To begin at the very beginning, I was born in Mt Isa, Queensland, Australia, on 14 August 1940. My father was a carpenter, working in the mines building whatever wooden structures silver, lead, copper and zinc mines require to keep them operating. We left Mt Isa when I was six months old and came to Sydney where I have lived ever since.
I didn't go to university
until the age of 31 and a half, at the beginning of 1972 when I already
had two small daughters aged four and eighteen months. The only job I have
ever had in a university lasted for two years at the end of the 1970s,
when I was employed as a part-time tutor. I have a PhD in Sociology from
the University of New South Wales (1996), for a thesis called
the Dismantling of Feminism which was later published by Sage under
the title of Radical Feminism Today. (See Publications).
I've been what is
euphemistically known as an independent scholar for many years, reading,
writing and (sometimes) publishing feminist theory. At times I've been
technically unemployed, i.e. I wasn't paid for the work I was doing as
an independent scholar; and sometimes friends have got me jobs that paid.
Currently, I work for money on a casual basis as a Research Officer.
My research interests
social and political
thought, especially Marxism and liberalism;
theories of individualism,
liberty, pluralism, justice, tolerance, determinism, essentialism, cultural
relativism, and political distinctions between right and left
economic theories of
unemployment and poverty;
and underdevelopment, international relations;
government policy in
relation to unemployment and poverty, especially the Howard government's
'Mutual Obligation' policies in Australia and 'welfare reform' in the US;
theorising forms of
My career as a social
theorist has not been a happy one. In fact, it is a history of remarkable
failure given how much work I've done. It is also, I hasten to add, a history
of remarkable persistence. I've kept going, despite the discouragement
and despite being told over and over again, in various more or less antagonistic
ways, that nobody wanted to hear what I was saying and that I had no right
to say it anyway.
In the earlier phase,
when I was trying to theorise lesbian feminism, no one seemed to understand
what I was saying. Well, that's not entirely true. There were lots of women
(and some men) who understood quite well, and with whom I had many marvellous
conversations. And I gave a number of papers that didn't arouse too much
antagonism, and some that were even well received. Still, there were times
when I was verbally attacked and personally insulted, told that I didn't
know what I was talking about, that I was confused and my theory was meaningless,
that I was arrogant and what I was doing was 'too academic'. Why this should
have happened when, from my point of view, all I was doing was trying to
join in a conversation, is unclear to this day. I suggest a number of reasons
in the Lesbian Feminism section of the website. But who knows?
In the later phases,
when I was trying to theorise feminism and then to write a theory of social
domination, I was largely ignored. I did give papers at conferences, but
that was only possible as long as the organisers were prepared to accept
all papers offered - whenever any criteria of inclusion were applied, my
paper was invariably rejected. Moreover, the numbers who came to my papers
were small. (Seven people, of whom four were friends of mine, came to hear
my paper, 'Feminism and the Problem of Power', presented at the Women in
Philosophy conference, Australian National University, 1-3 July, 1989.
The rest of the conference had gone to hear Liz Grosz whose paper was scheduled
at the same time as mine. The gist of my argument in that paper can be
found in the 'Patriarchy' section of Chapter 5 of Radical Feminism Today).
I did have some things
published (see Publications), but most of what I sent to the academic journals
was rejected. Once again, no one seemed to know what I was talking about.
It would seem it was still incomprehensible, although this time it wasn't
because it was too academic, this time it wasn't academic enough - it was
out of the academic mainstream, old-fashioned, unpopular, polemical, took
no account of the latest theoretical developments, etc. The criticisms
were so persistent, and the misunderstandings so relentless, that the thought
crossed my mind more than once that perhaps what I was writing didn't belong
in academe. But I didn't know where else it belonged either.
Of course, there
were people who knew what I was talking about, and even some who saw things
in much the same way I did and had come to similar conclusions - otherwise
I couldn't have continued. Even so, there were times when I felt quite
crazy. I thought I was saying something interesting and important and saying
it well, and yet the reactions I was getting, whether noisy denunciations,
sneering misrepresentations, patronising advice or contemptuous silence,
were telling me I was not. Once again I had thought I was joining in a
conversation. I was trying to push the framework further so that it didn't
get bogged down in silly little meaningless squabbles about 'equality/difference'
or 'identity', or more serious ones about the 'racism' of 'white, middle-class'
I thought I was proposing
solutions to many of the problems academic feminism was supposedly agonising
over. I've subsequently come to the conclusion that there is far too much
at stake in keeping the problems on the boil, to allow them to be solved
and move on. Those who had the power to allow my solutions a public airing,
i.e. editors and peer reviewers of academic journals, couldn't see them.
They didn't just disagree with me, they missed the point entirely. More
often than not, they re-cast what I had said back into their own terms
and castigated me soundly for something that bore only a superficial or
distorted resemblance to what I actually said. They all wanted me to write
the paper they would have written on the same topic, while at the same
time they couldn't read the one I did write.
It's true that I
didn't try very hard in the academic publishing game. There are people
who keep on trying through dozens of rejections, and who have some degree
of success through sheer persistence. But I found that I simply couldn't
cope with such profound misunderstandings and outright contempt. It indicated
a level of corruption I was quite unable to deal with. So I've given up,
and this website is the alternative.
So what are the problems
I have been trying to solve? The details can be found in what follows on
the website. In the most general terms, what I've been attempting to do
for the last twenty or so years can be described as an attempt to argue
a theory of social domination.
The starting point
is feminism - radical feminism, although I disagree with the typology (see
Publications and Radical Feminism Today) - with its identification
of and challenge to male domination. The theory then moves on to domination
in general via the realisation that all forms of domination are male domination,
however else they might be characterised as well, because male domination
is the earliest form of dehumanisation in each human life. It's the first
one we all meet, the one that sets the pattern for all the others. If to
be female is to be not fully human, then to be male is to be not fully
human either, in the sense that relations between men will be marked by
invidious hierarchies of worth and worthlessness, and struggles for supremacy,
sometimes deadly, that only the most ruthless few can win. The two most
common of those hierarchies between men are designated by the terms 'race'
and 'class' (about which I say a great deal elsewhere - for race, see Radical
Feminism Today; for class, see anything on economic domination).
This move to theorising
domination in general will be posted in the Work in Progress section of
the website, although a number of earlier attempts have already been included
among the Refereed papers and the Conference papers. I have written a great
deal on this but it's not yet in a publishable form.
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