral knowledge to the young”.40
Scruton’s account is extreme and ugly. Yet even those who would utterly disagree with Scruton can be seduced by the habit of universalising the family. Feminists who would blame the family for the situation of “women” and gender inequality can also become trapped in circularity. Then, instead of offering a critical analysis of the family, they may inadvertently reproduce elements of the dominant ideology instead.
Most commonly, people talk about the family as if it resembles their family. This is understandable. Yet consider the range of things individuals in different countries have said to us at one time or another:
When a teenage boy has troubles at school with other boys, he always confides in his mother. After all, his mother is always a boy’s best friend. That’s why men put their mothers in front of their wives.
He should put me first ahead of his mother. I’m his wife.
A man always loves his father more than anyone else.
The good thing about being married to two brothers at the same time is that just when you’re getting bored with the older brother, suddenly you have an energetic 18 year old in your bed.
A study of happy families in Dallas found that both the children and the parents agreed that in their families the parents loved their children, but the love between the parents was stronger.
English people are dreadful. They put their parents into old people’s homes.
Of course, your mother has to go into a home. You have done so much for her, and you can’t look after her full time.
We tie Granny into a chair in the kitchen. It’s the best we can do, and she likes having the grandchildren play at her feet.
All of these people were living in families in capitalist societies and all of them were talking about sentiments they considered completely normal.41
Certainly sexual arrangements in class societies are not uniform. Sometimes men marry several women, and more rarely vice versa. Sometimes most people try for a stable heterosexual relationship but don’t formally marry. Elsewhere women and men are monogamous, or monogamish, or serially monogamous, or just cheat a lot.
We also have assumptions about how families, or more accurately households, grow and change through time. As with marriage, often rich people have one kind of family, middle class people another, and working people a third, though of course the differences shade from one to the other. Some people assume that a nuclear family of father, mother and children is best.42 Others may prize large joint households. Some people assume that one of the daughters should live with the elderly parents; others say that the son should bring the parents to live with him. The differences between us are manifold, even before we begin to look at how some people take in lodgers, and hire cleaners, au pairs, nannies and jobbing gardeners.
The ideology of separate spheres
When many people talk of the family they also assume that in most class societies, throughout most of history, there was a sharp division of labour between men who were responsible for the work of production, and women who were responsible for the work of reproduction and the care of the workforce. This assumption is simply mistaken.
Let us take an example in anticipation of our discussion of Afghanistan in Part Three. In the early 1970s each of us lived in Afghanistan.43 The gendered division of labour we saw there was typical of peasant societies and many rural class societies. In the several villages we knew well, perhaps one out of 50 households was rich enough to protect women and men from heavy labouring work by hiring servants and sharecroppers. In such households women were pleased to be able to dress discreetly and wear long veils. In the other households, women worked both indoors and outdoors, as did most men. Among these poorer families women wore less cumbersome head scarves, and they and their menfolk felt cruelly oppressed.
Childrearing too was shared work, and not necessarily done at home. When babies were very small, they stayed with their mothers as the women worked. But in the villages we knew, infant and maternal mortality was shockingly high, and it was not unusual for infants to be fostered and grow up with their “milk siblings”. When a little older, babies went everywhere with an older brother or sister or cousin who looked after them. Pashtun fathers spent far more time with their children than British fathers do now. Childcare was collective and kindly. Children played everywhere because all adults always had an eye on them, and would intervene if trouble looked likely.
For the Pashtun women and men we knew, surviving as a household was the collective concern. Women and men pulled together to provide clean water, food and warmth for themselves and their children. For the poor, women’s work and men’s work were not strongly marked, apart from some conventional tasks—women milked and men ploughed. But even that division of labour would be altered in the face of necessity.
In a Pashtun village it was only the relatively wealthy who could afford a stronger gendered division of labour. But this came at a price. Rich women were far more tightly controlled in the name of family privilege, or “honour”. The dominant ideology included the idea that if a man could not control the women of his household, he lacked “honour” and “ate shame”. Then a powerful household might take advantage of another household’s weakness, and steal their animals and land, or seduce the household’s daughter. That sexual shame made everyone in the weaker household even more vulnerable to violence and hunger. A system of class inequality was experienced as weakness and a loss of personal gendered honour. That’s what gender did.
This particular pattern of gendered inequality is also found in other countries. But the more general point we are making is that Afghanistan was a class society, but there was no separate sphere of reproduction and childcare. This is true far more widely. This pattern of shared childcare and work outside the home has also been true of farm families in many parts of the capitalist world, from India to Bolivia to the US. The unthinking assumption that men do the work of production and women do the work of reproduction and the care of the workforce in class societies is wrong.
However, since the 1970s some socialist and Marxist feminists have argued that the crucial dynamic of gender inequality springs from the family.44 There is, they say, a female sphere of unpaid domestic work and a male sphere of paid work outside the home. The argument is that capitalists value the oppression of women because the unpaid labour of women in the home is essential to the supply of cheap male labour for production.
This argument is flawed in several ways. First, it focuses on a difference between waged and unwaged labour. Yet for most of the history of class societies paid work for wages was either unusual or unknown. Generalised wage work characterises capitalism, a recent and unusual system. So if you explain gendered inequality in terms of the needs of capital for waged workers, you have no explanation at all for gendered inequality in most class societies for most of human history.
Second, this argument can only apply to economies where young children do not work and domestic servants are rare. So the argument cannot explain gender relations in Europe or the Americas in the 19th century.
Third, there is a slippage in the word “reproduction”. Sometimes it is used to mean housework that women do for men so the men can get out to work. More usually it means the labour necessary for raising children and reproducing the workforce. But that includes a great deal more than unpaid housework. It includes the necessities for children that fathers and mothers buy with their wages. It includes family tax rebates, welfare payments and child benefits. And it includes wage labour by child minders, teachers, school meals workers, coaches, health workers, social workers and school bus drivers. It is simply not true that there is a separate sphere of reproduction.
It is true, however, that the separate spheres proposition has been an important part of recent capitalist ideology in Europe and the Americas. Indeed, it is something we all have to believe to survive emotionally in capitalist society. It comforts us to think of the family as separate. The relationship between worker and boss dominates our lives, but it is toxic. So we try to build an emotional firewall between work and home, even when you work from home. Some of the most wrenching moments are when the imaginary firewall is breached. It is not an accident that the thing couples fight about most is money.
Supporting an argument about separate spheres of production and reproduction leads to the invention of fantasy families. This is not as strange as it sounds. When people talk about the family, they often invent such a fantasy family in prehistory or in more recent times.
Sometimes the prehistoric family is idyllic, peaceful and egalitarian. Often people chant a lot and worship a higher power. Sometimes this goes with companionate marriage, and sometimes with exciting group sex. Other fantasy families are brutal and competitive, dominated by cavemen obsessed with passing on their jeans. What these fantasy families have in common is that the people who write about them are unconcerned with evidence. They simply know how things would have been.
Sometimes the fantasy family is set in either late Victorian England or 1950s suburban America. These exceptional moments are chosen because they fit most closely with the ideology of separate spheres. The clue that we are dealing with something ideological, and not careful social history, is that the comparisons are casual and sloppy. Why are 19th century Americans not compared to 20th century Americans? Why are early 20th century workers in rural America not compared with rural workers in India or China of the same period? Why are suburban families in America in 1955 more “capitalist” than urban families in America in 2013?
There are whole cultural industries dedicated to describing versions of the family pushed by a ruling elite at a particular time. Consider the TV sitcom Life with Father made for US audiences in the mid-20th century; and compare how Upstairs, Downstairs, made in the UK in 1971, has been reworked as Downton Abbey for both UK and US audiences 40 years on.45
As Stephanie Coontz puts it for the US in 1900:
For every 19th century middle class family that protected its wife and child within the family circle then, there was an Irish or a German [immigrant] girl scrubbing floors in that middle class home, a Welsh boy mining coal to keep the home-baked goodies warm, a black girl doing the family laundry, a black mother and child picking cotton to be made into clothes for the family, and a Jewish or Italian daughter in a sweatshop making “ladies’” dresses or artificial flowers for the family to purchase.46
Whatever the circumstances, ideologically driven fantasies and imaginative stories rarely come near describing how most people lived.
Societies without class
Our analysis of class and gender is materialist. That means we start from human needs, particularly those crucial to survival. We need clean air, water, food and warmth because we are animals. We need nurture because we are mammals, and our young are helpless for longer than in most animals. Like many plants and animals, we reproduce sexually. But we are also, unusually, an animal where both female and male adults are sexually active year round. And we need love and friendship, because we are social animals, as are dogs and most monkeys.
Like Marx and Engels, but unlike many Marxists, we start from needs, not labour. Labour is the most important way of meeting human needs, and that is why it matters. But labour cannot be the only material consideration. Love and sex are also basic needs.
This means that gender has always been an aspect of social relations. But gender has not always been unequal. We argue that the origins of inequality, and so gendered inequality, come with class society.
Since humanity has not always lived in class societies, to understand class we have to begin with what class is not. In the 1970s socialist and Marxist feminists turned to Engels’s 1884 book, The Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State. The book was revived as a key Marxist text in debates about women’s liberation, though it was often treated critically.47
The book has important strengths. Engels argues against the idea that human nature is unchanging, against the reification of gendered differences, against the notion of an innate will to power, and against the idea that men and women are always unequal. Engels also attests to the possibility of egalitarian societies.
Unfortunately, the foundation Engels laid for these ideas was deeply flawed. Some of his mistakes occurred because Engels was unable to do much research. Some sprang from the method he borrowed from right wing social Darwinism. Many of his formulations essentialise race or gender, or validate existing inequalities. But these are not isolated mistakes. He is wrong on more than a hundred topics, including the superiority of Aryan and Semitic races, the superiority of German monogamy, the small brains of Pueblo Indians, fish, pottery, cannibalism, kinship terminologies, cultural survivals, matriarchy, group marriage and homosexuality.
The problems are not because the book is outmoded, Engels was wrong on most of these points in 1884. Among his contemporaries and near-contemporaries, the abolitionist Fredrick Douglass, the socialist anthropologist Franz Boas, the labour organiser Mother Jones, the Marxist journalist Clara Zetkin, the socialist writer Oscar Wilde and the Marxist revolutionary Vladimir Lenin were all careful not to make such mistakes. Both Zetkin and Lenin praised Engels’s book, but did not repeat his mistakes. The weaknesses of The Origin do not detract from Engels’s other achievements. But to get the measure of the book, contrast it with Capital, and Marx’s broad reading in theory, deep reading in original sources, great care with concepts and formulations, and automatic identification with the oppressed in all circumstances. In any case, we do not need to rely on Engels.
