Bourgeois ideology has long presented us with a vulgar conception of gender which reduces the essence of what it “means” to be a man or woman to a rigid set of biological characteristics. Over the past few decades, a great deal of progress has been made in exposing this idea for what it is: a set of baseless myths meant to reinforce and ideologically justify the oppression of women in our society. Among other things, the way in which cultural ideas about gender impact development has been explored rather thoroughly, which renders empty the idea that gender differences are, in the final instance, determined by biology.

In place of the biological essentialist view of gender, more (nominally) progressive elements have put forward a theory which posits a dichotomy between gender and sex. Gender, it is argued, is socially constructed, something that is performed and enforced by society in accordance with conceptions of “masculinity” and “femininity”. Sex, on the other hand, is claimed to be “innate,” based on immutable biological factors. This view still upholds an essential “maleness” and “femaleness.” Males have penises, females have vaginas, females develop breasts and the ability to bear children, males do not, or so it goes, but it is acknowledged that gender expression may not be tied to these characteristics in a rigid way. This conception of sex as being distinct from gender can still be controversial in the popular discourse, but in academia, it is today somewhat mainstream.

While it is in some degree a step forward from older theories, the sex/gender dichotomy still leaves a lot to be desired. In reality, our bodies are quite complex and there is a wide degree of variance from person to person, yet we rigidly categorize our bodies into two classes. “Sex characteristics” form a continuum, and in order to place bodies in one of two categories, it will be argued that we necessarily make this categorization on the basis of gender conceptions. Both sex and gender are socially constructed, and they are interrelated. At the end of the day, the sex/gender dichotomy is part of patriarchal ideology, and it is an idea that we need to break with in favor of a theory which is revolutionary and Marxist in character. The purpose of the present article is to provide an initial counter to the idea that sex assignment is “just biology.” A properly Marxist theory of sex will be more thoroughly explored in part two.

Sex characteristics form a continuum

Primarily, there are five criteria that biologists look at when analyzing sex characteristics:

1. Chromosomes

In humans, there is a pair of chromosomes which help determine what we consider to be sex characteristics. Males are supposed to have the combination XY, and females are supposed to have the combination XX. The problem is that these are not the only two variations Others include XO (missing second chromosome), XXY, XYY, and XXXX. Moreover, even for those who have the more common pairs of “sex chromosomes,” these chromosomes do not affect everyone in the same way. Someone with the chromosomes XY can develop what we consider to be “female” sex characteristics if their body is much less sensitive to androgen than average, for example.

2. Gonads

Gonads are reproductive organs. Males are supposed to have testes, and females are supposed to have ovaries. However, one’s gonads can sometimes “conflict” with other sex characteristics. For example, one can have ovaries but have a penis, or have a vagina and testes, or one can have both ovaries and testes. It is difficult to say with precision how often these “intersex” cases happen, because instances of this are often immediately erased upon birth with “corrective” surgeries and hormone treatments. But occurrences along these lines are far from insignificant.

3. Genitals

Males are supposed to have penises, and females are supposed to have vaginas. As already mentioned though, people with penises can have ovaries and/or vaginas also, people with vaginas can have testes and/or penises also, etc. And once again, these instances are often immediately “corrected” upon birth through surgery, etc. Despite this, with the limited data we do have, we can give an order of magnitude estimate of the number of those who don’t fit into the sex binary in these first three categories (chromosomes, gonads, and genitalia). Some combination of “abnormality” in these first three categories affects in the order of tens to hundreds of millions of people world-wide.

4. Secondary sex characteristics

Males are supposed to develop deeper voices, grow facial hair, develop stronger upper-body muscles, etc. while females are supposed to develop higher voices than males, develop breasts, have more “curves” (i.e. narrower waist, wider hips), etc. There is however an incredible amount of variation and overlap here. There are plenty of people assigned male of have higher voices than some assigned female, who develop breasts and even lactate, and there are plenty of people assigned female who develop facial hair, more upper-body strength than assigned males, broader shoulders, and so on.

5. Hormones

“Each” sex is supposed to have certain hormone patters. For example, males are supposed to be higher in androgen, while females are supposed to be higher in estrogen. However, there is more variation in hormone patterns within “each” sex than there is between the sexes.

