CHAPTER TEN

Women and gender:
Marx's narratives

Decentring Marx

At present Marx's record on these issues - sex and gender — looks much the same as that of any other (dead, white, male) social theorist. Neither sex nor gender is an especially important analytical category in his scheme of things, in his theoretical works or in his political activities. Nor is there any really extended discussion — however marginal or ancillary - of the topics that are most usually pointers to interests cognate with the ones that are today grouped together under headings such as these: family life, childhood, dependency, reproduction, sensual pleasure, 'the body', sexualities, and so on. This is not to say that Marx never mentioned these things, nor that he failed to remark on various 'fundamentals' which generally include these ideas and practices. Indeed, as will become evident below, he did have things to say. Rather that with the best will in the world, and whether reading 'with the grain' or against it, there are considerable difficulties in either adjudicating on Marx as an authority worth reading in, say, feminist theory or gender studies, or in simply finding material to cite that would constitute any very impressive contribution, one way or another, to contemporary debates.

This 'lack' is in itself grounds for considerable criticism. These criticisms range from fairly generous excuses for his evident 'gender-blindness' on grounds that few, if any of his (male) contemporaries did any better, to harsh rejections of virtually all of his work on grounds that

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