Scholars now know a great deal about the past. What information we now have suggests that for at least 100,000 years people managed their access to food, water, shelter, love, sex and nurture in more or less egalitarian ways.48
We also have descriptions of recent hunting and gathering societies, many of which were also egalitarian.49 In those societies people shared food and no one could own more than they carried on their backs. Age and gender were typically lightly marked, structurally unimportant, and sometimes found little ritual or institutional expression. People gathered food and hunted animals to feed the young and the old, but no one relied on another’s labour all their life.
One has to be careful with the evidence from these societies. The reports often describe colonial situations. The hunters live, for at least part of their lives, alongside farming peoples. In some cases, they speak the same language as the farmers. Moreover, the customs of hunting peoples are not a survival from an earlier stage. A !Kung hunter in the Kalahari has exactly the same thousands of years of history behind him as a record company executive in California or a carpenter in Dubai. All three are alive now and are “modern”;50 the !Kung are not “living fossils”. Our understanding is that culture flows from the ways people meet their basic needs. Hunters and gatherers behave like hunters and gatherers not because they have always been such, but because they are now such.
However, not all hunting and gathering societies were egalitarian. Slavery and class could, and did, develop in some places where groups controlled great concentrations of resources, like the salmon runs of the west coast of Canada.51
We also have descriptions of farming communities which “slash and burn” their fields and move every few years. Many of these communities, too, were flexible and egalitarian. Joanna Overing’s excellent account of Piaroa communities in Venezuela is of particular interest, because gender was highly marked there, but was not associated with gendered inequality.52 Other slash and burn communities tolerated considerable inequality, but people usually did not pass their unequal status down to their children.53
However, most societies with settled agriculture, where people farm the same fields from one generation to another, have been class societies. In class societies some people are fed all their lives by the work of other people, and they are able to pass this privilege down to the next generation. And it is with the rise of class that we see the rise of gendered inequality.
At this point we offer our own Just So story. It is an attempt to address the elephant in the room: why do there seem to be only two choices—either an egalitarian society or unequal societies where ideologies favour men, and in practice some men dominate most women and other men?
We would suggest that the answer lies in the importance of violence in reinforcing inequality. Let us return to the prehistory of gender inequality. Many “’origin stories”’ trace the difference to war. Some say that men are biologically more aggressive. The evidence for this myth of testosterone is lacking.54 Others suggest that women were exempted from war because they were needed for childbearing and childcare. This ignores that war in small-scale societies usually involves few fighters, kills few people, and often centres on raids that kill both women and men.55
We would look elsewhere—to enforcing inequality in villages and towns. Here the violence of the enforcers is crucial, and they have usually been big, athletic men.
Richard Lee makes an interesting point in his ethnography of !Kung hunters and gatherers in Botswana.56 One natural difference did threaten the equality that !Kung people valued. Men did the hunting of large animals. The problem here was not the division between men and women. It was that between a quarter and a third of men killed the great majority of the large game. Just as the distribution of athletic ability, eye-hand coordination and strength at your school was not uniform, so too some !Kung hunters were more physically gifted than others.
The !Kung had two main customary ways of dealing with this problem. One way of preserving equality was a set of rules by which a hunter gave parts of the animal to his partner, her mother and various other people. These rules effectively shared the meat among all members of the camp.
Second, they believed that men should never boast about hunting. Indeed, a skilled hunter was expected to return to camp and claim he had killed nothing. Then, under repeated questioning, he would admit that perhaps he had killed a small animal and was so weak he needed help carrying it back. Others went with him and when they found his impressive kill, they would say things like: “You mean you have dragged us all the way out here to make us cart home your pile of bones?” or, “To think I gave up a nice day in the shade for this.”
The hunter should reply: “You’re right, this one is not worth the effort.” And even a small antelope “would be better than this mess”. Then they all carry the animal home and eat their fill.
≠Tomazho, a famous healer, explained to Lee:
When a young man kills much meat, he comes to think of himself as a chief or a big man, and he thinks of the rest of us as his servants or inferiors. We can’t accept this. We refuse one who boasts, for some day his pride will make him kill somebody. So we always speak of his meat as worthless. In this way we cool his heart and make him gentle.57
It is possible that with the coming of class society such differences in ability between men would matter—at least before guns. Violence within the household is also key to gendered inequality. Here too size may have mattered. Violent enforcement would be more straightforward if it were put in the hands of the biggest and strongest people around.
This explanation puts aggression at the heart of class, where it belongs, but is almost never placed. But it too is a Just So story, and for the moment only a suggestion.
≠Tomazho reminds us that inequality meets resistance. The archaeologists Kent Flannery and Joyce Marcus make an important point in their magisterial survey of The Creation of Inequality.58 They point out that in many places the archaeological record shows a gap of hundreds or thousands of years between when class inequality became ecologically possible and when it actually happened. They also point to many sites where the record shows unequal societies, and then equal ones, and then unequal ones again. Flannery and Marcus suggest the likely explanation is that some people were trying to become a ruling class, and others were resisting them, or deposing them. Flannery and Marcus point to the many cases in the historical and ethnographic record where people did exactly that.59
This underlines the point that gender inequality would not have been a frill for new ruling classes. They needed it. Perhaps this explains the universal presence of gender inequality in class societies.
There have been a wide variety of family forms in capitalism. And capitalism itself is only one of many forms of class society. But again we do not mean to be postmodernist here. We argue for a particular direction of causation. When class relationships change, the ruling class also tries to change relationships of gender so they can more effectively naturalise the new forms of class inequality.
The work men and women do is patterned in ways that fit with history and the interests of the ruling class. At times the unpaid labour of some women in the home is common and important. Sometimes most women work for wages, and sometimes they do not. Some jobs will be seen as masculine, some as feminine, and some will be seen as unisexual, and others hardly gendered at all. How jobs are marked depends in part on cultural habits, but also on what labour is needed and what becomes available. For example, factory jobs in export zones in northern Mexico and southern China were women’s jobs in 1990. By 2000 the demand for labour was so large that the factories were full of both men and women.
The key characteristic of such “divisions of labour” is that they change in response to the needs of capital. And as they change, the elite promote an ideology that insists that the new arrangements are gendered in ways that make them seem timeless and “natural”.
This is a work in progress. In Parts One and Two we have laid out the basis of a new understanding of class and gender. What follows in Part Three, is a case study of neoliberalism and gender in the US.
But there is one last point we would return to now. Some readers may feel that gender inequality does not simply come down to us from the ruling class. And of course, we agree. We all perform gendered inequality, we do it to each other, and in many ways we accept it as well. Indeed, that is precisely our point. Because gender is embodied, very intimate, and taught from birth, it feels a natural part of us.
However, there is always a tension and always resistance, so gendered inequality has to be constantly re-enforced. One deep source of our resistance is love, intimacy, shared food and shared work. There is a similar process with class inequality. There too we accept much of the ideology, and perform it, and do it to each other. But the experience of shared work constantly reminds us of our common humanity and pushes inequality back.
In both cases, interventions from managers, the corporate media and authorities at every level are aimed at reinforcing that inequality. These interventions happen at key moments, but they also happen every day. And these ideological interventions are not simply abstract ideas—people are made to do things, and in the doing accept and embody the ideas. So it feels as if the struggles between people, and between equality and inequality, take place inside our love and inside our intimate selves.
Part Three: Neoliberalism and gender in the US
We have now developed a model for understanding the relationship between class and gender. In Part Three we will show how that model works in practice. Our example is the way that neoliberalism has changed US capitalism since the 1970s, and how that, in turn, has changed the gendering of America.60
We touch upon the gendered reconfiguration of wages, work, welfare, marriage, childhood, masculinity, ADHD, eating disorders, theories of mental illness, theories of mind, imprisonment, academic feminism, voting, imperialism, child abuse and rape. These may seem disparate topics, because the more conventional procedure is to focus on women. In that understanding, when women get a bigger share, men get less. Gender then revolves around a contest between men and women.
We start from a different place. We look at the way the corporate elite try to change the whole range of gendered relations to reinforce increasing inequality. The foundations of the ideology the elite play with when they try to reconfigure gender are the parallel lists of contrasting stereotypes we describe in Part One: of men and women, straight and gay, white and black, that resonate with each other. These ruling class efforts meet with resistance. The upshot is never a zero sum game between men and women. If women and men of the ruling class win, the majority of women and men lose.
The elite and the economy
We begin our case study of neoliberal gender by first explaining what we mean by “corporate elite”. Then we give a brief overview of the economy.
The key to what we mean by the “corporate elite” is three related processes. First, there is the ruling class narrowly defined. This is a small group of men and women who run the country. In the US these people are largely knit together by the boards of directors of the 500 or so largest corporations. These boards meet monthly, and a small number of people hold quite a lot of directorships. These meetings, together with the meetings of boards of foundations and meetings with politicians, make it possible for the people who run the corporations and the government to have thousands of strategic conversations with each other over a few months and reach collective decisions.61
Second, there are the media. Most of the media are owned and controlled by large corporations. On major issues of class, gender, politics and foreign policy, these media tend to follow a common line. This is common in two senses—they suddenly decide that an issue is important and that a certain line must be taken on it. This is not because journalists necessarily agree, but because senior managers and editors are telling them to.
Third, there is an army of more than 2 million managers. These people take their cue from the corporate directors and the media. On a day to day basis, they are the people who enforce the ruling class consensus.
Are we talking about a conscious conspiracy here? In one sense, yes. Board meetings and cabinet meetings are secret—we do not see the minutes. And many people at the top do think clearly about what they are doing, and discuss it with each other.
In another sense, no. Most of the large number of managers, professors, judges, editors and others who enforce the line on gender issues are not part of any secret political discussion. Rather they listen to the media and their bosses. And they understand the implications of one approach as against another from their own position and privilege. Many could write cogently about that understanding. But most understand these matters viscerally. “Instinct” tells them that if one sort of equality is allowed to increase, then many other sorts of equality could follow. They know, from long experience, which side they are on, and so they act together.
