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May 1, 1975: The Feminist Fifty-One Percent Printer Friendly Version

The Feminist Fifty-One Percent

James Herod
May 1975

  The feminists are always throwing it up to men, in the many arguments, that women are fifty-one percent of the population. This was used again the other day on me to justify matriarchy, the dictatorship of women over men. They seem to think that since women constitute the majority that this gives them the right to make all the decisions. This claim leads to an interesting insight and perhaps to a clarification of the essence of hierarchy as opposed to democracy.

  The notion of majority, obviously, has meaning only if we are counting the votes. In the matriarchal feminist fantasy, however, the men do not vote. They are excluded from power. They are instead told what to do by the women (until they come to their senses, at least, or perhaps forever, since I doubt if feminists will ever admit that men have any sense).

  This enables us to see that the essence of hierarchy is not minority rule, as I have previously assumed, but exclusion. In the feminist image of revolution we have a dictatorship being conducted by a numerical majority, women, but it is still a dictatorship, just as the dictatorship of the proletariat (now a majority) would indeed be a dictatorship if the bourgeoisie and petty bourgeoisie were prevented from voting and working in councils. This also resolves my doubt about whether majority rule is hierarchical (involving as it does the imposition of the views of the majority on the minority by force). It obviously is (but with a difference, as we will soon see).

  The difference between dictatorship (whether by a numerical minority or a numerical majority) and democracy is that in a democracy everyone votes, including the minority. In fact you can't even speak properly of a minority until after the vote is taken. Thus in democracy, everyone participates in the arguments, deliberations, and choices that go into the formation of collective policies.

  Now, for the purposes of argument, let us assume that the would-be Amazon dictators do permit men to vote but that all 51% of the women vote as a single block on all issues and defeat the men by 2% (assuming also that the men vote as a block too). Is this dictatorship? If not, why not? If so, is there such a thing as democracy?

  It is well known of course that in real life voting quite often congeals around ethnic, religious, or racial lines. (So why not around sex lines?) Belgium is split between the Flemish-speaking and the French-speaking Belgians. Lebanon is divided between the Muslims, Christians, and Druze. Voting by representatives in the national assemblies, as well as popular votes in national elections, often split along these lines. Do the Christians exercise a dictatorship over the Muslims in Lebanon even though everyone votes? So what is going on here?

  Splits can obviously congeal just as easily around ideological lines as around what is sometimes called ascriptive characteristics such as race and sex. (Where then would ethnicity – language and culture – fit in in a democratic society?) The ascriptive (earned, assigned) distinction is not a happy one though. Nothing from Parsons and bourgeois theory is happy. People vote on the basis of their consciousness. If they see themselves as blacks, women, Christians, Flemish, or proletarian, and this is the key thing for them, then that's how they will vote. In other words, what counts is how they define themselves. There is in fact no ascriptive category. That's the old bourgeois objectivity sneaking in here. It is a matter of definition. My definition focuses on the fact that everyone is human. That is the central attribute for me. I include everyone who is human in the voting.

  But to return to the problem, if blacks and whites all vote together (with the blacks as a numerical minority), and the whites consistently vote in policies which the blacks claim are discriminatory, is this not dictatorship of whites over blacks? But who decides whether or not these policies are really biased? And besides, do all whites vote with whites, and do all blacks say the policies discriminate?

  I still feel that somehow this is a very different thing going on. When everyone votes it is fundamentally different than if some people are excluded from voting. If blacks vote but lose this is different than if they don't vote, even though it may in fact be the same policy that is imposed. But why?

  (1) Everyone has one vote. Hence there is a foundation of equality, but only as a human being, not as a particular racial, sexual, or ethnic group. For there to be equality between these categories as groups the votes would have to be weighted according to group size to balance it out, and this is obviously wrong.

  (2) There is an appeal to reasoning, to the arguments. (I want to say to consciousness, with the idea still lingering that this is in contrast to objective things like sex and race, but this is not quite right as I just showed. Sex and race are definitions, and hence are based on consciousness also. Maybe it is an argument then over which categories should be salient, sex and race or homo sapiens.

  (3) Maybe people won't vote along sexual, racial, or ethnic lines, but will judge the issue under debate by other criteria. This is where it becomes obvious that it is consciousness that is the deciding factor and not sex or race. Thus the fact that people do vote across the lines (of sex or race) destroys the myth of objectivity, the myth of an iron link between some supposed objective (ascriptive) attribute of the person (sex, race, intelligence, ethnicity, age, class) and how they think. Even class is obviously a definition. There are enormous arguments about who is in what class. The Marxists-Leninists think it is objective however. But what about something like sex? Is that a question of definition? Sure. There are people who reject any attempts to define themselves as male or female. They say they are neither. So even sex is not objective.

  This is the only conceivable meaning of the term rational – that people argue, debate, and decide things consciously, together. That is, they deal with the issue on the basis of consciousness. What I really want to say I think is that in councils people make decisions by examining the issues, the implication being that extraneous things like sex, race, age, IQ (if they are extraneous to the given issue) will be eliminated. But this is probably wrong. Who is to decide what is extraneous? If we were in a council right now, with feminists as the majority, there is no way that a person's biological sex could be eliminated as a factor in the decision on the grounds of its being extraneous.

  But if we are all sitting in one council arguing, each with one vote, there is the chance of changing people's minds and getting them on my side, or of them changing my mind and getting me on their side. Nevertheless, beliefs can be very hard things, certainly in the short run. There is no way for me to talk Don out of Christianity, Syd out of Marxism-Leninism, or Jil out of Feminism. Similarly, they will be singularly unsuccessful in turning me away from workers councils and direct democracy, unless of course they can show in a convincing way that it is wrong. (Am I swayed by arguments then whereas others aren't? Is this what I mean by rational, that the arguments are the decisive factor and not some fixed thing like sex or race, but the arguments, the case, the line of reasoning, the logic, the evidence, the soundness of the judgment. Am I really swayed by reason? Are others really fixed in their ideas?)

  At least in a voting arrangement in councils there is a built in appeal to argument. This is what takes place prior to the vote. People have to make up their minds how to vote, right? So maybe they will talk it over at least, however superficially. This is what distinguishes a democratic set up from a hierarchical one. In a hierarchy, whether of whites over blacks, men over women, bourgeoisie over proletarians, there need not be and often isn't any discussion or argument. (Except the rulers, if they are smart, will seek to co-opt, integrate, consult, win over, cajole, and otherwise secure voluntary compliance with the decisions. So there must be even here interaction between rulers and ruled, but it is a very different kind of interaction than what would take place between equals in a council.)