Women liberation and class struggle to change society
“Feminism is a socialist, anti-family, political movement that encourages women to leave their husbands, kill their children, practice witchcraft, destroy capitalism and become lesbians.” [Pat Robertson quotes]
"All men are rapists and that's all they are" [Marilyn French Author, "The Women's Room"]
“…If we are to understand our experience as women today, we must move to a consideration of capitalism as a system. / …there is no way to understand sexism as it acts on our lives without putting it in the historical context of capitalism” [Barbara Ehrenreich]
“Is feminism a class struggle?” [Marxist wariness]
“To imagine that social revolution is conceivable without revolts by small nations in the colonies and in Europe, without revolutionary outbursts by a section of the petty bourgeoisie with all its prejudices, without a movement of the politically non-conscious proletarian and semi-proletarian masses against oppression by the landowners, the church, and the monarchy, against national oppression, etc.-to imagine all this is to repudiate social revolution. So one army lines up in one place and says, “We are for socialism”, and another, somewhere else and says, “We are for imperialism”, and that will he a social revolution! Only those who hold such a ridiculously pedantic view could vilify the Irish rebellion by calling it a “putsch”. Whoever expects a “pure” social revolution will never live to see it. Such a person pays lip-service to revolution without understanding what revolution is”. [Lenin]
1. Problems confronting women in Asia
a. Feminization of poverty
è Malnutrition, mortality rate, maternal rate, illiteracy rate, education participation, etc. [Wives eat less food than their husbands, while female children eat less than male children | girls are leaving school to take care of younger siblings and work to help feed their familiesf]
b. Domestic, society, and state violence
è Jirga trials and honour killings, lashinsg, forced disappearances, large scale extrajudicial killings, endemic torture, sex slaves in military torture cells, acid attacks, Zina Ordinance—allows single men and women to be flogged for adultery and married men and women to be stoned, oppressive marriage laws.
c. Democratic rights and sexual rights: adultery, shari'a law, abortion, sexual harassment, reproductive rights, women circumcision, etc.
d. Trafficking, forced prostitution early/child marriage, rape, contract based or arranged marriages, etc.
e. Different forms of discrimination, stereotypes, marginalization, commoditization of women bodies, double burden, etc.
è :: Struggle for democracy is a way to acknowledge women rights.
è :: Legal protection remains limited to words-insufficient & women representation is superficial-insufficient under capitalism
è :: Capitalism/imperialism, militarism/extremism/reactionary fundamentalism, patriarchy (male domination-supremacy) as roots of problems of women in Asia ? economy, social-political, cultural-ideology.
2. Underdevelopment link to women oppression.
a. Lack of education and healthcare access and service.
b. The disparity of information access and public service between the cities and rural areas (electricity, school, books, knowledge, etc)
c. Unemployment, precarious, and underpaid work.
è Work outside home is not necessarily a means for liberation; it can also mean more exploitation (wages, harassment, double-burden, lowest prestige and insecure works, etc)
d. The long way to go: sexual rights and right of the body as democratic demands.
:: Underdevelopment is major obstacle to raise awareness of and struggle for women liberation.
3. Feminism is struggle to free women from sexist discrimination, exploitation, and oppression.
a. Gender, sex, gender orientation, gender identity, sexuality, sex oppression ? SEXISM
ü Socially constructed, not free choice/will – social process related and differentiated according to class, nation, race, religion etc.
ü Takes different forms and expresses itself in different ways in historical periods/moments—slaveholding patriarchy, feudal patriarchy, capitalist patriarchy and so on.
b. Where does feminism come from? Is it a western idea?
ü The core idea of feminism that woman is oppressed as woman are universal realities.
ü Feminism as a consciously and structurally created perspective/ideology of women liberation is a product of class struggle predominantly but not limitedly in western world ? much related to development of productive forces in western world.
4. Feminism as an important aspect of class consciousness and struggle under capitalism
a. There’s no way to understand sexism without understanding historical context of capitalism.
è Late capitalism: from head to toe, body and soul, women as the most oppressed and exploited working class (commoditization of women through beauty myth, job slavery, object of violence, stereotyping, male subjugation and discrimination, sexual oppression, double burden, etc)
b. Class has structuralized, widened, and deepened women specific oppression.
è Pre-class society did not separate women from production process ? there’s no separation between productive and reproductive works of women; there’s no domestic and non domestic work.
è Unresolved problem: the origin of women specific oppression/patriarchy as a value system-culture ? the origin of the patriarchal-family.
è Individual patriarchal-family formed by class society ? meaning: means of production owned by individual families headed by man and inherited to younger man-children ? separation between production sphere and reproduction sphere? the basis is surplus or abundance for surplus ? material basis for women to be oppressed and imprisoned in the domestic and reproductive work ? more children/women as slaves.
è Working class (poor) women always (have to) work whole their life; bourgeois women were prohibited.
c. Class consciousness comes through understanding of all problems of people’s oppression in class society—class for itself.
d. Capitalism never “freed” women.
è Capitalism has maintained women specific oppression to reproduce oppressive and exploitative social relation of production.
è Capitalism formed even more individual family; even more separation between work and life, between production and reproduction ? women from different classes have different weight and forms of oppression, but share same motive of oppression: man supremacy-patriarchal.
è Nuclear/individual-patriarchal family as oppressive economic unit of producing labor and capitalist culture’s reproduction.
:: Class struggle occurs in every arena where the interests of classes’ conflicted. We aim to transform not only the ownership of the means of production, but the totality of social existence (social formation).
5. The problem of Marxism/Socialism and Feminism
a. Same struggle? One is superior than the other? Or two 'unhappy married' (Heidi Hartmann 1979) or dual system?
· Marxism missed the opportunity the new feminist wave provided to renew itself thoroughly. Instead, it tended to view gender oppression as an oppression of secondary importance and substantially subordinated to class exploitation.
· The concept of class alone is not sufficient in this case and must be integrated with the concepts of gender, race, nationality and religion.
· This patriarchal system is intertwined with capitalism; it has a life of its own and its own ‘autonomy’ but its material structures are always rooted within determined relations of production and this relation modifies their characteristics and nature.
· Despite this close correlation between mode of production and patriarchal system, each of these operates according to an internal logic and specific laws that can be on the same wavelength but also in conflict.
b. Vulgar/Mechanistic Marxism vs ‘radical’ feminism
c. Making Marxism more feminist and vice versa.
d. Socialist feminism as a perspective and strategy to resist false understanding of sisterhood and women biological determination ideology as well as mechanistic view of Marxism and class struggle.
:: No socialism without women liberation; no women's liberation without socialism:
è The development of the women’s liberation movement advances the class struggle, strengthens its forces, and enhances the prospects for socialism.
è Women oppression has been an essential feature of class society throughout the ages. But the practical tasks of uprooting its causes, as well as combating its effects, could not be posed on a mass scale before the era of the transition from capitalism to socialism.
6. Welfare, equality, and liberation: three important programs of socialist feminism.
a. Basic economic and political (democratic) rights for all women as foundation for women liberation.
b. The need for equal participation of all women.
c. The need for independent women movement and organization in the struggle for socialism.
d. Party position on feminism and women organization.
:: Support for affirmative (reform) action and radically transformed economic and society (revolution).
:: The needed for women independent organization and women grouping in the party.
- Should we aim to voice the demands of all women? Or do we need to prioritize working class women? Explain.
- Is the women's liberation struggle is a form of class struggle? Give reasons.
- Can men become feminists or can they be just supporters? Explain.
- What are the lacks of your recent organizational programs and your work on women questions?