The converse is also true. People who value equality also know these things, in our heads and in our guts, and we too tend to take sides accordingly. And the elite do not simply get their way. They come up against resistance, and have to negotiate, dodge, change the subject, and use what comes to hand.62
Of course, the elite are not always united. They are dealing with complex and contradictory matters, and they have important debates among themselves—a matter we shall return to. But the striking thing is how often they speak with one voice and act together.
To explain how the elite reconfigured gender in the United States, we start with the economy. Jonathan Neale has written about neoliberalism in the US at length elsewhere.63 To summarise that analysis: in the late 1960s capitalists across the industrialised world faced a sharp decline in profits from industry. Profits are the life blood of capitalism. By the late 1970s capitalists, led by Americans, worked out what they hoped was a solution to the problem of profits. By every means possible, they decided to reduce the share of national income that went to workers’ wages and public services. That way they could increase the share of national income going to profits. That project is called “neoliberalism”, and it has gone further in the US than in any other rich country.64
American neoliberalism was not a right wing Republican project. Corporate leaders and politicians of all sorts saw it as necessary. The administrations of Clinton and Obama pushed it just as hard as the administrations of Reagan and Bush.65 To some extent, the project worked. Profits recovered a bit, but not to the levels seen before 1970. By 2008 the whole system was in crisis. But even if neoliberalism did not work, we have to remember that the problem with profits was real, and the corporate elite could not see any other way to solve it.
Neoliberalism cannot work without increasing inequality. But to make that stick, the capitalist ruling class needed to get rid of the idea that equality was right and proper, and a good thing.66 This was not easy. In the US mass movements for equality—like civil rights, women’s liberation, gay liberation and many more—had won major victories during 1960s and early 1970s. Those mass movements were uprisings from below led by educated people who could hope for good careers.
In the 1970s and 1980s well-educated African-Americans, feminists and others were offered a compromise they could hardly refuse. Doors to education and careers opened for black people, women and other minorities. Not for everyone, but in the 1980s there were substantial rises in income for the top 20 percent of women, the top 10 percent of black men and the top 5 percent of black women. African-Americans took over administering key parts of the system, as big city mayors, police chiefs and eventually as president.
These compromises accelerated a shift to identity politics that was already under way. The politics of resistance in the 1960s came from the civil rights movement. That movement, in turn, took its political understanding from the global anti-colonial movements of the mid-20th century. In America this produced movements with a contradictory ideology. On the one hand, they were fighting for human liberation. On the other hand, they were fighting for an elite of African-Americans and women to be admitted to the top table. In the 1980s the second half of that contradiction won out.
Women’s pay began to rise relative to men, but almost all of this increase was accounted for by the top 10 percent of women, and specifically by the pay of woman managers, doctors and financial sector workers.67 It was different for most working women. Let’s take the example of the median woman. She is the woman right in the middle of the income tables. Half of women make more than her and half make less. After 1975 the real hourly income of that median woman was rising, which seemed a good thing, but hid the fact that women’s incomes were rising more slowly than they had in the boom years between 1945 and 1970.
Contrast this to the median man. Half of men made more money than him and half made less. Since 1975 his real hourly income had fallen slightly. This fall in real wages did not happen by accident. It was the result of a sustained attack on unions that was a key part of the neoliberal project. The gap between men and women was closing, not because women were gaining, but because men were losing.
Men and women in families responded to this fall in men’s hourly wages by working more. So did single women and men. Men worked about 8 percent more hours—another month of work in every year. The percentage of women in the workforce had been increasing slowly but steadily since the Second World War. In 1960 women were a third of the workforce. By 2012 they were 47 percent. Women were now as likely to work as men, although more women worked part time.68
With most men and most women working, the employers as a whole were getting more labour. So they were producing and selling more goods and services, and making more profits. They could pay men less, and women had to go out to work to keep the family afloat. Working women saved capitalists money. So getting women out of the home and into work was a key part of the neoliberal project.
What happened to pay is a good example of what was happening to gender generally. The “position of women” improved and women at the top did well. In the middle, women seemed to be closing the gap with men. But it only appeared that way because men’s economic situation was getting worse, and that hurt both men and women. Women seemed to gain equality from going out to work, but women and men together had to work harder, with less protection at work and less security for the future.69 On the one hand, the corporate elite wanted to hold onto older forms of gendered inequality that were effectively naturalised and supported “the family” and a conservative, stable view of society. But they also wanted to squeeze more profit from workers by getting women out of the home and into the workforce. They also had to make concessions to women because the ideas of women’s liberation had gone wide and deep. The ruling class had to compromise on many fronts, and pursue a course full of contradictions because they wanted to defend the family, and change the family, at the same time.
For example, in 1973 American women won the right to abortion. An anti-abortion Supreme Court faced thousands of organised nurses and doctors openly conducting illegal abortions, and a march in Washington of three quarters of a million people. The Supreme Court backed down and issued the Roe vs Wade decision.70 But by the 1980s mainstream feminist organisations also accepted a compromise over abortion. Women would have access to abortion, if they could drive far enough to reach a clinic and if they had the money to pay for the operation.71
Welfare mothers and bridesmaids
Along with the assault on working incomes went an assault on the economic position of women on welfare. Until about 1965 a “good” woman had stayed home to raise the children. By 1980 both parents worked in the TV sitcoms and everywhere else you looked. That year Ronald Reagan made an attack on “welfare mothers” a key part of his presidential campaign. This was a coded attack on African-Americans. But it was also an attack on women for staying at home with their children when they could be out working. This was a major shift in ideology, because the corporate elite needed more women working.
This was a push from the top. Bill Clinton campaigned in 1992 to “end welfare as we know it” and in 1996 he signed the Personal Responsibility Act. That required women on welfare to take any job they could find, and forbade them to stay at home to look after toddlers.72 This was presented as an attack on loose women. In fact two thirds of the people on welfare were children. In 1996 one child in eight was living on welfare. By 2001 it was one child in 20.
As the economy became more unequal, families too began to change. Two different styles of family developed—one for the 30 percent who had finished college, and another for the 70 percent who had not completed college, which included most manual and routine white collar workers.
By the late 1990s only 6 percent of the children of college graduates were born to unmarried parents. But 47 percent of the children of non-graduates were born to unmarried parents. That’s almost half. Of course many of these parents were living together, but they were turning away from marriage.
When they did marry, 37 percent of non-graduate women were divorced within ten years. But only 11 percent of college graduates were divorced within ten years.73
Behind the numbers were real changes in expectations. There was a new fashion for “new men”, and companionate marriages developed among graduates. The ideal here was two working adults, with the wife “juggling” home and work. A part-time cleaner or a nanny often helped with that.74 These people celebrated marriage, with lavish weddings and ostentatious hen and stag parties, all endlessly portrayed in movies like Four Weddings and a Funeral, My Best Friend’s Wedding and Bridesmaids. A good wedding and a good marriage were class markers that seemed like “traditional” gendering, but were not. Rather they marked a new kind of gendering, and the increasing social distance between the educated 30 percent of women and the 70 percent.
The decline in marriage among working class people was not something the ruling class wanted. But it was a consequence of the other ways they were changing incomes and gender. Their reaction was not to give up on “family values”, but to wield family values as a weapon to make working class people feel bad about their lives.75
Working class masculinities
Along with these changes in the economy and family, from the 1980s on there was also pressure on working class masculinities. The mix of jobs in the economy was changing. Well-paid professional jobs and low-paid service jobs were increasing. Skilled working class jobs in the middle, often in industry and often unionised, were decreasing, and unemployment was rising.76
Moreover, the skilled jobs in the middle that remained were increasingly demanding. As an aircraft mechanic who flew 300 miles twice each day to his work and back described: “It’s quite a commute, don’t you think? I’ve done it for six years, I’m exhausted, and I don’t see my kids. I hate it, but it’s a good job, so what can I do? But I’m thinking of leaving, I can’t keep it up”.77
Many men had been raised to celebrate styles of working class masculinity that no longer fitted the demands of capital. Working class masculinities had emphasised dignity, courage, individualism, honest speaking, friendship and solidarity between working class men, standing up for yourself and supporting your family. These ideas did not help the man whose wife was working, perhaps earning more than him, and supporting him when he was out of work. The older ideals just hurt him in this situation.78
They were also no help in the office. Many feminist writers and journalists say that women did better in the new economy because they were more “caring and sensitive”. What stares us in the face is that earlier idealised styles of femininity encouraged women to be compliant. And compliance is what management wants of an office worker or a professional. The neoliberal euphemism for “compliant” is “flexible”.
It is often asserted that women also flooded into low-wage service jobs because their “caring feminine” nature fitted those jobs. Whether or not this is true of serving at McDonald’s is open to question. The larger reason they took those jobs, of course, is that those jobs were growing in number. Working class men also began to work at service jobs, including those in the caring industries, where the consideration and responsibility that was part of an older masculine style has come back into its own as kindness to the sick and elderly.
But older working class styles have been little help to schoolboys. As feminism opened the possibility of academic success for women, the old ratios flipped. Now more women than men finish high school, go to college and enter graduate school. Many working class boys saw what awaited them and rebelled. But even when they conformed, older masculine styles were a problem. Teachers were increasingly reviled from the top, stressed, pushed and teaching to the test. Naughty boys had once been accepted as charming rogues, to be both disciplined and admired. Now lively, bored, unruly boys have Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), for which they must be heavily drugged.79
ADHD was a new diagnosis, and utterly gendered. Experts noticed the gendering and asked how boys were biologically different from girls. They did not ask how what was being done to boys had changed, nor why Tom Sawyer now needed Ritalin, and Huck Finn was in juvenile detention.
Girls had a different gendered and class-inflected “disease”—eating disorders. More women worked, people ate more fast and processed food, and corporations put more sugar in the food.80 Just as education ratios flipped, so too did idealised body types. Exercise, muscles and thinness, once the mark of the working class body, became associated with ruling class bodies. Girls on the edges of the thin class, but at the mercy of corporate sugar, began to vomit.81
The assault on working class styles of masculinity has been of no help to working class women. After all, most of them are heterosexual and have found it difficult to find partners among men whose incomes and life prospects were falling.82 Working class children also suffered.
