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Jun 3, 2016

Rundle: how radical gender theory hijacked Marxism — and why we need to get it back

As the conditions of material economic revolution have faded, social and cultural struggles have come to the fore. And that's the problem.

Guy Rundle — Correspondent-at-large

Guy Rundle


“Don’t you see the rest of the country looks upon New York like we’re left-wing, communist, Jewish, homosexual pornographers? I-I-I-I think of us that way sometimes and I live here.”
— Woody Allen, Annie Hall

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44 thoughts on “Rundle: how radical gender theory hijacked Marxism — and why we need to get it back

  1. susan winstanley

    give this man a toaster
    imma gonna have to read this again later
    including the stuff in the brackets

  2. johncanb

    What a brilliant piece by the Guy! I didn’t understand why I was feeling uncomfortable about some aspects of the Safe Schools program, but now it is clear. And more importantly I now understand better the relationship between the biological and cultural spheres in a post-capitalist society.

  3. Richard Winzor

    I have a big problem with the debate around Safe Schools in that all the criticism is directed at the ideological and philosophical underpinning of the program rather than the outcome it seeks to create, school environments where kids who aren’t straight don’t have to hide their sexual orientation or be bullied incessantly if they are out in the open. As great as this piece was, I do feel that its removed from how the program is being implemented in schools. Such programs are conversations and exercises in empathy with students not lecturing from the pulpit on how Marx says your identity and every part of you is arbitrary.

  4. AR

    Stunning exegesis from grundle. Despite nearly 3,500 words it read more fluently, cogently and quickly than the sort of thing MzRaz wishes she could understand, never mind write.
    Definitely deserves saving as a doc. for subsequent perusal.
    Thin gruel it was not.

  5. alisonrixon

    No this is not a brillint article- plenty of opinion but no facts to back it up. Johncamb I don’t think that feeling uneasy about something necessarily means it is bad, it may mean that it challenges you or undermines your world view. But gut feelings aren’t a reliable basis for understanding anything. There is no evidence that “gender” is predetermined biologically, despite the efforts of many to prove it unsuccessfully. For a summary of the research Cordelia Fine’s book “Delusions of Gender” gives a good summary. Why do people desperately want to believe that “femininity” and “masculinity”(never defined) are essential and unchangeable? And if they believe that what does it matter what Judith Butler or anyone says- on Guy Rundle’s view they can’t change anything anyway. However Rundle’s sweeping statement “that more people become aware of the possibilities of a post-capitalist order… not the advancement of Idealist notions of gender and sexuality that they have never subscribed to” who appointed him spokesman for the entire population? Is he seriously saying the majority is right? Tell that to Galileo. When I was growing up the majority believed that little girls were weaker than little boys even though as a five year old I could tell that wasn’t true (look it up – girls are often stronger than boys up to puberty). He says noone has disproved traditional notions of gender which is disingenuous since noone has proved it either, but for some people they don’t care if it has been proved, they want to be allowed to live the way they like and not conform to fixed definitions- lets allow them to live how they like and maybe the Safe Schools programme will allow them to live happy lives without having other people’s notions of what gender is or isn’t imposed on them.

    1. Hoojakafoopy

      Nowhere does Guy say that “masculinity” and “femininity” are ‘essential and unchangeable.’ While the traits associated with either of them are open for anyone to adopt (and if Safe Schools promotes the freedom of children to continue to make these choices then all power to it) the only way to change your sex is with hormones and surgery. I remember about 15 years ago when it seemed every other young lesbian in Sydney decided to transition into a ‘male’ and the difficulty of avoiding the offence of referring to them by their old pronoun. Many of us older ‘queers’ couldn’t understand this need to make your body fit a particular gender identity. It seemed a perverse subscription to the fixed roles we had been happy to f**k with using dress-ups and makeup.

    2. AR

      So you would be a big fan of Sonny & Cher’s early 60s plea, “Home of the Brave”?
      Though even that queen of surgical realignment can’t have imagined today’s pathologies.

  6. Decorum

    An interesting read, GR, except for the clinging to Marx. Just as apologists for Christianity, harassed for years by pesky atheists, now argue for a religion that has no recognisable god in it, a strain of the Left now argues for a Marxism sans Karl. He’s become as Nostradamus is to a certain flavour of nutter: whatever happens, it’s in his musings somewhere, broadly read.

