Goodbye to All That. Again.
Here's a pretty old post from the blog archives of Geekery Today; it was written about 18 years ago, in 2005, on the World Wide Web.
(Link thanks to Mark Dilley 2005-10-28.)
Hey, look, it’s another male Leftist pissing all over other social justice movements in order to demand attention for his pet cause!
Despite the vicious resistance of employers to unionizing, organizing is not only vital to the growth of unions but is imperative to their very survival. If unions do not wish to be some oddity studied in political science textbooks, unionists must be sent to every American workplace. Sad to say, not only is the future of American unions at stake but also the viability of American progressivism. Political discourse in this nation centers on social issues such as abortion and gay marriage, and there is a real paucity of debate on matters that actually impact the daily lives of Americans, such as the stunning loss of manufacturing jobs.
— Ephraim Harel, The Retriever (University of Maryland Baltimore County): Labor Unions in contemporary America: Down but not out
Meanwhile, in the daily lives of half the American population:
Half of all pregnancies to American women are unintended; half of these end in abortion.
In 2002, 1.29 million abortions occurred.
At current rates, about one in three American women will have had an abortion by the time she reaches age 45.
— Alan Guttmacher Institute: An Overview of Abortion in the United States
Now, it may very well be true that abortion has never actually impacted on Ephraim Harel’s daily life; but generalizing from his own case as a white male college student to a sweeping statement about what matters, and what doesn’t matter, to the daily lives of 260,000,000 men and women seems (even if he is doing it on behalf of his working-class brethren) more than a little arrogant, or more than a little thoughtless. Also, unfortunately, more than a little typical. I picked this quote out because I noticed it most recently, but the idea that abortion (just to take an example) is a merely
cultural issue that doesn’t affect the material lives of
ordinary Americans — and so ought to be played down, side-stepped, or ignored — has become all too popular in some segments of the
Progressive movement. (Hello, Kos.) It might just lead you to wonder who male
Progressives think of as
ordinary, and what they think that
culture is made of, if not of people’s daily lives. It might also leave you with the lingering impression that women’s
daily lives just don’t matter very much to some male Leftists.
In point of fact, Harel’s article is atypically sensible compared to most of the rest: he, at least, has got something in mind — aggressive labor organizing — that really could have an immediate impact for the better on the daily lives of a lot of women and men; and that really does — unlike, say, the electoral prospects of the Democratic Party, or Social Security (!), or government education (!!) — really get seriously neglected in the discussion by a lot of the educated-professional
Progressive Left. He’s perfectly right to call them to task for neglecting unionism; he’s perfectly right to call for large-scale, uncompromising and daring union organizing; and he’s perfectly right to bag on the union bosses of the AFL-CIO for acting as if they were running a PAC rather than an organized labor federation. (He’s wrong to suggest that the then-feared, now-accomplished split between union bosses is any kind of blow to the labor movement — solidarity comes from the bottom up; bureaucratic unity from the top down is just another corporate merger. But that’s another issue for another day.) Plenty of the things he says are worth saying, and not insisted on enough. But they are not worth insisting on at the expense of women’s struggle for control over their own bodies and their own lives. It’s long past time we said goodbye to all that.
It seems obvious that a legitimate revolution must be led by, made by those who have been most oppressed: black, brown, and white women–with men relating to that as best they can. A genuine Left doesn’t consider anyone’s suffering irrelevant, or titillating …
You can let Mr. Harel know what you think at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Robin Morgan (1970): Goodbye to All That (in Dear Sisters, pp. 53-57)
- Feministe 2005-09-10: Quiet war on abortion, plus Dems
- Pinko Feminist Hellcat 2005-06-01: I’m not going to carry your water
- TeresaInPa 2005-05-24: What you don’t understand about pro-choice women
- GT 2001-08-22: The Labor Movement and Women’s Organizing
Thank you for this post.
Exactly! Consider this my cyber-thumbs-up.
Alex Gregory /#
I agreed all the way until the final quote. Doesn’t it betray the same dismissiveness of racism that you accuse Mr. Harel of of sexism?
Rad Geek /#
In what way do you think Morgan’s statement is dismissive of racism?
(If you’ve read “Goodbye to All That,” you should know that it’s part of a larger quote about specifically white men’s control over the New Left …)
Alex Gregory /#
I’m certainly not aware of the context from which the quote was lifted (I’ve not read the book).
However, the emphasis on /women/ being oppressed seems to ignore the fact that many black, jewish, gay and other groups are just as if not more oppressed than white women.
(Just to make sure no-one misinterprets: I’m of course not saying that white women have not been (or are not) oppressed!)
I’m not sure I’ve explained that too well, but your main point appeared to be a warning against giving some forms of oppression priority over others (in some broad sense), which looks to me to be precisely what the final quote does. It says that those who would lead any revolutionary movement should be women: as though other forms of non-gender-based oppression is less bad than gender-based oppression.
Discussed at thebellman.org /#
Discussed at sourduck.blogspot.com /#