On the Abolition of Gender

By Folie à Deux

The following text is excerpted from FUSE Magazine 35-3 (July 2012). In order to read the full text, you can purchase the article below.

Introduction: The Dilemma of Identity

We refuse to set aside the oppression—both brutal and tacit—of queers, women of color, Trans* people, women, Black, brown, Asian-American, Chican@, Muslim, Indigenous, fags, dykes… as something to be dealt with later, after the revolution, and we refuse to treat these struggles as mere springboards for the more central and fundamental struggle of the proletariat. [1] These oppressions and violences are not derivative, secondary or epiphenomenal to the central class contradiction. There is no more opportunity to abolish patriarchy or racism within capitalism than there is opportunity to abolish class exploitation.

Because these oppressions are constantly denied, pushed aside, imagined as incidental; because we experience our conditions as intolerable in the present; because one attacks a structure from one’s location within it—for all these reasons we see a real and immediate need to organize around them. We need to establish autonomy so we can develop shared affinities as a basis for abolishing the relations of domination that make self-organization necessary. And yet, even as we do this, we want to be freed of the social relations that make us into women, queers, women of color, Trans*, &c. We want to be liberated from these categories themselves, but experience teaches us that the only way out is through.

We present here our reflections on the dilemma of identity and liberation. We suggest that communization theory, a tendency within the tradition of left or anti-state communism, offers us some tools for thinking through the seeming conflict between autonomy and abolition as approaches to our own liberation. Yet we also point to the limits of this theory as it currently exists, and show how we might draw upon feminist, queer and anti-racist theoretical and political traditions to begin the project of developing a more rigorous and complex theoretical framework.

Abolition

In our view, “woman” is not something to be saved or elevated. It is a relational category, one side of a binary that is necessarily hierarchical—man/woman. To be a woman is to be produced as an appropriable body; to be a man is to be produced as a gender that appropriates bodies, their activity and their time. [2] All biological definitions of man and woman are constructs which, if put under even the softest interrogation, prove to be forever porous, runny, inaccurate, insufficient, violent, coercive and ultimately tools of subordination.

Instead of biological answers, we must search for social and historical ones. What is gender distinction but a social relation in which men and women are produced and reproduced? Some have said that the relation between men and women is a class relation. We prefer to reserve the term class for the relation between surplus producers and surplus expropriators, but agree that the material basis of gender is a hierarchical one in which men have power. The definition of capitalists is those who own the means of production and exploit workers, and the definition of workers is those who must sell their labour in order to survive, for fear of otherwise being cast out onto the street to waste away. Similarly, the definition of men is those who appropriate women, and the definition of women is those who are appropriated by men.

This tells us two things: first, there is nothing to be salvaged in the gender binary, in the identity of women or men, because this binary is nothing but a hierarchical and violent social relation. Just as we do not want to remain proletarians, because this condition is fundamentally constituted through exploitation, we do not want to remain women. Second, we cannot step outside of gender, wish or will it away, through any individual or group act. The overcoming of the gender distinction will be the revolution, and until then we fight and struggle; however, we cannot overcome gender in little pockets, little communes, no matter the strength of our will. Thus we need the abolition of gender, rather than the equalization of gender (which is in fact a contradiction in terms, for gender is necessarily unequal), and that abolition will occur only through a real revolutionary upheaval, because no smaller social force will undermine the material conditions that produce the gender binary itself.

[...]

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Folie à deux is also known as shared psychotic disorder, a rare delusional disorder experienced by two or more people with close emotional ties. Most people diagnosed with folie à deux have been women, often sisters or close friends. The most famous of these were Christine and Léa Papin, French sisters who in 1933 murdered the bourgeois family who employed them as live-in maids. We are comrades with Hysteria. We believe in truth but not His truth.

 

NOTES:

[1] The asterisk has been used recently by some people at the end of Trans* to indicate the inclusion of transsexual, transgender, gender-nonconforming, gender-neutral, gender-queer, gender-variant, and other varying gender identities. It is insufficient, like all other possible denotations, but we are using it here.

[2] Appropriation is a term used by Marx to refer to the seizure of exchange- or use-values by those who did not produce them. It is used by the French communist group Théorie Communiste in their theory of gender to refer to the process by which men as a social group exercise control over and use for their own benefit the bodies and labour-power of women.

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