feminism and marxism

13 May

i didn’t want to post more about this, mostly because it seriously pisses me off, and secondly because criticising intersectionality theory from a marxist viewpoint often leads you to be viewed as being on the same side as the comrade delta’s of this world who use marxism to justify their own behaviour against women, by for example counterposing marxism to feminism and saying that women’s oppression can only be dealt with “after” we have socialism or whatever.

In reality, any society where women were still second class citizens or where the rate of rape and sexual violence was at the levels it is now would not be communism. it simply would not be, because communism is about a classless society, where nobody is disadvantaged and problems are worked out by the community and discussed within the community and among the class, not a small section of it. Sexist attitudes are to a large extent the result of the role women have ended up in class society, the fact that we are expected to spend a large proportion of the time looking after children and other forms of unpaid labour around the home (and that many working class women end up looking after middle class womens children of course).

Women are socialised into different roles from men, the nature of wage labour and work means that it is often more difficult for a woman to gain some measure of financial independence at the same time as she expected to do other things such as look after children. So working class women have faced both the oppression of patriarchial systems and also the economic hardship caused by their position in society, the illnesses caused by work and poverty as well as having to deal with the sexist attitudes of society, which the more higher up the socioeconomic strata you go, you tend to (but not always) become more and more insulated from, since even if your family are sexist and give you little support you can often gain access to more social and financial capital to be able to do things on your own steam.

Rape and sexual assault are enormous problems with low level sexual harassment being so widespread that its often just accepted as normal, and of course this means that worse stuff is accepted as normal as well. I think that the structural violence of capitalism enables the physical violence to happen because all these ideas are promoted in bourgeois society such as the innate differences between men and women and the like as an explanation for why women have and still do have an inferior status. In a system which based on threats and violence and where one class dominates another it becomes easy for one gender to dominate the other and for violence against women to become readily acceptable, these social relations go into all aspects of life.

I think traditional marxist theories have sometimes ignored the oppression faced by women in favour of concentrating on a narrow idea of the working class which often doesn’t exist any more (skilled manual workers in factories, heavily unionised etc) and also this perspective is distorted because the left is often dominated by middle class men who have little idea what many working class jobs actually involve. However I think that some of the recent developments in feminism and “identity politics” have completely abandoned any idea of class politics in favour of a highly individualised idea of “intersectionality”. There is no doubt that class is the one thing that affects most peoples lives more than any other, how much money you have, whether you have enough work, how much you are paid and whether you have any control over your own surroundings.

And in patriarchal society the oppression of women (which does not actually leave any men, except the men in the ruling class, better off) and the toleration of it have a sort of horribly complimentary effect. I dislike this idea that all men somehow benefit from the oppression of women however, there is little doubt that Margaret Thatcher was in a far better position in every way for example than the steel workers she put out of work, or their families for that matter.

In countries where the society is extremely sexist and discriminatory towards women the men are hardly all waking up every day and having a great time, except for a few who are very wealthy and help to keep the ideology of traditional gender roles in place.

I’ll write more tomorrow, just sort of thinking aloud really. 🙂


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