There has also been a change in evangelical religious practice. Luhrmann, for instance, describes working class people who find increasing comfort in a god who is a gentle and sympathetic listener, like a good therapist. Ehrenreich describes people who now pray to god for specific material goods and good luck in an increasingly desperate economy. Many probably pray in both ways, and most of them are women.83
The war on drugs
Neoliberalism had to attack not just feminism, but all the movements for equality of the 1960s. That meant an attack on ideas and breaking people to show that resistance was futile. African-American workers had been the heart of the civil rights movement and the northern riots of the 1960s. The weapon here was the war on drugs, and mass imprisonment, which began in the early 1970s.
Michelle Alexander, in The New Jim Crow, lays out the history and shows how mass imprisonment was a conscious attack on African-American communities from the top.84 In 1970, 200,000 Americans were behind bars. Now there are over 2 million, more than ten times as many, in prison. We should not forget that the majority of prisoners were white and Hispanic. They were not the intended target of mass imprisonment, but they suffered with the rest.
The great majority of these prisoners were men. This was racialised and gendered suffering. The women left behind usually find themselves single mothers of broken families. Their gendered suffering increases too. The effect of mass incarceration was to break the people who came out of prison, their families and whole working class urban communities.
Crucially, the leaders of African-American communities, including feminist activists85 and the new professionals, did not organise against the war on drugs and mass imprisonment. Instead they condemned drugs and crime and urged young people to get an education. In effect, they were blaming the young people for their imprisonment and oppression.
There was another gendered change—a massive increase in prison rape.86 This was because of a tenfold increase in prisoners, but also because this increase was not matched by an increase in prison officers. The media, the governments and the courts all tacitly approved of this. It has become a cliché in TV shows and books for the detectives to threaten the suspect with “what will happen in the showers”.87 Here again, the ruling class had to change society to justify increased inequality. And here again, the consequence was a reconfiguration of gendered experience and gendered suffering.
Precisely because the ruling class had to compromise with women’s liberation, they looked for other ways to increase gendered inequality. When AIDS appeared in the 1980s, gay liberation suddenly seemed like the weak link.
The American media endlessly repeated that AIDS meant the end of gender liberation and the sexual revolution. At times they almost gloated over corpses. It seemed that all the government had to do to hurt gay men, and therefore gay and lesbian liberation, and therefore women’s liberation, was to do nothing. So they did nothing. President Reagan did not even mention AIDS for the first five years of the epidemic.88
But gay men fought back in several ways. They went back to the basic principles of gay liberation—come out, fight together, sex is good—and found the strategy of safe sex. They took care of each other with courage and kindness. They reached out for allies in that caring among their family and friends. Lesbians, in particular, helped gay men because they understood both the human and political importance of doing so. Gay men also forged political alliances beyond the gay world. They built a radical direct action mass movement to get new medicines into their bodies.
There was much grief and many deaths, but politically they won. Since that time the gay and lesbian movement has grown in confidence. Alone of the mass movements in the US, gays and lesbians are now fighting offensively, not defensively—for same-sex marriage.
However, after the gay movement had won medication for AIDS, neoliberalism did manage to reconfigure gay and lesbian lives in important ways. First, the market provided the means to mark gayness, especially for men. This was a class-inflected kind of gendering, for all the markers cost serious money. Gay men began to define themselves through their desire for commodities, and sometimes felt they were desiring other men as if they too were commodities. In the process working class gay men seemed to disappear from the stage.89 Indeed, gay men were in some ways celebrated by neoliberal advertising as the best possible example of commodified desire. But gay men were still regularly beaten up on the streets.
Also during this period the identities of gay men, lesbians and transsexuals were biologised and redefined as natural categories. The argument was that they were born that way. An endless hunt for gay genes found none, but no matter. Nobody could figure out how to place bisexual people as a biological category, but again no matter.
In the universities a “queer theory” developed that argued that same-sex identities were socially constructed, not innate.90 This theory had almost no effect in the world beyond the academy, where gay men, lesbians and trans people mostly chose to believe they were born that way. Indeed, for many people this became a left wing idea. You cannot persecute us, it was said, because we were born like this, and did not choose it.91
The new natural—biology and gender
These biological and genetic ideas about LGBT identities fitted neatly with the larger drive to explain human inequality in terms of biology. Indeed, gay men and lesbians were often used as the type of case which most clearly demonstrated the biological nature of gender.92
The ruling class had made important concessions to women in the top 20 percent, and particularly to the top 10 percent. They had also made important ideological concessions, accepting that equality between men and women was desirable. But that was a lot of ground to give up, so the elite waged an ideological campaign on all fronts to prove that women and men had utterly different biological “natures”. They also wanted to prove that suffering was the result of biology and all kinds of personal weakness, and not inequality.
One way to make gender inequality seem natural, and blame the victims, was an intensive and wide-ranging project to reconfigure emotional life. Before 1970 people drank, took drugs, got fat, felt sad, went mad and suffered in many other ways. Most of their friends understood that those kinds of suffering had roots in those people’s lives. You presumed they had a reason to drink.
After 1980 all of these problems were redefined as biological or genetic. Alcoholism, “depression” and “schizophrenia” became innate diseases. Although this became the consensus among scientists, doctors, and journalists, however, this explanation is scientific nonsense. Years of research have never found a gene for alcoholism. Biological theory said that depression was caused by serotonin, but depressed people and happy people had the same levels of serotonin. And what is obvious about depressed people is that they are far more likely to be women and working class. A study in Chicago found that “during the first two sessions of treatment, more than 85 percent of the depressed patients spontaneously brought up issues relating to inadequate financial resources, difficult working conditions or unemployment”. And almost all of them became sad because they were mourning a death, a love, a job, a house or something else dear to them.93
Social problems, the real hurts of class and gender, have been turned into biological problems and therefore made to seem innate and natural. This turn to a false biology was partly driven by large pharmaceutical corporations working to create chronic “diseases” which would require their drugs.94 It was also partly that insurance corporations refused to pay for talking therapy and required biological diagnoses before they would pay for any treatment.95 But more than anything else, social problems were increasing because the economic position of most people was itself becoming more precarious.
From the 1960s scientists of the “mind” also looked relentlessly for evidence of differences between female and male brains. Their science is nonsense. It has been brilliantly and comprehensively demolished by the scientist Rebecca Jordan-Young in her book Brain Storm.96 Particularly hilarious is her demonstration that until 1979 all brain scientists included love of home in the markers of biological femininity, and career ambition in the markers of biological masculinity. After 1981, when the neoliberal push to get women into the workplace began to bite, no brain scientists referred to this difference. But despite having no clothes on at all, this brain “science” commands general assent. And it is endlessly popularised, so that men and women are presented as different species, or even from different planets, as in the self-help book Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus, and its innumerable spin-offs.97
And throughout the neoliberal project of regendering class relations, consumerism has kept pace. Two contrasting examples of gendered marking are instructive here.
In the 1960s and early 1970s unisex children’s clothing was fashionable, but over the past 20 years the new “pinkification” has coloured the less expensive children’s clothing market. Pink.Stinks activists deplore the child-targeted sexism and the extreme marking of clothing, mobile phones and bicycles meant for girls, and the sexualised consumer niche this creates.98 But perhaps more important, pinkification is strongly marking a dichotomy which exaggerates the differences between the girls and boys, and women and men, of the working class and separates them radically from each other.
In the second example the connection between gender and class is explicit, yet a liberal twist makes the resonances complex. A full page advertisement appeared in the New York Times in spring 2013. The ad featured a portrait of Cameron Diaz, the beautiful blond movie star. She was wearing a vastly expensive, large Swiss watch. Bizarrely, the text of the ad reads: “A Commitment to Benefit UN Women. Cameron Diaz and TAG Herer support UN Women and its mission to empower women worldwide.” The same ad appeared, many meters tall, on hoardings in airports all around the US at the same time. Apparently there are new easy profits to be made by “just adding some diamonds to an existing men’s watch and reducing the case”.99 In this ad we have both blatant elitism and a marked closure of the gender gap at the top. Soon afterwards, Rolex and Longines also picked up on the unisex theme in ads for expensive watches.100
The neoliberal assault also reconfigured feminist thought. Reading feminist books was an important part of early women’s liberation. During the 1970s many of the people who read and wrote these books moved into the universities, as graduate students and then teachers.101 There were more jobs for women in universities and more hope of promotion. Although there was still discrimination at every stage, the opportunities were in stark contrast to what was happening to most women, and to most working class families. Yet by the 1990s the position of university women, and men, also grew increasingly precarious. The length of time needed to finish a PhD in the US increased and the prospect of a permanent job receded. By 2012 the majority of college teachers were low paid “adjunct staff” with no job security.
These economic facts disciplined university women and men just as postmodernism became the intellectual fashion. Postmodernism was a decisive turn to the right, with its rejection of Marxism, the enlightenment, and any possibility of human liberation. Yet it seemed left wing to many. For some this was because postmodernism embraced identity politics. For others, thinkers like Michel Foucault, Gayatri Spivak, Hélène Cixous and Judith Butler seemed radical and exciting, but even Foucault and Butler avoided class arguments.102 In effect, gender studies were allowed in the university, but class was deemed intellectually passé at a theoretical level.
Moreover, a continuous media assualt simultaneously ridiculed feminism and said that it had won. Nonetheless, women within the universities were still discriminated against. These pressures led to the familiar “I’m not a feminist, but…”
Tellingly, when the new anti-capitalist movement came along in 2000, the two leading intellectuals, Arundathi Roy and Naomi Klein, were both women. That was the legacy of women’s liberation. But they both strongly opposed the turn to identity politics. At the World Social Forum in Mumbai in 2004 many women activists attended, and many women spoke, but the meetings specifically on gender were predictable and theoretically flat.103
The process continues. At the end of the 1990s the idea of “intersectionality” became popular. This is the idea that gender, race and class are simultaneously created together, in the same space—they “intersect”. There are two problems here. First, created by whom? Class, gender and race are analytical categories and aspects of human experience. Aspects and categories do not do things. Only people do things to each other. But speaking as if categories were human avoids looking at which particular people dominate the intersection. So a key question is who created these categories, and why?
