The "straight combinatory" : the political economy of sex, race and class A lesbian feminist contribution to materialist and decolonial analysis

Jules Falquet


This (theoretical) proposal is based on the contributions of the french-speaking stream of feminist materialism which appeared at the end of the 70 around the Question feministes review. Using both Sociology and Anthropology, I will try to take further the analisis made by Gayle Rubin and Monique Wittig in the late 70.

I will first present the contributions of Colette Guillaumin, Monique Wittig, Paola Tabet and Nicole-Claude Mathieu. Each of them has deeply transformed the very concept of "work" that is centeral to both marxism and materialist feminist analisis. Guillaumin made the core contribution, theorizing the individual and collective appropriation of the women's body (in somewhat the same ways as the slaves' bodies were appropriated), as "work-force-producing machines", through the structural social relations of sex [rapports de sexage]. Tabet demonstrated that women's sexuality can generally be understood as a form of work, intimately connected to the structural social relations of sex. Mathieu and Tabet also deeply de-naturalized maternity. Tabet proved that procreation could be analized as work, more or less alienated depending on who decides of its organisation, rythm, quantity, quality and who is considered to be the owner of the final product.

Second, I will propose the concept of "straight combinatory" (drawn from Wittig's "straight ideology") as a new tool to understand the logics of both the matrimonial alliance and of procreation-filiation. Straight combinatory includes all the institutions and rules that together organize matrimonial alliance and procreation-filiation, according to simultaneous logics of sex, class and race. The straight combinatory is the key to the continuous production and classification of "work-force-producing machines" (namely : bodies, human beings) and groups. For this reason, the straight combinatory organizes the simultaneous and historical dynamics of structural social relations of sex, race and class. Therefore, it is a powerful tool to analize social reproduction, and moreover, to re-consider the historical developpment of capitalism as well as the neoliberal present. I will also explain how it meets part of the reflexions of the latin-american and caribbean decolonial feminism, especially about "racial interbreeding" through the rape and forced unions imposed to colonized women.

materialist feminism - race - class - lesbian feminism - decolonial - social reproduction - procreation - sexuality