When we consider all five of these criteria, it becomes clear that a majority of humanity does not fit neatly into the “male” and “female” classifications. Having all “male” characteristics in each of the five categories, or having all “female” characteristics, are two extremes, but there are a great number of people who fall somewhere in between. In other words, there is clearly a continuum of sex characteristics that people can express. Yet, in society, people are classified rigidly into one or the other categories, “male” or “female.” How is this carried out?

Sex assignment is based on gender

[A quick note: what follows holds true for western societies generally, but the process of sex assignment may differ between cultures. The general point to be drawn from this is universal though, i.e. that sex is as socially constructed as gender and the two are fundamentally interrelated.]

The process of sex assignment begins before we are born. Parents hold the assumption that their child will be “one or the other,” and this affects how they will treat any perceived “abnormality” their child exhibits upon birth and throughout the child’s life. Modern ultrasound technology even allows parents the potential to become aware of the child’s genitalia during prenatal development, which of course already solidifies in the parents’ minds what the “sex” of their child will be. And of course, the parents’ ideas about the sex of their child are fundamentally intertwined with social conceptions of gender.

But one of the most important moments in the sex assignment process happens in the first hours after birth. The case of those considered “intersex” can be illustrative here. Suppose a child is born in a western country who has ovaries on the inside, but a penis on the outside. Alternatively, suppose a child is born with labia and a vagina, but also with testes (once again, these cases are not so uncommon; intersex individuals account for around 2% of all births, and in some regions of the world this rate is considerably higher). The first thing that typically happens is that this situation is declared to be a medical emergency. Think about this for a second. Intersex “conditions” present few if any health risks. There is of course a social stigma associated with any appearance of not fitting rigidly into one of the two sex classes. Yet there is also a social stigma associated with being gay, and we don’t consider homosexuality a “condition” or a “disorder” that needs to be medically treated. Moreover, the treatments used to “correct” intersex characteristics sometimes carry substantial risks, and the long-term effects they have are still relatively ill-researched. The motivation behind “correcting” intersex characteristics is thus not one related to the health of the child, it is entirely one of enforcing the sex binary. Any variance from the rigidly defined “male” and “female” classes is an emergency that must be snuffed out as soon as possible.

The way in which “corrections” are made is also telling. Consider for example this quote from Patricia K. Donahoe (a well-published and frequently read authority on pediatric surgery) et al. on “intersex abnormalities”:

Genetic females should always be raised as females, preserving reproductive potential, regardless of how severely the patients are virilized [i.e. even if they are born with a penis, for example – F.B.]. In the genetic male, however, the gender assignment [sic] is based on the infant’s anatomy, predominantly the size of the phallus.[1]

In the case of a child with ambiguous sex characteristics but who has ovaries, they will usually be assigned the female sex regardless of other characteristics, largely due to the fact that the individual can theoretically bear children later in life. In other words, the reduction of “female” to “child-bearer”, clearly a manifestation of gender, is what ultimately makes the decision in these cases. A child who has ovaries and/or is “genetically female” has any “non-female” sex characteristics erased and their anatomy restructured so that they can properly fulfill the role of “child-bearer.”

On the other hand, in the case of a child who, for example, has a vagina but also has testes (and/or is “genetically male”), the assignment of sex is typically based on the size of the phallus (whether it is a clitoris or a penis, or is ambiguous). After all, according to the dominant view, “males” should be able to pee standing up and be able to penetrate a vagina with their phallus (!), so if an individual’s anatomy fits those criteria (even loosely), the individual is generally assigned “male,” and any “non-male” characteristics are surgically removed or hormonally treated. In these cases too, ideas about gender are what largely determines the sex assignment in situations where the anatomy does not fit into the rigid binary. Anne Fausto-Sterling on the subject:

The worries of male gender choice are more social than medical. Physical health is usually not an issue, although some intersexed babies might have problems with urinary tract infection, which, if very severe, can lead to kidney damage. Rather, early genital surgery has a set of psychological goals. Can the surgery convince parents, caretakers, and peers—and, through them, the child him/herself—that the intersexual is really a male? Most intersexual males are infertile, so what counts especially is how the penis functions in social interactions—whether it “looks right” to other boys, whether it can “perform satisfactorily” in intercourse. It is not what the sex organ does for the body to which it is attached that defines the body as male. It is what it does vis-a-vis other bodies…

Deciding whether to call a child a boy or a girl [or male or female — F.B..], then, employs the social definitions of the essential components of gender. Such definitions, as the social psychologist Suzanne Kessler observes in her book Lessons from the Intersexed, are primarily cultural, not biological.[2]

phalometrics[Artist: Alyce Santoro, drawn for Fausto-Sterling’s book.[3]]

Of course, parents also play a significant role. They are the ones who must ultimately make the decision to have surgeries and other treatments carried out if their child does not visibly fit into the sex binary. Parents also help enforce the sex categorization of children as they grow up. But what specific actions are on the table to be decided upon by parents are determined by doctors, and doctors routinely refrain from giving parents all of the information. Characteristics which conflict with a male or female sex assignment are routinely framed by doctors are “incomplete” or “not fully developed” and thus they must be removed. So parents rarely get the entire picture. This is not to suggest that this is an evil conspiracy on the part of doctors. The issue is that doctors really believe that there are “two sexes,” which informs their practice. And this idea is fundamentally a product of the patriarchal, bourgeois ideology which dominates our society. This is of course to say nothing of how this conception gets reinforced at every level of society generally.

We have focused thus far on those whose anatomy varies from the sex binary in the first three aspects of “sex”—chromosomes, gonads, and genitalia. This is because looking at society’s categorization of intersex people into one of the two rigid sex classes makes the fact that sex is a social construct fundamentally intertwined with gender very obvious. We should remind ourselves, though, that if we expand our analysis to look at all five aspects of “sex,” a majority of people do not fit neatly into the “male” or “female” class in all five areas. Even among those born with one of the two most common combinations of “sex chromosomes,” and those who have both “male” gonads and genitalia, or both “female” gonads and genitalia, there is a great deal of variation. A child born with XX chromosomes and a vagina, uterus, and ovaries may yet grow up and develop some “male” characteristics, for instance. Yet this person is still classified by society at birth as “one or the other.”

If anything should be taken from this, it is that human bodies are extremely complex, and it is far too simplistic to consider there to be an essentially “male body” or essentially “female body.” Moreover, our ideas about what constitutes a “male” or “female” body are, in the final instance, rooted in  the gender division and the ideology produced by that division. People are assigned “male” or “female” to the extent that it is perceived their anatomy allows them to fit into, even if only theoretically, the roles assigned to men and women.

Transmisogyny and the sex/gender dichotomy

One thing that the sex/gender dichotomy (to remind ourselves—the idea that gender is socially constructed but sex is “innate”) ostensibly allows for is a theory of what it means to be transgender. The liberal theory is that trans women have “male bodies” but by gender are women, while trans men have “female bodies” but are men by gender.

This view, like the sex/gender dichotomy generally, leaves a lot to be desired. In particular it leaves in tact justifications for transmisogyny—hatred of trans women, the ideological product and justification of the structural oppression of trans women. This is not to imply that trans men face no hardships or that they benefit from the current structure to the same extent cis men do. However, trans men are often able to largely assimilate into what tends to be called “male privilege” (a topic for another article, perhaps). Thus, we will focus herein primarily on how the sex/gender dichotomy can ideologically justify the oppression of trans women.

It is often claimed that, while trans women may present as women, they still have “male bodies.” As we have discussed already however, this is a nearly meaningless statement. There really is no such thing as an essentially “male body” (given the wide variance in sex characteristics between bodies which are classified by society as “male”). All the assignment of “male” at birth tells us is that within the first few hours of neonatal life (and in most cases the first few minutes), an individual was assigned to the “male” category based on the perceived potential of their anatomy to perform masculine gender, a rather arbitrary thing. To say someone has a “male body” does not necessarily tell us anything in particular about the person in question apart from the above.