The second problem is a strong implicit belief that race, class and gender must be of equal weight in the intersection. This is odd. There is no logical reason for such an assumption and no plausible theoretical basis for it. In practice, it seems another device to hide questions of class. For instance, most books and articles on intersectionality start by name checking gender, race and class, but the rest of the book or article is then about gender and/or race, and class has vanished from the analysis.104
The proletarianisation of academic life has also produced a split. Many serious academics have produced research that understood the lived realities of class and gender. Alejandro Lugo, Sharon Hays, Karen Brodkin Sacks, Lise Rofel, Pun Ngai, Joma Nazpary, Kevin Denys Bonnycastle and others have written stunning work. But almost all their research was ethnographic, looking at the lives of working class people on the ground,105 and it has had little influence on feminist theory. Those who do theory no longer care much about lived working class experience and not by coincidence, they write in language so obscure that even most white collar workers cannot understand.106
Class was disappearing from the work of university feminists at the same moment that they were being turned into a low paid, insecure workforce where increasingly teaching was less important than educational “business”. Indeed, theories of class and gender were disappearing because the workforce were being proletarianised and so felt vulnerable. The pressure to turn away from class came from the top, from the women, and men, in the corporate elite. This pressure came down through the senior staff at the elite universities, and the ways that this happened were complex and nuanced.107
There is another reason why it is difficult to think coherently about class inequality from within universities. Marking (or grading in the US) has become a key process for creating and supporting class inequality. A large majority of young people in most industrialised countries are now finely ranked by numbers that seem to turn their intelligence into a real measurable thing. The distribution of jobs and money is justified by these numbers. Many people are persuaded that they are where they are because they are stupider than the people above them. They accept this with pain and resentment, even hatred. It takes years of humiliation, but accept it they do. This grading and ranking is a historically unprecedented project—evil on an industrial scale. Teachers mostly hate doing it. But they themselves have also succeeded and failed through that very process, so they do believe some people are smarter than others, and that jobs should be awarded on that basis.
Ross Douthart warns us never to forget the secrets of Princeton: Every elite seeks its own perpetuation, of course, but that project is uniquely difficult in a society that’s formally democratic and egalitarian and colorblind. And it’s even more difficult for an elite that prides itself on its progressive politics, its social conscience, its enlightened distance from hierarchies of blood and birth and breeding. Thus the importance, in the modern meritocratic culture, of the unackowledged mechanisms that preserve privilege, reward the inside game, and ensure that the advantages enjoyed in one generation can be passed safely onward to the next.108
Contradictions of gendering
The reconfiguring of gender was not a simple process. Changing gendered relations presented conservatives themselves with a problem. Conservative ideology tries to do two things. It tries to maintain things as they are and it tries to justify the ways that the ruling class wants things to change.109
At the top, the ruling class has least problem with that contradiction. We know little of the domestic arrangements and sex lives of the people at the top. Privacy is one of the perks of class.110 They clearly have more choices and much less liability for transgression. Some are predators, but many seem to be wrestling with the same emotional dilemmas as the rest of us, albeit with more resources. But whatever their families and sex lives are like, the ruling class still want to hang onto the conservative supports of the old ideology. And the foot soldiers of conservatism can find change difficult.
This has produced splits of various kinds. The upper class supporters of the big corporations had long dominated the Republican Party. They supported the reconfiguration of gender to fit neoliberalism. The middle class and working class Republicans were numerous, and won primaries. They were more committed to maintaining old social inequalities.111
The Democratic Party after 1980 was largely united as the party of “social issues”. This did not mean defending welfare or social security. It meant defending the compromise that had favoured the top 20 percent of women and the top 10 percent of African-Americans. The key “wedge” issue over the whole period was abortion. The result was that national politics, seen as competition between Republicans and Democrats, was dominated by identity politics to the exclusion of class. The other result was that voting behaviour became markedly gendered. A majority of women voted Democrat, and a majority of men voted Republican.112
The capitalist system is global and has always involved imperial competition. And just as capitalist formations are gendered, so too are the international patterns of resource extraction, markets, labour migration and imperial wars. For the American ruling class, neoliberalism is not just for home consumption. It is for everybody.113 Here we consider briefly an extreme example: the gendering of the American invasion of Afghanistan.
From the Iranian Revolution of 1978-9 on, the American ruling class felt their control of Middle Eastern oil under threat from popular uprisings. Because the left in the Middle East had collaborated in various ways with the secular dictatorships in the region, most opposition to neo-imperialism was led by various kinds of Islamists. The ideological response was Islamophobia. By 2000 this racism against Muslims was the only acceptable public racism in America.
There had been a Communist coup in Afghanistan in 1978. The communists were secularists, committed to land reform and women’s emancipation. But during the Communists’ struggle for power, these ideals became utterly contaminated. To support the Afghan Communists, the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan in 1979, and during the next eight years a million people died (a proportion of the population comparable to 3 million dead in the UK, or 15 million in the US). Feminism is now very weak in Afghanistan, because many Afghan supporters of feminism, men and women, also supported the Soviet occupation, while the only people who implacably fought the Soviets were Islamists.114
The US government initially backed the Taliban, from 1994 to 1998. In those years they ignored women, just as they do for their key allies in the royal family in Saudi Arabia. Meanwhile, the liberal aid agencies, first in the refugee camps and, since 2002, in Afghanistan, described gendered inequality as something basic or “natural” to “Afghan culture” and “Afghan Islam”.115
After 9/11 American Islamophobia increased enormously, and a “feminist” Islamophobia was part of this racism. This was not exclusive to liberals or the left. Three weeks after the American bombing started in 2001, Laura Bush and Cherie Blair, both wives of millionaire warlords, spoke simultaneously of a war to liberate Afghan women. Since then “feminism” has been consistently used to justify the invasion and occupation. The”feminist” spin focuses attention on the undoubtedly sexist rule of the Taliban and serves to distract us from thinking about the tens of thousands of Afghans (women, men and children) killed, wounded or orphaned by the American war.116
Meanwhile, the class basis of Taliban support has been ignored. Within Afghan politics the Taliban were a Pushtun movement. Among Pashtuns the Taliban were a movement of poor peasants and sharecroppers against the big landlords, and their leaders are men of humble origins. The poor Pushtuns we wrote about in Part Two are exactly the people who have become the Taliban.117
The economics of the Afghan war are staggering. Since 2001 the cost of the American War in Afghanistan has exceeded a trillion dollars, with America spending more than $100 billion a year. Though “international aid to the country is roughly equivalent to its GDP, little of this has ever reached the Afghan people”.118 Yet even as the war has wound down, much lip service has continued to go to those who would help women, as if this were sufficient to salve a liberal conscience.
As with the British before them, the American “decision to withdraw troops has turned on factors with little relevance to Afghanistan, namely the state of the occupier’s troubled economy and the vagaries of politics back home”.119 Yet with each setback, and in retreat, there has been spin about Afghan women. This persistent focus is misleading, not least because it ignores the fact that a large majority of Afghan women are opposed to the American occupation. But the focus has had a deep resonance in America itself.
In all this, “Afghan women” have become absurdly stereotyped. And foreign stereotypes of Afghan men have changed beyond all recognition over the last 100 years. Afghans were once celebrated as guerrilla fighters, the “wily Pathans” whose courage and intelligence justified and somehow assuaged British defeats.120 Now they have become fanatical, savage hajjis, hardly people at all.121 This leaves the US, UK and NATO soldiers with a serious problem. How do they, with their drones, electricity, hot showers, mobile phones and body armour, explain why they have lost the war?122
There has also been a rise of “pinkwashing” to give queer justifications for supporting the American empire. Pinkwashing is the idea that Muslims are homophobic, and therefore LGBT people should support invasions and coups to overthrow Islamist governments.123 It ignores the fact that Kandahar, the heart of the Taliban homeland, has long been more tolerant of public male homosexuality than any place in Europe or the Americas.124 Indeed, the only change in this under the Taliban was that powerful men were forbidden to sexually exploit young boys and girls. The Taliban themselves emphasised over and over how they protected boys and girls from rich and powerful warlords. But this hostility to upper class child abuse went unnoticed outside Afghanistan.125
The contradictions of gendering can also be seen clearly in reactions to child abuse back in the United States. That abuse was abhorrent to those who held “traditional family values”, but the managers of capitalist institutions who at least paid lip service to the same “traditional family values” long concealed, and therefore enabled, abuse. Then women’s and gay liberation opened a space where it became possible for a few people to talk openly about what had been done to them as children. Once they began to talk, other abused people took courage. So did the medical, social and drug workers who already knew that many of their patients, or clients, had been abused. There was a sudden outpouring of stories.
Conservative defenders of the family were appalled. So were the senior managers of the organisations that had covered up abuse for so many years—the police, the military, courts, prisons, social services, hospitals, care homes, schools, churches, sports teams, corporations, political parties, the media and the entertainment industry. The most important individual, and the one who had organised the most systematic cover up of the most abuse, was the pope.
The capitalist elite, and particularly the senior managers in corporations and public services, quickly reconfigured the threat of child abuse as “stranger danger”. This was, and is, a rare form of child abuse. But public discussion centred on strangers. A generation of children became fat and bored as they were prevented from playing outside to keep them “safe”.126
The people who had been abused in, and by, institutions were marginalised. But they continued to organise. And abuse survivors abroad, particularly in Ireland and Britain, helped give the Americans confidence. By 2012 the discourse of stranger danger could not hold. It was replaced by a different “feminist” discourse that still protected the people at the top. This discourse, which drew on feminist hostility to the family, said that most abuse happened in “the family”. This required a special definition of family. For this purpose, the word meant anyone known to the parents, like a friend, relative, co-worker or coach. What this construction did, however, was again to hide the institutions and managers.
In Britain even this “family” construction has begun to wear thin. In the wake of the Jimmy Savile revelations, many other prominent men have been arrested. Not that they are that rich or powerful: most of them have been DJs, actors, musicians or entertainers. The managers, prosecutors and police who had protected and enabled them have had to apologise, but they have not been punished.
In the spring of 2013 there were also the first signs of a global revolt against rape. To make sense of how this affected the US, we have to refer back to ideas we introduced earlier:
• Violence is necessary to enforce inequality;
• Gendered inequality is enforced from the top;
• What we label “violence” needs to be seen in terms of continua;
• And he who does the labelling holds the power.
As we have seen, if you look mainly at the family, or even families in general, you miss what is happening with child abuse. You miss both where it is happening and who is covering it up. By the same token, the ruling class and their agents structure and reinforce sexual violence too. But here too it is easy to miss their role in this process.
For instance, the usual way to think about rape starts by seeing the cause of rape in the “perpetrator”. Behind that perpetrator, we are told, there is a broken culture or a broken community or a broken family. And perhaps the perpetrator was himself abused when he was little. Explanations vary, but they start at the bottom of society.
