University News

Capitalism and sexual oppression linked, says activist

By
Senior Staff Writer
Tuesday, September 22, 2009

President Obama may not like being called a “socialist,” but Sherry Wolf certainly does.

Sporting a gray T-shirt emblazoned with the words, “Tax the Rich,” the author and activist spoke Monday night to an eclectic audience in List 120 about sexual oppression and the history of the LGBT liberation movement.

During Wolf’s hour-long talk, peppered with a potpourri of sarcastic quips about topics ranging from the economy to sex, she shared her views on capitalism’s role in sexual oppression. She also touched on what she called the “new posture” of the LGBT movement in light of the same-sex marriage battle and the recent challenge to the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy.

Wolf said sexual oppression stems largely from capitalism and its materialistic influence on family structure. The struggle over gay rights — and gay marriage — results from the concept of a traditional family structure held by a capitalist society, which she said “privatizes things that ought to be social needs.”

“The nuclear family,” she said, “is a means for a capitalist system.”

Wolf said the constant rush of today’s professionals is not conducive to sexual experimentation. “We actually lead lives that materially constrain us,” she said. “As a result, many of our sex lives suck.”

But she said this repression could be alleviated under a socialist structure, which she said would solve the interplay between a desire for ideological change and what she called a constant material struggle.

She also spoke about her detestation of the “biological argument” pertaining to sexuality, eliciting audience approval when she asked about the merits of searching for a “gay gene.”

“Finding a gay gene kind of pissed me off,” she told the nearly 60-member audience. “Why don’t they try to find a gene for war-mongering assholes?”

Wolf came to Brown as part of a national tour to promote her new book, “Sexuality and Socialism.” The talk was sponsored by the Pembroke Center, the Queer Alliance, the International Socialist Club and the departments of English and Modern Culture and Media.

Given the political context — and the 40th anniversary of the notorious Stonewall riots that have come to represent the LGBT movement of the 1960s — Wolf said she hoped the coincidental timing of her book’s release would inspire discussion.

“It was just dumb luck,” she said. “I don’t see this book as something that should just be sitting on a shelf.”

But she warned audience members the book was nothing like other “dull” books about sexuality that she said she had read.

“If you are a fan of long, plodding, impenetrable prose, I swear you will not like this book,” she said.

After reading excerpts from various chapters aloud, Wolf moved her discussion to the reinvigorated LGBT movement. She said she thought the new movement was sparked by California’s passage of Proposition 8, which established the constitutional definition of marriage as between a man and a woman. Despite the current generation’s increasing level of acceptance toward the LGBT community, the shock of seeing its rights taken away — coupled with the recent increase in police raids on gay bars that she likened to the one that sparked the Stonewall riots in 1969 — whipped up a new wave of anger among the movement’s participants, Wolf said.

“The posture of this movement is so important and such a departure from previous years. And I think that it’s a reflection of this generation,” Wolf said. “This is not new, the attacks are not new, the backlash is not new. What’s new is the posture, the outrage.”

To effect change, she said people must demand civil rights instead of waiting for others to make important decisions.

“This is our Rosa Parks moment,” she said, “and we are insisting on sitting in the front of the bus.”

“She certainly knows how to fire up a room,” Hannah Boettcher ’12 said after the lecture. “If everybody had that same passion, we wouldn’t need these types of talks.”

  • Dave

    what an idiot!