And yet, the fact that trans women were designated to have “male bodies” at birth is used as ammunition against trans women. It is argued that, because they have “male bodies,” trans women have some sort of structural power over other women. This is, to put it bluntly, a laughable claim in light of all the evidence to the contrary. But this argument has a great deal of sway in our society, in large part because of the widespread notion that sex is innate and immutable.

To argue that trans women are in reality perceived as men and are thus beneficiaries of patriarchy is patently ridiculous. Even a cursory analysis of the facts demonstrates that this line of reasoning is vacuous. Trans women suffer homelessness and unemployment at double the average rates, and a frightening number (around half) have attempted suicide. They are lumpenized (i.e. locked out of the economy) at a high rate and as a result are often pushed into avenues where patriarchy rears its head most viciously. More crucially, transmisogynists are unable to cite any material way in which a trans woman’s assigned sex at birth could lead them to be treated in practice as “men” during and after transition. Many trans women are intersex, and may visibly have both “male” and “female” sex characteristics. Trans women who undergo hormone therapy (a majority of trans women in the west) will develop “female” secondary sex characteristics. Trans women who undergo puberty blocking at young age will never develop “male” secondary sex characteristics. But even in cases where none of these things apply, can we really say that trans women benefit from patriarchy? Trans women who “pass” are perceived as women, with all that that implies. Trans women who do not “pass” are clearly not treated as even remotely equal with men. In fact, they are treated almost as a separate gender class, and one which is effectively locked out of the economy at rates far higher than any other.

There is also the argument that, before their transition, trans women receive “male socialization,” and that this contributes to trans women’s structural power over other women. Once again, there is no evidence that this structural power exists, and in fact all evidence points to the contrary. But on a purely conceptual level, this notion also has problems. Transmisogynists tend to be vague about what they mean by “male socialization” or how it functions when it comes to trans women. It is of course undeniable that, upon the assignment of male at birth, the attempt is made by society to socialize the child in accordance with their expected social role as “boy.” Moreover, boys and men are socialized in a way that reinforces patriarchy. But to conceive of “male socialization” automatically begetting “man-ness” and in turn male privilege is deterministic. People must internalize the socialization society attempts to bestow on themmust act on the world as boys and men, and must be perceived as boys and men in order to receive the benefits of patriarchy. To say that society was successful in its attempt to socialize trans women as boys and men is thus problematic. At the end of the day, supposed “male socialization” obviously does not stop trans women from transitioning. And once they do transition, it is quite obvious that trans women are not in any position where they have structural power over other women, as already mentioned. So there is reason to be highly skeptical of the “male socialization” argument as well.

Ultimately, the belief that trans women have access to the benefits of patriarchy is based on a metaphysical view of gender, which takes the presence or lack of certain genitalia as a basis for a “real” gender, existing outside of actually observable social relations and material reality, yet still somehow affecting the contours of gender oppression. This theory is thoroughly anti-materialist and frankly bogus, yet it is allowed to carry more weight than it is due because sex is considered to be innate and immutable. Revealing sex as a socially constructed concept inexorably interwoven with gender would be a major step forward toward combating the ideological justifications for the oppression of trans women.

Of course, the sex/gender dichotomy is part of an ideology that is a product of and a justification for patriarchy, a structural relationship which is oppressive to all women. To argue this in detail however will require a historical materialist analysis.

Toward a Marxist understanding of sex

Readers may note that thus far, there has not been anything particularly Marxist about our analysis. What we have done however is illustrate that current conceptions of sex and gender are inadequate, and that there is a gap to be filled by a Marxist theory. It was necessary to lay this groundwork. Now we can turn to the following questions: how do we understand sex categorization from the perspective of historical materialism? How does sex as a construct play into patriarchal relations and, crucially, the relations of production? These questions deserve their own article, so they will be tackled in part two.

– Freya B.


1. P.K. Donahoe, D.M. Powell, et al. “Clinical management of intersex abnormalities,” Current Problems in Surgery, 28, no. 8 (1991): 513-570,

2. Anne Fausto-Sterling, Sexing the Body: Gender Politics and the Construction of Sexuality, (New York: Basic Books, 2000), 58.