However, if you take a case of rape to the police, the courts, or the university administration, they usually will not listen or do not act. It then feels natural to be outraged because they will not do something about the problem. But this is to get things the wrong way round.
In reality, the courts, police chiefs, managers, deans, judges and politicians are the problem. It is they who sanction rape. The authorities are not failing to act. They have acted, over a long period, to make it clear to everyone what is permitted.127 Once what is allowable is clear, some men are largely free to rape or abuse, especially if they are rich or careful. The large majority of men do not behave in that way. But power authorises a minority. But this is not the usual way to think of rape. For a long time American feminists used the slogan, “You just don’t get it”. In truth, the authorities did get it, only too well.128
Let us consider two further examples to show how this works in practice.
Mass rape has often been a weapon of war, but only when the high command permits it. For example, mass military rape was central to the Soviet advance on Germany in 1945 and the American occupation of Vietnam.129 Neither power used mass rape in Afghanistan, nor have the Americans used it in Iraq. The political consequences would have been too grave. In Afghanistan this was partly in response to the general Afghan contempt for the use of rape in the politics of war. But it was also because the Soviets and the Americans, used versions of feminism to justify their invasions of that country.
However, the Pentagon has continued to allow Americans to rape Americans in Iraq and Afghanistan. In 2003 almost a third of women veterans applying for help with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) said they had been raped. Of that number, 37 percent had been raped multiple times and 14 percent had been gang-raped. The journalist Helen Benedict interviewed 20 women who had served in Iraq. They all agreed that “the danger of rape by other soldiers is so widely recognised [that] officers routinely told [women] not to go to the latrines or showers without another woman for protection”.130 Official figures estimate that 26,000 men and women in the armed services were sexually assaulted in 2012, and 233 were convicted.131 But when the generals do not permit rape, it rarely happens.
As a second example, let us consider the Delhi rape protests. In December 2012 a physiotherapy intern in Delhi was gang-raped and eventually died of her injuries. She was from a humble background—her father was a loader who had sold his land to pay for her education. As word of the case spread, there were large and angry demonstrations by women and men across India. The moment crystallised a long-standing rage against the refusal of the state to protect women. However, the demonstrators in Delhi soon found themselves under attack by the police and Rapid Action Force units, using bamboo club lathis and tear gas.
The violent response by the authorities was not surprising. Rape of “Dalit” agricultural labourers and indigenous “Adivasi” women has long been an important weapon of class rule in Indian villages. Over the last 25 years the Indian army has used rape extensively to control disaffected areas of Kashmir. In the cities and towns, sexual harassment by managers is a fact of working life. The police and public institutions tolerate a culture of “Eve-teasing” on the streets that is far more brutal than it sounds. And the police usually do not investigate or prosecute rape.
This complex of facts, and the fear and rage it produced, led to the demonstrations. The police were authorised to attack the demonstrators for a reason. The politicians understood that a largely middle class protest against rape in Delhi was also an immediate threat to a whole complex of sexual violence and class terror.
Rape in the US
In the spring of 2013 the US also began to see the first signs of a revolt from below against rape. However, in the US now there is a move by people in authority to speak broadly of “battery” to include everything from unwanted touching to attempted manslaughter. This means battery may include everything from an ill-judged but well-meaning touch of a hand or a shoulder to a grievous, life-threatening beating. This is very confusing. It leaves boundaries unclear and people mixed up about right and wrong. The effect of such a broad definition divides people and makes them wary of each other.
The same is true of the new understanding of sexual abuse as a continuum including everything from a construction worker’s wolf whistle or an offensive remark to a rape so violent it requires emergency surgery to save the man’s or woman’s life. Framed this way, all spontaneous desire or physical attraction for another person is made to feel wrong.132
Being made to feel uncomfortable is one end of the continuum. At the other end is the use of rape as weapon of war, as in Bosnia or Congo, when sometimes submitting to rape is the only way of saving your life. Or consider when killing is too easy, and rape is used systematically to enforce in a more damaging and permanent way the unequal relation between victims and perpetrators. The systematic use of rape in war also transforms the soldier rapists as human beings, and strengthens the hold their officers have over them.133
What is happening in the United States is that the mildly offensive ends of the continua of violence, and of the continua of sexual violence, are being made to seem far more reprehensible than they used to be. At the same time, the other, deeply evil, ends of the continua seem to disappear. This too is very confusing. It completely unsettles moral certainties and creates considerable leeway for those who do the labelling. Because, of course, there is a class difference here too, some men and some women are being protected, while others are being left very vulnerable.
The young women Jody Miller and her research team interviewed in St Louis are among the vulnerable.134 Miller, in her book Being Played, lets those women’s voices be heard. Their average age was 16. They were all attending a high school for girls and boys who had been expelled from ordinary schools. These young people knew they were on the edge of permanent exclusion or prison. They were hurt, and often very angry, and knew they had no reason to trust authority. These boys and girls were among the most vulnerable in the working class.
The girls also had a great deal of insight about the situations they found themselves in. Boys in the school would test girls out with approaches that might lead to flirting, to consensual sex or to romance. Sometimes the boys were also testing the limits of how vulnerable a girl was. If she seemed too “loose” or responded too meekly, she might be putting herself at danger of rape at home or in the neighbourhood.
The girls spent a lot of time trying to sort out what was happening. It was not easy to judge what the boys were doing. The boys were often not sure themselves. Sometimes a girl would explode in rage to make it clear she was not vulnerable, and then a humiliated boy would beat her up in class. But when girls were being clearly harassed, and even when they were beaten, the teachers and the principal would not intervene to back the girl. Complaining about the boys was also a violation of a value of working class solidarity that all the girls and boys honoured—don’t snitch.
These girls were negotiating complex continua, and so were the boys, in the hope of finding someone to love them. The key question about any continuum of behaviour is who decides how to divide it up. The girls were not allowed to do so. Nor were the girls and boys allowed to sit down together and discuss as a group and make those decisions together. Nor were the teachers allowed to sit down with the students and talk about what was happening, on pain of losing their jobs. And the public school authorities refused to clarify anything, except that there would be no help.
That’s an example of particularly vulnerable people. Now let’s look at the opposite end of the class continuum. Dartmouth is an elite Ivy League college, whose students have far more money, more class confidence and far better futures to look forward to. But they are not invulnerable. When Nancy Lindisfarne taught anthropology and gender at Dartmouth in 1998-99, her women students said that rape was a regular occurrence in some of the campus fraternity houses and was never punished.
This may have changed since, but probably not, because 2013 saw spirited demonstrations on campus against sexual violence. Some male students responded on social media with remarks that called the protesters vile names, and threatened them, in general terms, with sexual violence. These were people who shared a small campus and saw each other every day. The women protesters were enraged, and probably also afraid.
The college administration stepped in. They cancelled all classes for a day, saying that they wanted everyone to calm down. The authorities said very clearly that ugly posts were utterly unacceptable at Dartmouth. They threatened anyone who did such things in future with suspension or expulsion.
However, the authorities did nothing about the sexual assaults and rapes behind the protests. They responded to words, but acted as if the deeds were not the problem. Had they opened a broad investigation into what had happened, the college itself would have been seriously damaged, and the rich and powerful families of the young men involved would have been outraged.
A Dartmouth student, Nathan Gusdorf, writes:
We are mired in demands for “constructive criticism and dialogue”… Set up a panel, schedule a meeting, use the time to schedule the next meeting, and on and on… In reality, this means that undesirable changes can be avoided by directing their advocates into endless cycles of nonsense.
Clearly there are forces at play that protect and enable offenders, the structure of fraternity-centred social life is one obvious case… Any proposal for change that doesn’t satisfy the desires of parties more powerful than rape victims will meet with little success. Other methods are needed.135
The young college women at Dartmouth were far more privileged, and visible, than the high school girls in St Louis. So when the high school girls complained, nobody took them seriously. When the college students complained, the authorities pretended to take them seriously, changed the subject and did nothing to protect the women.
What happened in Dartmouth happens all the time in the United States. It often works, because many of the “feminist” ideas available to young women on the edges of the elite encourage them to fight about smoke and mirrors.
Of course the fraternity brothers at Dartmouth will be more careful about who they rape, and they are likely to pick on the more socially vulnerable women. Rape by the powerful is different—they are less impulsive, less angry, and more likely to get away with it. They are expressing their power, not their damage.136
There is another way. Sampat Pal Devi founded the Gulabi Gang in a rural district of Uttar Pradesh in northern India in 2006.137 (Gulabi is the Hindi word for pink. Gang is the English word.) Devi was the daughter of a shepherd. She organised groups of women to remonstrate with men who beat their wives. If the men did not listen, they would be publicly shamed by crowds. When that did not work, gangs of women would beat the men harshly with bamboo lathis like the ones used by the Dehli riot police.
The Gulabi gang now claims 20,000 members across North India. They have branched out into larger issues of social justice and when necessary they fight the police.
They inspired Usha Vishawakarma, a teacher and the daughter of a carpenter in a working class neighbourhood in the city of Lucknow. She told the Times of India: “Some years back, an 11-year-old girl I gave lessons to was raped by her uncle. A few months after the incident, one of my colleagues attempted to rape me. I fought back and managed to escape. It took a year to recover”.138 When she did, she formed the Red Brigade, a neighbourhood gang of 15 young women with lathis between 16 and 25, all of whom had been abused and assaulted. They too confront, shame and beat men who harass women.
These were not vigilante actions. They happened in the light of day, in front of public crowds, and thus mobilised and organised the morality of working class communities.
The regendering of inequality in America was not primarily produced by what men and women were doing at home. It was relentlessly pushed by television, films, media, books, hospitals, government policy, university courses and the police. At every point men and women of the elite were pushing ideas that fitted their own experience and needs. They were also medicating, imprisoning, and taking welfare benefits away from others. Gendering did not change because various abstract concepts were interacting with each other. It changed because some living women and men acted to promote inequality.139
We have now described some of the ways gendering has changed in the US in the last 40 years. The direction of our explanation is important. We started with the way industrial profits fell in the late 1960s. We saw neoliberalism as a way that the corporate elite tried to solve their problem with falling profits. The ruling elite worked hard using gendered rhetoric and practices to support new forms of class inequality. And we have argued that changes in capitalism and in the class struggle have led to changes in gender relations, and not the other way round.
