Notes Toward a Marxist Theory of Gender [II]

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It is clear that a Marxist understanding of gender is based upon the historical development of the family unit. It is important to note that this development is not unilateral.

Throughout history, there are numerous instances & records of gender identities & social roles outside of binary. For example, the 2-Spirit people of the Americas, the Hijra in India, the “sekhet” in ancient Eygpt – etc. As a set of formative notes – a preamble, at best – it is unnecessary to discuss the historical development of each, in turn. However, it must be noted that specifically the imposition of Western Colonialism is responsible for the destruction of gender plurality across vast stretches of the earth. The reification of the gender binary requires a swift delineation, “Othering” & violence toward conceptions outside of its sphere. In connection with Colonial rule, the suppression of indigenous culture (as the potential locus for a praxis of resistance) is certainly connected to the suppression of genders.

Equally, an examination of these historical genders places our understanding beyond the idea of a “3rd Gender”, in-between the gender binary of man & woman. In Mesoamerica, the prehispanic societies of the Maya, the Olmec & the Aztec understood gender in a manner clearly divorced from this binary conception: ‘gender was a fluid potential, not a fixed category, before the Spaniards came to Mesoamerica. Childhood training and ritual shaped, but did not set, adult gender’. (Rosemary A. Joyce, Gender and Power in Prehispanic Mesoamerica (Austin, Texas: University of Texas Press, 2000).)

Equally important to note is that these genders also played important roles within their societies, as an assignation of gender. The 2-Spirit people were traditionally story-tellers, healers or other forms of tradition keeper. (Zachary Pullin, ‘Two Spirit: the Story of a Movement Unfolds‘,  Native People’s Magazine (May-June, 2014).) Ergo, they played the role of enforcing certain forms of behaviour, certain patterns in life – in essence, ideological leadership.

We can understand from this that gender arose from the social division of labour; it serves certain socio-economic purposes.


NotePart I

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