3. Ibid, 59.

Join the conversation! 16 Comments

  1. Hi Morton, thank you for your article.
    In case you haven’t red Shulamith Firestone’s “The dialectic of sex” yet, I really recommend it for you “second part”…
    Of course, her thoughts are linked to a situation back in the late 60th and thus seem a bit polemic at times. However, I find her ideas for an alternative concept of society (including reproduction-matters) quite inspiring (especially if you are honoring Marx, critical theory and the Frankfurter School).
    All the best!

  2. I recently came across this paper, which is very relevant: “The end of gonad-centric sex determination in mammals

  3. Astonishing work. If the majority of humanity does not fit neatly into these bourgeois socially constructed so-called “biological sexual categories”, then what are we to make of cis privilege? How can be transform this deconstruction of so-called biology into a revolution praxis? Are non-dualistic sexual/gender identities like transexualism a necessary prerequisite for revolutionary subjectivity in the fullest sense?

    • “Are non-dualistic sexual/gender identities like transexualism a necessary prerequisite for revolutionary subjectivity in the fullest sense?”

      No, and if we were to define revolutionary subjects on this sort of basis, then we might be forced to conclude that the only full revolutionary subjects are Afrikan trans women in Somalia, or something like that.

      What we hold is that men in general must be aware of how they benefit from gender oppression and must actively work to abolish their own position (that being one of dominance in the patriarchal system). We also resolutely support the struggles of all women to achieve liberation, including trans women. This article serves as a starting point to talk about how the category of sex itself is a product and a fundamental part of patriarchy.

  4. […] “But one of the most important moments in the sex assignment process happens in the first hours after birth. The case of those considered “intersex” can be illustrative here. Suppose a child is born in a western country who has ovaries on the inside, but a penis on the outside. Alternatively, suppose a child is born with labia and a vagina, but also with testes (once again, these cases are not so uncommon; intersex individuals account for around 2% of all births, and in some regions of the world this rate is considerably higher). The first thing that typically happens is that this situation is declared to be a medical emergency. Think about this for a second. Intersex “conditions” present few if any health risks. There is of course a social stigma associated with any appearance of not fitting rigidly into one of the two sex classes. Yet there is also a social stigma associated with being gay, and we don’t consider homosexuality a “condition” or a “disorder” that needs to be medically treated. Moreover, the treatments used to “correct” intersex characteristics sometimes carry substantial risks, and the long-term effects they have are still relatively ill-researched. The motivation behind “correcting” intersex characteristics is thus not one related to the health of the child, it is entirely one of enforcing the sex binary. Any variance from the rigidly defined “male” and “female” classes is an emergency that must be snuffed out as soon as possible.” (source) […]

  5. My friend Pat sent me here to read this article. I write as a trans woman who has endured much pain but has never given up. We must stand up and be unafraid. Thank you for finally speaking truth to cis power and the tyranny of so-called “biology”.

    I am a teaching assistant at CUNY where we share our stories in the hopes through a safe and open process we generate deeply radical answers to the problems we face. I plan to use this article in in a class I teach. I eagerly await part 2. I have been parousing this provocative blog. I must admit I have mixed feelings. I get the sense there is an undercurrent of cis privilege even here. Safe spaces are not a privilege but a human right even in cyberspace. More attention needs to paid here.

    This is the real question – Can one be anti-imperialist or revolutionary in the fullest sense without actively breaking down bourgeois cis-privileged imposed so called “biological sexual” binaries? If we do not break from the tyranny of so-called “biology” do not we just re-inscribe that very imperialism we seek to challenge? I feel everything about identity, lifestyle, and even language itself must be transformed if we are really to transform this world. I would like to hear your views on these topics in part 2 if possible. I believe you have broken new ground here.

    • I’m glad you enjoyed the article. Part two is slow-going. There is some literature on this topic already but not a ton, and virtually none from a Marxist perspective. So, this is somewhat new ground. We have published an article just today that does somewhat expand on things talked about here:

      To address a couple of things:

      “Can one be anti-imperialist or revolutionary in the fullest sense without actively breaking down bourgeois cis-privileged imposed so called “biological sexual” binaries?”

      I fully agree with your implication that the answer to this question is no.