This does not mean that class suffering matters more than gendered suffering or racialised suffering. For some people the worst thing in their lives is rape or domestic violence. For some it is being sent to prison or to war. For some it is unemployment or being treated like an animal at work. And you never suffer in only one way. Many women do feel that their suffering as women eclipses all their other troubles. This may be true in their lives, but that truth can hide the driving forces that frame their gendered hurt.
1: Our thanks are due to Ruard Absaroka, Miriyam Aouragh, Colin Barker, Joseph Choonara, Rui de Silva, Veronica Doubleday, Takis Geros, Stephanie Kitchen, Laura Miles, Pablo Mukherjee, George Paizis, Paru Raman, Shzr Ee Tan, and Sophie Williams for their very useful comments on an earlier draft. Thanks too to Andrea Cornwall: the work done together for Dislocating Masculinity was an important starting point for this paper-see Cornwall and Lindisfarne,1994a.
2: And often experienced as debt. See Graeber, 2011.
3: The idea turns up in many places: in early modern Europe, in the cargo cults of 19th and 20th century Melanesia, in 20th century China and in 21st century Ecuador. See Hill, 1991; Lawrence, 1964; Worsley, 1968; Hinton,1966; Parra, 2012.
4: Class membership may also be conferred institutionally, for example, via the Catholic church which is, in effect, a corporation. In corporations elites share collective interests in managing the wealth or goods they hold in common, and vis-à-vis the people who work for them and whose work supports them. In corporations too inequality is gendered by the same processes as those we describe below.
5: Lindisfarne, 2002. When we say that gender is embodied, we mean that the way we live in and experience our bodies is socially constructed, that it is something we learn and is something we can change.
7: In the preoccupying debates of the late 1970s and early 1980s, some socialist and Marxist feminists got lost in circularities because they tried to use these dichotomies analytically when in fact they were part of the very ideologies the feminists sought to question. There are also important conceptual difficulties of generalising from the Western dichotomies to other times and places-see MacCormack and Strathern, 1980; Cornwall and Lindisfarne, 1994b, p29ff; and see the section “Separate spheres” below.
8: Jordan-Young, 2010.
9: Freeman, 2013; and compare Pengelly, 2013, also writing about the basketball star Jason Collins, who has come out in the US.
10: Scott, 1987,1990.
11: See Domhoff, 2009, and our extended discussion in Part Three. For an important example of how the American ruling class sought deliberately to create and implement particular ideological constructs, see the fine grained study of the manipulation of the arts during the Cold War by Frances Stonor Saunders, 2001. See also Klein, 2008.
12: Law, 2013.
13: Porter, 1995, p31.
14: The “new feminist revival” with its insistent focus on “women” seems to being doing just this. See Smith, 2013, p14. Contrast Moore’s (2013) resolute but now unusual attention to class.
15: Glassner, 1999: See Das and others, 2000, and Nixon 2013 for other approaches to violence. On violence and the media, see Jenkins, 2013; Younge, 2013. See also Said, 1993, on the complex ways culture and values enforce inequality.
16: See, for instance, MacKay, 1995, for a finely wrought novel about the ordinariness of child sexual abuse and domestic violence in an English village.
17: To take one example, in India many people married within sub-castes with ranked roles in the economy. This means that gendering in rural or urban India now takes a different form from gendering in south China where many villagers married outside village patrilineal descent groups. Among many ethnographies which explore these themes, see Mayer, 1965; and Chen, 1992.
18: Wilkinson and Pickett, 2009.
19: Part Three of this article is a detailed account of how this has happened under neoliberalism in the US.
20: This also happens with race. See Frankenberg, 1993, for an important introduction to racialised marking.
21: Callinicos, 1993; hooks, 2000.
22: Before genetics “blood” was a dominant, but by no means the only, metaphor for talking about the inheritance of physical and other traits. After slavery the distinctions became much more complicated, and kept changing. Brodkin, 1999, is a good introduction to a large literature. And see Frankenberg, 1993.
23: Harris, 1970, is very useful for thinking about this. And compare Stoller,1991.
24: Interestingly, the idea that what was important about the genitals of women and men was their sameness was common sense in England in 1600, as in many other countries, but this did not mean that men and women were equal. See Dabhoiwala, 2012, a flawed but fascinating book. For a nuanced discussion that pays careful attention to subordinate daily experience, see Gowing, 2003.
25:For example, “After OK, fuck must be about the most versatile of all English words. It can be used to describe a multitude of conditions and phenomena, from making a mess of something (fuck up), to being casual and provocative (fuck around), to inviting or announcing a departure (fuck off), to being estimable (fucking-A), to being baffled (I’m fucked if I know), to being disgusted (fuck this), and so on and on and on”-Bryson, 1990, pp212-213.
26: We owe a considerable debt to the anthropologist Marilyn Strathern for this powerful intellectual tool. For Strathern, “Gender is an open ended category of persons, artefacts, events, sequences which draw upon sexual imagery and make concrete people’s ideas about the nature of social relationships” (1988, pix).
27: Carrigan, Connell and Lee, 1985; Connell, 1987; and Cornwall and Lindisfarne, 1994b, pp19ff; and Shire, 1994, for how unexpected comparisons can be.
28: Cliff, 1984; Zetkin, 1987; Ehrenreich, 2002.
29: Tambiah, 1968.
30: Leach, 1964, 1969, 1976; Douglas, 1966, and 1970.
31: See, for example, Lamb, 2000; Jeffrey, Jeffrey and Lyon, 1989; Scheper-Hughes, 1993. Mascia-Lees and Sharpe, 1992, is a useful introduction to the large literature on body alteration.
32: Day’s 1994 ethnography about what counts as rape among London sex workers is a good example of the subtle questions posed by this approach.
33: See Warner, 1981, 2013.
34: Personal communication. See also Feinberg, 1996.
35: See Dee, 2011; Wilson, 2011; Rofel, 2007.
36: There is a very large literature, and many excellent ethnographies, on alternative sexualities: for example, Whitehead, 1981; Herdt, 1984a, 1984b, 1984c, 1997; Cornwall, 1994; Bray, 1995; Feinberg, 1996.
37: Neale, 1985, p116; Kennedy, 1985, pp84-86; Dugan, 1966, pp380-383.
38: Karzakis, 2008. Compare the kinder example described by Sanders’ study (1991) of the gendering of hermaphrodites by medieval Islamic jurists.
40: Scruton, 2013, p43. For an earlier, more mainstream take on economics and family values, see Folbre, 2001.
41: Except the Afghan man who loved his father. In 1970 Afghan politics and economics were dominated by big landlords who lived in forts in the countryside, not capitalists. And the Nepali woman did point out that younger women no longer married two brothers at once.
42: Though the “nuclear family” is a new notion that dates only from the 1920s.
43: See Tapper (Lindisfarne), 1991; Lindisfarne, 1994; Neale, 1981, 2001, 2008a, 2008b.
44: For different perspectives on these debates see Molyneux, 1979; Hartmann, 1981; Harris and Young, 1981; Nicholson, 1986; German, 1988; Pearson, 2007; McGregor, 2013. See also note 9 above.
45: And it is no accident that “classic” novels and plays are oppositional and challenge contemporary myths. Consider, for example, Melville’s Moby Dick, in part a paean to homosexuality, Flaubert’s Madam Bovary, Brontë’s Wuthering Heights, or Ibsen’s A Doll’s House. But this must be a discussion for another time.
46: Coontz,1992, pp11-12. Stoller, 1995, describes women of elite Dutch colonial families in Indonesia in the early 20th century. These women thought of themselves as members of ideal nuclear families. However, children were sent away to private schools, there was a high death rate among mothers, and there were adoptions, nursery maids, mistresses and brothels. Moreover, the way the Dutch colonisers operated depended on many other people in the Netherlands and Indonesia living in quite other kinds of households.
47: See, for example, Sacks, 1975, 1979; Leacock, 1981; Sayers, Evans and Redcliff, 1987; Vogel 1983; German, 1988.
48: See Ehrenberg, 1989; Flannery and Marcus, 2012.
49: See Woodburn, 1982; and Sahlins,1974, for a summary of the theory of egalitarian societies. For examples see Woodburn, 1968a, 1968b; Lee, 1979; Thomas, 1959; Shostack, 1990; Brody, 2001; Turnbull, 1965; Leacock, 1981. But see also the discussions in Lancaster, 2003, pp64-68, and in Flannery and Marcus, 2012, pp19-39.
50: See the masterpiece by Eric Wolf (1982). The term “modern” is best avoided. It has been the key concept used to reconfigure the old colonial biological racism as the new imperialist cultural racism.
51: Flannery and Marcus, 2012, pp66-90. However, the First Nations people along this coast had been trading with Russians and Canadians for a long time, and that may have increased inequality. On the other hand, many Paleolithic hunters would have had access to far richer resources than 20th century hunters and gatherers.
52: See Overing, 1986, and Overing Kaplan, 1975. Thomas (1982) describes similar equality among the neighbouring Pemon, and his account fits with Neale’s experience during three months research in a Pemon village in 1997. See also Riviere, 1969, 1984.
53: Flannery and Marcus, 2012, pp91-186; Strathern, 1972, 1988.
54: See Lancaster, 2003, pp152-159.
55: Ferguson and Whitehead, 1992. There is also a wide literature on warfare in New Guinea and among Native Americans on the plains. Moreover, human populations have complex ways of adjusting the birth rate to the carrying capacity of the land.
56: See Lee, 1979, pp243-49.
57: Lee, 1979, p246.
58: Flannery and Marcus, 2012, pp187-207.
59: See for instance Leach, 1971; Scott, 2010; Salemink, 2003.
60: The analysis of American neoliberalism we provide here is based on Neale, 2004.
61: This process is explained in detail in Domhoff, 2009.
62: For some of the complexity of how ideology is negotiated, see Neale, 2008b.
63: See Neale, 2004. For useful different takes on neoliberalism, see Klein, 2008; Harvey, 2005; Callinicos, 2010; and Monbiot, 2004, 2013.
64: See Harman, 1999, 2010; Robert Brenner, 2002, 2006; Kliman, 2011; Choonara, 2009; Mosely, 1991.
65: See Suskind, 2011; Meeropol, 1998.
66: See Ehrenreich 1989, and, for instance, Douthat, 2013.
67: Mishel, Bernstein and Bushey, 2003, pp 208-209.
68: Website of the US Census for 1950 and 1960; Website of US Bureau of Labour Statistics for 1972 and 2012; and Jacoby, 2013.
