Marxist feminism

Marxist feminism is a sub-type of feminist theory which focuses on the dismantling of capitalism as a way of liberating women. Marxist feminism states that private property, which gives rise to economic inequality, dependence, political confusion, and ultimately unhealthy social relations between men and women, is the root of women's oppression in the current social context.

Marxist feminism's foundation is laid by Engels in his analysis of gender oppression in The Origins of the Family, Private Property and the State. He claims that a woman's subordination is not a result of her biologic disposition but of social relations, and that the institution of family as it exists is a complex system in which men command women's services.

According to Marxist theory, the individual is heavily influenced by the structure of society, which in all modern societies means a class structure; that is, people's opportunities, wants, and interests are seen to be shaped by the mode of production that characterizes the society they inhabit. Marxist feminists see contemporary gender inequality as determined ultimately by the capitalist mode of production. Gender oppression is class oppression and the relationship between man and woman in society is similar to the relations between proletariat and bourgeoise. Women's subordination is seen as a form of class oppression, which is maintained (like racism) because it serves the interests of capital and the ruling class. Marxist feminists have extended traditional Marxist analysis by looking at domestic labour as well as wage work.

Radical Women, a major Marxist-feminist organization, bases its theory on Marx' and Engels' analysis that the enslavement of women was the first building block of an economic system based on private property. They contend that elimination of the capitalist profit-driven economy will remove the motivation for sexism, racism, homophobia, and other forms of oppression.[1]

In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, both Clara Zetkin and Eleanor Marx were against the demonization of men and supported a proletarian revolution that would overcome as many male–female inequalities as possible.[2] As their movement already had the most radical demands in women's equality, most Marxist leaders, including Clara Zetkin[3][4] and Alexandra Kollontai,[5][6] counterposed Marxism against feminism, rather than trying to combine them.

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Critiques of Marxist feminism

Gayle Rubin, who has written on a certain range of subjects including sadomasochism, prostitution, pornography, and lesbian literature as well as anthropological studies and histories of sexual subcultures, first rose to prominence through her 1975 essay "The Traffic in Women: Notes on the 'Political Economy' of Sex", in which she coins the phrase "sex/gender system" and criticizes Marxism for what she claims is its incomplete analysis of sexism under capitalism, without dismissing or dismantling Marxist fundamentals in the process.

Radical feminism, which emerged in the 1970s, also took issue with Marxist feminism. Radical feminist theorists stated that modern society and its constructs (law, religion, politics, art, etc.) are the product of males and therefore have a patriarchal character. According to those who subscribe to this view, the best solution for women's oppression would be to treat patriarchy not as a subset of capitalism but as a problem in its own right (see identity politics). Thus, eliminating women's oppression means eliminating male domination in all its forms.

Orthodox Marxists point out that most Marxist forerunners claimed by feminists or "marxist feminists" including Clara Zetkin[7][8] and Alexandra Kollontai[9][10] were against feminism. They agreed with the main Marxist movement that feminism was a bourgeois ideology counterposed to Marxism and against the working class. Instead of feminism, the Marxists supported the more radical political program of liberating women through socialist revolution, with a special emphasis on work among women and in materially changing their conditions after the revolution. Orthodox Marxists view the later attempt to combine Marxism and feminism as a liberal creation of academics and reformist leftists who want to make alliances with bourgeois feminists.

For what reason, then, should the woman worker seek a union with the bourgeois feminists? Who, in actual fact, would stand to gain in the event of such an alliance? Certainly not the woman worker. -Alexandra Kollontai, 1909 [9]

See also

References

  1. ^ The Radical Women Manifesto: Socialist Feminist Theory, Program and Organizational Structure[1], Red Letter Press, 2001, ISBN 0-932323-11-1, pages 2 -26.
  2. ^ Stokes, John (2000). Eleanor Marx (1855–1898): Life, Work, Contacts. Aldershot: Ashgate. ISBN 978-0-7546-0113-5. 
  3. ^ Zetkin, Clara, On a Bourgeois Feminist Petition (1895).
  4. ^ Zetkin, Clara, Lenin On the Women's Question.
  5. ^ Kollontai, Alexandra, The Social Basis of the Woman Question (1909).
  6. ^ Kollontai, Alexandra, Women Workers Struggle For Their Rights (1919).
  7. ^ Zetkin, Clara On a Bourgeois Feminist Petition 1895
  8. ^ Zetkin, Clara Lenin on the Women’s Question
  9. ^ a b Kollontai, Alexandra The Social Basis of the Woman Question 1909
  10. ^ Kollontai, Alexandra Women Workers Struggle For Their Rights 1919

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