      “I feel everything about identity, lifestyle, and even language itself must be transformed if we are really to transform this world.”

      I don’t disagree, yet we must also remember what is producing transmisogyny and misogyny generally in the first place. As Marxists, we locate this in the economic base of society. It is not a bad thing to reform ourselves, i.e. through changing our thoughts and practices now. Yet, without overthrowing the very root of patriarchy sourced in productive relations (and capitalism has arisen with patriarchy engrained deeply within it), misogyny will continue to be reproduced. Often, and especially in academia, addressing the things you talked about—language, identity, lifestyle—is posited effectively as a replacement for forcibly overthrowing the extant social order. This is not to say that we should not address these things but we must remember that without violently overthrowing patriarchy and capitalist-imperialism, we won’t really be changing anything in the long run.

      I also must express some skepticism in the framework of privilege, as opposed to looking at things at terms of contradictions, and trying to find which contradictions are fundamental to the operation of capitalism today. Privilege theory can be useful in some contexts but I think it is incomplete. For example, conceiving of things in terms of cis privilege vs. trans oppression blurs the fact that trans men are men, and they are so ultimately because they systematically enjoy a position of dominance over women in general. The concept of intersectionality attempts to address these sorts of concerns but also has its limitations as it tends not to be able to explain how various oppressions are produced and reproduced, and thus fails to really get to what we must do to really overcome them. Needless to say, we think Marxism is a far superior framework to understand these things.

      Having said all that, I appreciate your comment. is committed to putting a greater focus on the struggle for the liberation of all women as we go forward.

  6. […] feminism: a proletarian feminism. This work builds upon a materialist analysis of sex as a social construct (more available here), which is essential reading before you continue. For those unaware of […]

  7. This article is one which is relevant to the discussion. Trans people experience both genders. Thus they are uniquely positioned to understand gender oppression. They have lived lives where society perceives them within both sides of the binary. I am a transwoman who is new to Maoist-Third Worldism. Since transitioning I see the cis-het-patriarchy much more clearly than before. Does the author or commentators have any comments on this from a Maoist-Third Worldist perspective?

    • I am no expert but can I add two cents? I think I am beginning to understand the perspective better after studying Maoism (Third Worldism).

      Allow me to preface this with a statement on my choice of style. I used the old Chinese spellings because it was the revisionists who introduced the newer spellings. If you notice M-L-Maoists in the oppressed nations almost without exception use the old spellings. This is a protest against revisionism at the level of language. I am often very skeptical when I see people who choose to use the revisionist spellings. It is not like the revisionist spelling are any more helpful to foreign pronunciation. “Mao ZEDONG” is not any more accurate than “Mao Tse-tung”. Certainly this is no issue to split over but it is a matter of good taste in my view to stick it to the revisionists when ever and where ever we can. The Chinese translators never wrote “Zedong” while Mao, Lin, or the Gang of Four were in power. It seems a little disrespectful to choose the revisionist spellings.

      I shall continue. Mao Tse-tung’s onto-epistemological claim that we can only know the pear by tasting the pear, the criterion of practice. This is the starting point of Mao’s dialectics.

      Ask yourself this : Who has experienced the most gender roles, gender identities? Who has experienced life as the most genders and the most sexualities? Those of us who have been multiple genders, sometimes both oppressor and oppressed, male and female and everything between and outside the spectrum, have a unique perspective. We have seen it from all sides. We have tasted not only the pear but the whole fruit stand. Sexuality is like this to.

      Dialectics is about understanding from contraries and the resolution into sublating a synthesis. Because of our unique multiple perspectives, we who have changed our gender or sexuality, have a more scientific and dialectical outlook that a cis person cannot have by definition. We have seen the white-cis-het-pat from many angles. We, and not to offend, only we have the unique ability to comment on these topics in a dialectic and scientific way.

      Haven’t you noticed how trans people are at the vanguard of the feminist-gender-sexual struggle today. Cis women are no longer in the vanguard. They may have been the vanguard before, but now history leaves them behind. TERFs are like socialists who can’t keep up with the times and end up in the MRA camp. Maybe they were progressive or part of the vanguard before but they are left behind now. This has to do with the proliferation of transsexuality and queerness. We are now out of the closet and taking our role as the leaders of the revolutionary feminist-gender-sexual struggle. It is is a way our right to lead here, just as only New Afrikans can really lead their community. A white can’t lead blacks because a white can’t taste the pear as Mao said and have true dialectical knowledge. And a cis, even a woman, can’t lead the feminist struggle.

