Social Reproduction

In my series discussing capitalism and socialism, I want to discuss another Marxist idea: the social reproduction of labor.  Basically it refers to a collection of social activities needed to maintain a labor pool.  An introductory article (suggested by Coyote) has a good description of how social reproduction occurs:

1. By activities that regenerate the worker outside the production process and allow her to return to it. These include, among a host of others, food, a bed to sleep in, but also care in psychical ways that keep a person whole.

2. By activities that maintain and regenerate non-workers outside the production process–i.e. those who are future or past workers, such as children, adults out of the workforce for whatever reason, be it old age, disability or unemployment.

3. By reproducing fresh workers, meaning childbirth.

It may be noted that social reproduction is essentially unpaid labor, and is disproportionately performed by women.  Thus, social reproduction theory draws a connection between Marxist and feminist theory.

However, I would fault the introductory article for failing to offer any good explanatory narrative.  Why is social reproduction unpaid, as compared to more “ordinary” labor being merely underpaid?  “Capitalism”, “neoliberalism”, and “sexism” don’t cut it as explanations.  So in this post, I’m going to offer a basic explanatory narrative, based on externalized costs.

[Read more…]

I can’t take Slavoj Zizek seriously

cn: apologetics for sexual violence

I don’t know why, but YouTube keeps on recommending me videos about philosopher Slavoj Zizek.  For some reason as of late he has been held up as a great leftist thinker, the anti-Jordan Peterson.  No, seriously, he’s apparently planning to debate Jordan Peterson or something.  Hard pass.

Honestly, I hate the guy.  The first and only time I had cause to encounter Slavoj Zizek, was in relation to the controversy over Avital Ronell.  (I don’t feel like finding all the relevant links, so you’ll have to accept my own disjointed commentary and the links therein.)  Avital Ronell sexually harassed students for years, and when someone stepped forward, Slavoj Zizek was one of many academics signing a petition defending her, basically on the grounds that it would be such a shame if someone so important as Ronell were to face consequences.

The petition got leaked to the public, along with some rather damning evidence against Ronell, and many of the signatories (including Judith Butler) backed off.  Not Zizek!  He continued to defend Ronell in several editorials, claiming he was privy to additional evidence, that he refused to share.  I speculated that his “additional evidence” was that the victim reciprocated–which is irrelevant, the victim was coerced by the power imbalance.  Zizek later revealed that this was exactly his reasoning.

Sorry, I cannot take seriously a Marxist theorist, of all people, who cannot recognize a power imbalance right under his nose.  How can a professor who studies power be so ignorant of the sheer power that professors have over grad students?

I’m not enthusiastic about enthusiastic consent

In my guide to sexual violence terminology, I mention that “enthusiastic consent” is an unpopular model in ace communities. Why is that? And who else might have issues with it?

When I search for “enthusiastic consent”, the first result is Yes Means Yes (YMY), which emphasizes that consent is given “without manipulation, threats, or head games.” It’s a “whole body experience” and not just a verbal yes or no. It’s mutual and can be withdrawn at any time. I’m on board with all that stuff.

But when it comes to the “enthusiastic” part of enthusiastic consent, YMY describes it as both partners being mutually “excited”. And then it links to an old Feministing article, which talks about “the hotness of getting (and giving!) a ‘hell, yes!'” And here we have more of a problem. Because I can’t imagine ever literally shouting, “hell, yes!”

[Read more…]

On the obsession with penis size and race

cn: discussion of genitals, porn

PZ brought to my attention a “joke” where a comedian mocked the penis size of Asians. My emotional response to this joke is not offense, but rather concern and bemusement.

Concern, because this obsession with penis size sounds hazardous to your health. I would be very surprised if psychologists found that an obsession with penis size were not associated with mental health problems. It’s like if someone “jokingly” mocks another group for not getting smash drunk all the time.

Bemusement, because I knew in the abstract that many people care about penis size, but it still feels unreal. How does this cultural obsession even get transmitted between generations? It’s not a normal topic for kid’s television, or for conversations between parents and children. Are sex ed teachers directly telling kids about the importance of a good dick? Or maybe it mostly affects those souls so unfortunate as to enjoy “edgy” stand-up comics? Or maybe it comes from porn? Hmm, that last one might be the front runner.

As I was reflecting on this, I grew attached to the hypothesis that it’s mostly White people who care about penis size, and Asian people only care insofar as they’ve been affected by cultural imperialism and stereotyping. Of course, a hypothesis demands evidence, and this one is impossible to google. All I could find were think pieces talking about how racist the Asian stereotype is (no, duh).

[Read more…]

Against apologies

Disclaimer: This is not in response to any particular apology. This has been on my topics list for years.  Frustratingly, when I finally committed it to words, someone went and made a public apology, and I had to postpone this to avoid association.  So here we are.

The title, “Against apologies” can be interpreted in several ways, so I will clarify my meaning up front. There’s nothing wrong with people apologizing for things they’ve done wrong. There’s nothing wrong with accepting or rejecting those apologies. The thing I am complaining about, is when people demand public apologies, and then when the apology arrives, they pick out some small detail that they say shows the apology wasn’t really sincere. I think this is more often than not, a flimsy pretext to reject apologies no matter their content.

But I am not saying that we need to accept bad apologies.  Rather, I propose that if we’re going to reject an apology, then we don’t need to invent an excuse. For some kinds of wrongdoing, we may decide that no apology will ever be acceptable.  We should be unashamed to say so.

[Read more…]

Classifying sexual violence

Readers may recall earlier this year, when I wrote a practical guide to sexual violence terminology.

Now I’ve written another article, as part of the Ace Community Survey Team, explaining how sexual violence is classified by the CDC.  Go take a look.

Although the CDC’s definitions of sexual violence are publicly available in the NISVS report, few lay people would sift through over a hundred pages in order to find them. The lack of easily accessible information concerns us, because it deprives some victims of tools they need to understand their own experiences. The goal of this article is to explain the CDC categories and their use in the 2018 Asexual Community Survey.

Why TERFs are (sadly) feminists

I recently wrapped a little research project that involved reading about some early radical feminists from the 60s and 70s. I felt inspired by these people who were instrumental in putting reproductive rights and sexual violence on the map, expanding feminism beyond, e.g., taxes and employment.  But in the course of my research, I also discovered that some of them have endorsed TERF positions in recent times. This is all very disappointing, and any desire I had to admire these people fizzled out rather quickly.

And that reminded me of a little thing that bothers me, when people say that TERFs are not real feminists, or are pretending to be feminists.  I’ll grant that they are “bad” feminists.  But to say TERFs aren’t feminist is to sweep problems under the rug.

In general, I am wary of defining political identities in a way that restricts them only to “good” people. For example, if we define a “Christian” as someone who is morally righteous, compassionate and loving, then what happens when we find a Christian who isn’t? To say, “They weren’t a true Christian,” is to dodge all responsibility. Rather than addressing the fact that some Christians behave badly, it ignores it, denies the very possibility of a problem, and therefore denies the possibility of a solution.

To give another example, it is a common belief that all BDSM practice is a form of sexual abuse. In response, sometimes people define BDSM specifically in contrast to abuse–something that Coyote has written about. This definition goes too far, because it denies or minimizes the possibility of any abuse among kinky people. Declaring abusive doms to not be “true” doms makes it difficult to address abuse within kink communities.

[Read more…]