    1. Dog's Breakfast

      Couldn’t agree more Decorum. Marx seems to be used as flexibly as any other religion, including atheism, or philosophy to justify any act or omission.

  7. rhwombat

    Rich, satisfying and useful, GR. Saved.

  8. Draco Houston

    Guy, I think you’re being a bit unfair to Marx here. You can’t swing a cat for all the anti-communists in the SJW scene. Marx himself never advanced these ideas. I’ll let him speak for himself:
    “Communism is for us not a state of affairs which is to be established, an ideal to which reality [will] have to adjust itself. We call communism the real movement which abolishes the present state of things. The conditions of this movement result from the premises now in existence.”

    But yes, where gender theory and its application in policy have gone is very strange. I am of the view that sexuality is fluid, and IMO it does preclude the idea of a queer identity. If the goal is to allow individuals to fully express whatever their sexuality is at the time without it being Weird, the idea of being Gay is an obstacle.

    It was useful as a way to fight against the tyranny of anti-sodomy laws etc but now there are people, straight and queer, that sincerely believe sexuality is an inborn trait. It seems to me to be in opposition to pray away the gay, but it walks away from any concept of fluidity.

  9. Gwen Clark

    Too much theory everywhere and unfortunately with theory it erases those that don’t fit it.
    I’m trans. I know people that are gender fluid. I know people that do not identify with any gender. 95 % of the population won’t have the foggiest notion of what that feels like, the exception being effeminate men and tomboys who just get a hint of it. And that’s ok. Seriously ok. We get that it’s hard to understand for those who have never experienced it.
    But I am sick of people with theories who theorise we don’t exist or are sick and deluded simply because they have no experience of not having a fixed gender. I also have no time for anyone who says everyone is gender fluid because on the evidence this is simply not true. So enough theory thanks.
    All I want is to be taken seriously as a human being, not bashed or murdered for who I am, not discriminated against in employment or any other matters……in short to be treated as everyone else. And if the safe schools program goes anywhere near addressing some of the horrible experiences I was faced with then it’s a good thing.
    I note the headline ‘Attack of the Marxist trannies’ uses a word then many transexuals find offensive. I also note that rather than being attacked which is the usual state of things somehow asking for the same damn rights as everyone else is an attack. And marxist? Transexuals are marxist? That’s news to me.
    So please can all this theory stuff and just concentrate on the awful treatment we get from both the right and believe it or not the marxist left (Greer in particular). And just stop being nasty to us for who we are. Is that too much to ask?
    Today’s three word slogan: Stop the theory!

    1. [email protected]

      You shouldn’t confuse ‘theory’ with guy rundle. Rundle can be a great comic writer, but doing ‘theory’ is something else

    2. Matt Hardin

      Gwen, probably the sanest, clearest point I have read on this whole issue. Surely that is the goal; to ensure all are treated with respect and consideration of their particular needs. I imagine it would be awful to have to live where you can be attacked for being different.

      Personally, I think an overemphasis on identity politics erodes solidarity and Gender Theory has reached a point where it is doing more harm than good. An emphasis on our common humanity would be far more helpful.

    3. AR

      How would the deluded recognise their delusion unless faced with external reality?

      1. Gwen Clark

        Who’s reality? Once apon a time it was reality that the earth was at the centre of the universe. People were punished if they believed otherwise. Just because you have no experience of it does not mean it is not real.
        What is external? As discussed above reality as we know it is not a fixed state.

    4. Dog's Breakfast

      Gwen, I wish you well. I decided some time ago to treat people as people and to label them less, and have fought all my life to avoid being pigeon-holed, even though I’m a straight white middle-class male. Treating people as just people eliminates the need for confected theories, and none seem more confected to me than the gender identity debate. The issue is acceptance, not whether there is a distinct or fluid sexuality.

  10. [email protected]

    Interesting rant, as rants go, but you might consider (1) the possibility that the move away from old-time Marxism had something to do with C20 ‘actually existing socialism’ and the infighting within Western marxism from the ’60s onwards and (2) that, as we were once taught that gender was socially constructed, the same might be true of the apparent certainties of biological sex difference.

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