The Official Blog for ENGL 41416.

Fetishism in Kinship


Last class we came upon the term fetishism and defined it as, “a glorification of women to somewhat conceal the ‘dread’ that is felt by men toward women.” We came across the question: “can the term be used when describing men?” Despite the David Beckham commercial being a perfect representation of how it could be used, I have this idea that the term derives from a misunderstanding of sex/gender distinction.

In Gayle Rubin’s essay, “The Traffic in Women”, she identifies a widespread “sex/gender system” by highlighting the limitations of using the Marxist Theory to explain women oppression. The oppression of women in a Marxist’s view is irrelevant because, “Marxism, as a theory of social life, is relatively unconcerned with sex.” (Rubin, 230) What interested me the most was Rubin’s turn to Levi-Strauss’ theory of Kinship as a constructed model by fitting sex/gender, and sexuality into the concept of kinship.

According to Rubin, Levi-Strauss explains kinship as “theory of sex oppression.” (Rubin, 232) If kinship is considered a theory of “sex oppression” my understanding of it is that humans are not looked as either male or female but as exchangeable objects that serve to keep a certain organization in families or cultures. Rubin states: “Kinship is organization, and organization gives power. But who is organized?” (Rubin, 233)

The concept of kinship can be related to that of fetishism because there is a distinction between biological sex and the gender that the “system of organization” has formed; therefore men or women can be glorified because their ties are acknowledged as transactions. Women are the gift while men are the exchanges making them both objectified.


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