69: See Ehrenrecih, 2001.
70: Gorney, 2000, is an excellent study of this conflict on the ground.
71: Saletan, 2003. Planned Parenthood worked to bring down the very high rates of teenage pregnancy, but a young woman still has to pay $50 for the morning after pill-Rabin, 2013. In 2009, in Wichita, Kansas, the doctor of the one remaining abortion clinic in the state was murdered. Efforts are being made now to reopen the clinic, but elsewhere the assault goes on. Legislation is being used to close the four remaining clinics in Alabama and the one that remains in Mississippi, while in North Dakota new legislation is being introduced to prevent abortions six weeks after conception when a foetal heartbeat can be heard, but before a woman may even know she is pregnant-New York Times, 2013b.
72: Hays, 2003, is an outstanding book about welfare reform. See also Morgan, Acker and Weigt, 2010; Gans, 1995.
73: Wilcox, 2010, pp19, 23. Wilcox’s figures underestimate the extent of change, because about 15 percent of adult Americans were college graduates in 1970 and about 30 percent by 2010. And his figures on births overstate the difference a bit, because it measures the percentage of births, not the percentage of women giving birth, and less affluent women were having more children.
74: See Rosin, 2012, pp47-77; Wilcox, 2010. Barbara Ehrenreich, 2003, points out that one consequence of the adoption of part-time cleaners by professional women was that women’s domestic labour largely disappeared as a concern of professional feminists. It was too embarrassing to write or complain about the humiliation of picking up socks and cleaning the toilet for a man, when another woman was picking up your socks and cleaning your toilet.
75: David Cameron, the British PM, criticised absent fathers at the same time the secretary for work and pensions, Iain Duncan-Smith, was describing the sins of single mothers, causing Zoe Williams (2013c) to ask, “Is sexual morality just a cover to castigate the poor, when what you really find wanting in them is that they are insufficiently rich? I worry to see the Tories characterise one class or group as aberrant or immoral which same behaviour is perfectly reasonable from their friends. It looks like a process of re-feudalisation,”
76: Faludi, 1999; Abel and Dietz, 2012. See also Jack, 2013; and Syal, 2013: the “crisis of masculinity” has also become a new topic for discussion in the UK.
77: Personal communication.
78: Faludi, 1999, is insightful. Rosin, 2012, too, is fascinating but uneven.
79: For what’s wrong with ADHD diagnoses, see Breggin, 2002.
80: Lustig, 2013; Roberts and Edwards, 2010.
81: Kellaway, 2013, describes US studies that show there is a beauty premium: gorgeous men and beautiful women earn 10 to 20 percent more than the rest of us. See Waters, 2010, pp 9-70, for an interesting account of the spread of anorexia to Hong Kong.
82: Jacoby, 2013. Dorling, 2011, pp40-64, is interesting on why educated women over 25, in particular, began to feel the world was running out of men.
83: Luhrman, 2012, 2013. Ehrenreich, 2010.
84: Alexander, 2010. See also Neale, 2004, pp 87-111; Parenti, 1999; LeBlanc, 2003.
85: Brenner, 2000.
86: See Neale, 2004, pp100-102; Mariner, 2001; see Singer, 2013, but also Fleisher and Kreinert, 2009.
87: See Smyth, 2011, on everyone knowing about prison rape.
88: The Center for Disease Control in Atlanta was the honourable exception. For the politics of AIDS in the US see Neale, 1991; Shilts, 1987. For the feel of the time read the novels of Armistead Maupin and Tony Kushner’s play Angels in America.
89: Forrest,1994; Hennessey, 2000, pp111-142; Dee, 2011; Wilson, 2011.
90: From the start, there were strong objections to the biologising of social relations-see Sahlins, 1977; Rose, Kamin and Lewontin, 1984. On gender, see Wilson, 2011.
91: Lancaster, 2003, pp261-268, has a good discussion of this.
92: See, for instance, Jordan-Young, 2010. Of course, explaining inequality in terms of biology removes the discussion from historical or cultural comparison and makes it seem “natural”, eternal and timeless. So you don’t have to think about why one American boy in eight has been diagnosed as having ADHD compared to only one French boy in 200.
93: Kirsch, 2009, p175. For new sensible thinking on depression, medication,and mental illness, start with Kirsch, and then Benthall, 2010; Moncrieff, 2009; Breggin, 1993 and 2008; Watters, 2011; Goldacre, 2012; and Young, 1995.
94: Goldacre, 2012; Luhrmann, 2000.
95: Luhrmann, 2000.
96: Jordan-Young, 2011.
97: Gray,1992. Cameron, 2009, is useful on this, and see Bunting, 2010. And sometimes the dichotomy is reinforced, even by those who would resist it. In spite of the eye-catching title, Pink Brain, Blue Brain: How Small Differences grow into Troublesome Gaps, Elliot, 2010, is arguing that gender differences emerge through socialization and are not based on biological facts.
98: www.pink.stinks.org.uk. See also Schor, 2004.
99: New York Times, 2013a; and Kolensnikov-Jessop, 2013. It is worth noting that a watch by from Romain Gautier costs $170, 925, but the Grand Complication watch by A Lang and Sohne costs $2,452,700 (Prince, 2013). So we are not all equal. Some people keep better time than others.
100: Rolex in the IHT on 22 May 2013 and Longines there on 24 May
101: The following section is indebted to Hennessey, 2000, especially pp37-72, and 175-202. Ahmad, 1992, is also useful. For how ideology is enforced in universities, see Neale, 2008.
102: Compare Hartmann, 1981b.
103: Lindisfarne, 2004.
104: Moore, 2013a, is good on the absence of class. There are exceptions, including Brenner, 2000; Eisenstein, 2009; and Ehrenreich, 2003. As Zoe Williams, 2013b, has eloquently described, privilege theory has also become fashionable among academic specialists of gender, many of whom are white and middle class. Privilege theory chastens those who would speak on behalf of others while paying no serious attention to what is being said.
105: Lugo 2008; Hays, 2003; Sacks, 1988; Rofel, 1999 and 2007; Pun, 2005; Nazpary, 2001; and Bonnycastle, 2012.
106: Schuessler, 2013, reports on a musical evening of queer theory in New York that set Judith Butler and others to music, fondly sending up their incomprehensible language.
107: This process deserves far more attention than we can give it here. We have begun the discussion elsewhere: Lindisfarne, 2002; and Neale, 2008.
108: Douthat, 2013.
109: See Frank, 2004
110: See Aldrich, 1996; Colt, 2003.
111: Frank, 2004.
112: By 2013 Britain, the country with the most similar experience of neoliberalism to the US, was also showing gendering of voting, and other countries in Europe were tending that way. See Milne, 2013.
113: For reading on imperialism, gender and war, Stoller, 1991; Enloe, 2001; and Nordstrom, 2004, are good places to start.
114: For Afghan politics after 1978, see Neale, 1981, 2001 and 2008a; Lindisfarne, 2002, 2008, 2013.
115: See, for example, Jones, 2006; Rodriguez, 2008, and compare Molyneux, 2007.
116: The spin about women is particularly confusing when we consider the American war in Iraq. There too the civilian population has suffered greatly, yet we heard almost nothing about Iraqi women, since such a discussion would call attention to the previous considerable gender parity in the affluent, secular Iraqi state.
117: Nancy Lindisfarne has written about this in more detail elsewhere, see Lindisfarne, 2013. In the same volume, see also Abou Zahab, 2013, Lindholm, 2013; Martin, 2013; Nichols, 2013.
118: Guardian, 2013, editorial of 13 May.
119: Dalrymple, 2013; Dorronsoro, 2005; Giustozzi, 2009; and see the interesting ethnography by Klaits and Gulmanadova-Klaits, 2006.
120: Dalrymple, 2012, 2103.
121: Though Pushtun men today dance the atan as if they still wore their hair in the waist-long dreadlocks of the 19th century!
122: Rico, 2007; Friedman, 2013.
124: Dworzak, 2003; Lindisfarne,1997.
125: Interestingly, in Khaled Hosseini’s (2003) pro-imperalist novel The Kite Runner, and the film of the same name, this founding myth is inverted, and the Taliban are portrayed as advocates of child abuse. For the traditional use of male child prostitutes at ruling class Afghan weddings, see Centlivres, 1992; Lindisfarne, 1997; and see Mahawatte, 2004.
126: The epidemiologists Roberts and Edwards, 2010, elegantly trace the connections between the oil, auto, and food industries, the culture of fear, and climate change.
127: Suzanne Moore, 2013b, makes this argument powerfully. This is the same process we now understand well from Abu Ghraib prison in Baghdad, and Baha Musa’s death in military custody in Iraq. “Failure” of the authorities on all sides has also been key in the Oxford child sex abuse ring case. One young woman ran away from care over a hundred times, and the police were repeatedly told what was happening by the victims themselves. To date, police officers in Oxford have refused to resign. See Blume and others, 2013; Laville, 2013; Laville and Topping, 2013; Hill, 2013a, 2013b.
128: Dowd, 2013.
129: For different approaches to rape in war, see Littlewood, 1997; Weaver, 2010.
130: Weaver, 2010, ppxiv-xvii.
131: Dowd, 2013.
132: Williams, 2013a.
133: Bracken, Giller and Kabaganda, 1992; Nottage, 2010; Mookherjee, 2008, and in press.
134: Miller, 2008. Our understanding of what was happening builds on Miller’s, but our emphasis in places is different from hers. For an example from the UK, compare Lees, 1986.
136: See Sanday, 2007: Lefkowitz, 1997; Turow, 2006. The case of Dominique Strauss-Kahn seems the exception that proves the rule. He was the head of the IMF and the Socialist favourite to be the next president of the French Republic. He was arrested in New York in 2011 over an alleged sex attack on Nafissatou Diallo, an immigrant hotel worker. “Charges of attempted rape, sex abuse, forcible touching, and unlawful imprisonment were eventually dropped,” following an out of court settlement for an undisclosed sum-Chrisafis, 2013. And see Bonnycastle, 2010, for rape by the powerless.
139: These points are also made by Rofel, 2007, in her brilliant analysis of the way “neoliberalism with Chinese characteristics” reconfigured gender in China. See also Rofel, 1999. Fincher, 2013, also looks at elite gendering in China and the effects of the new economic squeeze on the gendering of the working class.
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