Catriona Grant explains why the fight for liberation must include the struggle against our emotional internalisation of constraints and beliefs

Linda Gibson’s article in the first Emancipation and Liberation enthralled me. She was able to eloquently express many of my thoughts and feelings. It has often perplexed and confused me why Marxists are meant to be without emotion.

The 70’s gave us the slogan from the Feminist movement The Personal is Political which is, I believe, correct. It is our own personal consciousness that brings us to political consciousness and hopefully to a collective consciousness. It is our feelings, thoughts and processes that bring us to the political act, to ignore this means an unbalanced approach to our politics.

Linda expresses a concern of mine. In the quest for women’s equality, why do we aspire to be equal to what men are? Overwork, stress, alienation from themselves, family and friends, violence, going to war, being the management class. I have no aspiration to be equal to the paltry gains men have made, however, I do fight for women to have the right to equal pay, equal representation, equal position in the work place. The material inequalities between men and women are not perceived inequalities but very real ones. Women still earn only 80% of men’s wages, 68% when overtime is taken into consideration and only 50% of women’s wealth when investments, savings and pensions are taken into consideration.

I empathise with Linda, to be equal to men as men currently are – for me would be frightening. As Marxists we fight for liberation not equality, equality however is on the journey to full emancipation. Being equal wage slaves makes us only equal wage slaves. Those with less have the right to want as much as those who have more.

Class society depends on the oppression of women, the creation of the family that places the woman as the wife, mother or daughter but also the alienation and oppression of men too. Class society has manipulated our life styles, our family structures, our beliefs and even our emotions. Our emotions are what drive us, some emotions are very basic and some very complex – many years in a psychotherapist’s chair would still not explain the feelings we have and why we react the way we do.

There has been much debate and discussion about the nature of men and women whether, we learn our behaviour or whether it is innate within us. There are many traits that may be biologically male or female traits and/or behaviours and there are, without doubt, behaviours that men and women have developed through the world around us. It seems a maze to work out what happens because of our sex or gender. But can we perceive a time in human history where gender would not exist and sex would be a biological state only?

Our emotional development starts at the time of birth; we are brought up to be strong, brave boys or nice, pretty girls. If it was only done so starkly we could fight against it much more easily. However, the messages are so strong and relentless that sometimes, even when we know some of our reactions to some things are wrong, we still have the feelings anyway. Class society brings the majority of us up to believe that we are not bright, articulate, good looking, worthy and we internalise our disappointments, our knocks and blows to believe that we are stupid, unworthy, daft, ugly, not worth listening too etc. As Linda says we internalise our own oppression so we believe that it is part of us not that it is external forces around us.

Being emotional usually means becoming upset, sometimes crying; it is often seen as a negative thing to be – seen as behaving unpolitically. Yet being strong, sometimes blunt and not taking care of how we speak is seen as being strong, leading by example. We have bought into the bourgeois way of thinking and feeling when we express our politics through an emotional void.

Weeping can be healing and an expression of how we feel but it is also a learned response from the world we live in. Like Linda, I argue for neither one set of emotions over another. Our struggle for equality is not for women to share in the spoils of capitalism and to be alienated alongside men nor for men to feel and be like women. Neither men nor women can express themselves fully because the world around us does not give us permission to do so; our alienation makes us feel less than we are.

Without women struggling alongside men as equal partners in the struggle then the struggle will always be unbalanced. In a socialist sense, we do not ask men to compensate women for past wrongs but ask that women can be equal to men in order that they can fight together. Perhaps we may never be truly liberated. However, we can fight for our liberation not just from wage slavery and class society but also from our emotional internalisation of constraints and beliefs that make us less than free.

1 Comment