      If there was a white organization that claimed to lead New Afrikans, it would correctly be called out by every true anti-imperialist. And if there is a cis organization (or person) who claims to lead trans, queers, and women, it should be equally derided as white-cis-pat chauvinist.

    • I’m not so sure. Unless you have exceptionally good memory and reflective skills, I don’t think an experience [pre-transition gendered experience in this case] is terribly useful for aiding theoretical understanding if you weren’t socially conscious when experiencing it. Given that the general queer experience is of only gaining social consciousness after coming out, the useful pre-transition gendered experience for trans people will be limited in most cases.

      Additionally, the day-to-day gendered experience that the article talks about isn’t useful for understanding gender oppression, not anymore. Trans people may have been uniquely and usefully positioned (to some degree) when feminist theory was still in its infancy, but feminism has been around for hundreds of years now, and we’ve moved past the stage of conducting basic investigation into what it’s like to be a woman or man in daily life.

      • With all respect, I do not concur. The daily life experiences give important insight into how power works at the micro and phenomenological level – at the level of the body. Too often this is ignored in Marxian and liberal generalizations. Without thoroughly understanding the microdynamics of power, as Foucault began to look out, Marxism becomes cut off from reality. It becomes an idealism much as liberalism. Mao’s comment may seem simple, but it is very profound. Microdynamics is a side of the dialectic, this is what he means about knowledge beginning in the concrete and moving to the abstract. It is not all there is, but it is a very important aspect that some simply will never truly understand because they are cis or white or whatever the case may be.

        (I do not mean to change topics but there are those who claim that Mao himself did not limit himself to heterosexual relations. The Passion of Mao film explores the accounts of Mao’s queer relations. It could be all made up but it would not surprise me if the greatest revolutionary leader of the past century was queer but the system couldnt handle it, even the socialist system. Just saying.)

      • I wasn’t disagreeing with the epistemology put forward by Mao, my point was that we’ve been in the imperialist stage of capitalism for over a hundred years, and there’s no longer any debate about the concrete experience of patriarchy, not really. The current debate has mostly moved on from the concrete and into the abstract. Althought I disputed to some degree the view that trans people are uniquely positioned to understand the concrete, it’s kind of a moot point because, as far as I can see, the concrete has been pretty much covered already. Barring a change in the material conditions, I don’t see a groundbreaking insight into the the concrete coming from anyone.

  8. It is permissible to tell you I am working with the Institute for Research on Women and Gender in a research capacity but I still need to protect my job which is not always as forward looking as you might think. Universities are bourgeois under capitalism, even if some departments give you more room to articulate a radical view, it still has to be somewhat disguised. That is good ole U. of Michigan. I have been familiarizing myself with this and similar work but I am having problem finding other work on this topic. Can you please point me in the right direction besides what you have offered in your bibliography. twould help me so much if you could give us an idea about when part two of your paper would be done so that I can know if I can reference it in my own work before it is due. Is there going to be a part three? Any idea about that. Good work, I really like the forcefullness of your thesis. It’s something we need to really get behind.

  9. To be blunt,

    It is this kind of article that makes me think there is still hope for the revolutionary left in the first world. It is good to see an organization that is not afraid to have actual members of the oppressed in their leadership. Too many – and I do mean WAY too many – of these left preacher-man cults claim to represent the oppressed but then don’t even have any oppressed as leaders: How can anyone seriously expect the oppressed to follow you if your organization is led by anglos or cis-het identity? Listen up: The emancipation of the oppressed will be led by the oppressed themselves. SELF-activity. We don’t need your superman help. This is simply one of the best web sites of the revolutionary left because clearly there is a leading role played by trans-queer identity. Oppressed are taking the reigns. Much love, sisters.

  10. thankyou verymuch comrade! brilliant article


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Feminism, Theory


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