The Woman Question


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Theresa AnnSmith

The Woman Question

However, even the commentators on "the Hollywood thing", could not help but notice how this environment — the product of a reaction to whitewash the scandal — was deeply sexist and not only in media representations. The same dynamic is shown in the fact that the most desirable roles are mostly assigned to young, beautiful actresses. Moreover, in a world based on the exploitation and oppression of wage labour, it is not surprising that forms of dominion inherited from previous modes of production are incorporated into the bourgeois world, and due to the subordinate position occupied by females in the family, working class women are penalised in the labour market for their reproductive and care functions, compared to their class brothers.

The superstructural consequence of the substantial inequality between men and women is found in all classes, with of course a woman's body being more commodified than a male one — but these consequences are pushed further in literally capitalist terms, through the market of in vitro fertilisation and uteri for rent — and depicted as a tool of pleasure or an object whose main quality is beauty. This can be seen in all media, the creators of a fertile ground for sexism and it is functional for capitalism, where proletarian women often find themselves in a reserve of underpaid labour power, often forced into involuntary part-time roles.

Popular Science Monthly/Volume 20/March 1882/Science and the Woman Question

Almost every day we are bombarded with news of gender violence and femicide, but the only solutions put in place and often without even too much conviction by the bourgeoisie in every country are a tightening of prison sentences to be imposed on those who commit such crimes, leaving out any form of support for the victims, which is deemed too expensive in a phase of dismantling the "welfare", which has fallen victim to capitalist austerity. And given the current state of bourgeois law and the belief of individual responsibility, there is little scope to treat the offender as anything other than a deviant, holding out little hope of rehabilitation Finally, it should be noted that often the cases given centre stage in the news, especially in the case of murders, are exploited in a racist and patriotic way e.

Faced with such a depressing picture, it is not surprising that a substantial number of women have joined movements to raise demands and combat gender-based violence and rampant sexism. The management of state finances is in perfect harmony with the class nature of the bourgeois state. The various reforms on work, pensions and schools, together with interventions in favour of the restructuring of the industrial sectors in crisis and the rescue of the banking system, should have made it clear a long time ago to any supposed revolutionaries that the spaces for mediation within bourgeois institutions are now close to zero and that reformism has run out of time.

The issue of gender-based violence, as noted by the associations themselves, is certainly not a governmental priority. Democratic feminism 7 , in its various forms, has, in critical moments, always chosen to take sides with the ruling class, despite mouthing emancipatory ideals. Working class women, on the other hand, have been able to carve out a decisive role in the class struggle whenever the proletariat has attempted revolutionary action. This is proof of the undeniable contrast between the social nature of feminism and the proletarian class struggle.

The cases are innumerable: from the Commune of Paris to the Russian Revolutions of February and October to cite just the best-known cases. In all these cases it was proletarian women, together with those of related social sectors and those deserters originating from the ruling class, who participated in the class movement as conscious members of the dominated class, politicising the objective social antagonism between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat and challenging the domination that the bourgeoisie imposes on the rest of society to organise it in accordance with its class interests.

In particular, the female proletariat played a decisive role at the dawn of the February Revolution which began on March 8th , fraternising with the soldiers of the Tsarist armed forces and protesting against food shortages and the war which caused them. These results were achieved by the female proletariat fighting alongside their class brothers and certainly not isolating themselves, or making their own particularistic claims that clashed with the general class movement.

During the imperialist massacres of the First and Second World Wars, however, feminists, as mentioned above, actively collaborated with their respective bourgeoisie in exchange for promises that committed governments to eliminate some of the legal and political discrimination that relegated women to the status of second-class citizens. It is precisely on this point that the distance between the battles of democratic feminism and that of the revolutionary proletariat is measured: feminism both in its institutional and in the radical-reformist guise, after having obtained equality before the law in the countries of the capitalist metropolis, is now fighting so that, thanks to changes implemented in the law by the State, the social barriers that prevent each woman from advancing according to the bourgeois canons of career advancement and of receiving a "just salary" are eliminated.

The proletariat, instead, has as its historical objective the emancipation of humanity from exploitation through the abolition of wage labour and the socialisation of the means of production, an indispensable premise for the elimination of all forms of oppression and gender discrimination as well as national and ethnic discrimination. Moreover, it is clear that the ideal of the career woman desired by institutional feminism precludes the most basic class solidarity on the terrain of demands, sacrificing it on the altar of professional success, and leads, as in those cases held up as a model by the feminist movement, to the rise to prominent roles in bourgeois society, which equate in all respects to the social climbers in question in the rest of the bourgeois class.

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Naturally we will hear objections raised by some feminists who adhere to intersectional feminism 9 who instead claim to have recognised the issue of class struggle and social stratifications within the female gender and socially discriminated sexual and gender orientations. These are some of the fringes of the feminist movement that we call radical reformists. This feminism is radical-reformist because it inherits from traditional feminism a purely individualistic conception of social relations and its claims, like those of institutional feminism , come down, at the end of the day, to requests for intervention aimed at the capitalist state, to be carried out within its framework and compatible with it.

For radical-reformist feminism, the class domination that falls on the proletariat and characterises it as an oppressed class turns into an oppression that affects the individual woman in her double identity as a woman and proletarian or in a discordant identity for men, at least for the ideological presuppositions of feminism, of man and proletarian. If class domination is reduced to a question of devaluation of the person in their individuality, then the passage from the enunciation of anti-capitalist slogans to the acceptance of the rules of the game of the system — which is inherent in founding a pressure group for the progress of a category from the legal point of view — is very short.

There is good reason why the law, an instrument of the ruling class to perpetuate its domination, has, at its core, the isolated individual, who has to be recognised as an equal of other individuals. Femininsm inspired by the theory of intersectionality, therefore, finds in bourgeois democracy fertile soil in which to anchor itself, despite its radical slogans. In its attempt to repaint itself red, it has often flirted with rank and file unionism and exalted the isolated disputes animated by the trade-union radical-reformism as the non plus ultra of the class struggle.

Although rank and file unionism is not as directly compromised with the ruling class as the traditional unions, it is still based on bargaining between capital and labour and therefore must legitimise itself before the employer in order to continue as a permanent organisation that co-manages and contracts the price of selling labour power. Just as radical-reformist feminism suffers from the original vice of being born as an inter-class movement, base syndicalism is limited by its nature as a permanent organisation for the contracted sale of the labour force, which prolongs its existence beyond the exhaustion of a demand or a series of disputes, excluding the development of struggles to the political level.

The alliance or solidarity between the two movements, whose political conceptions do not go beyond the horizon of reformism, cannot therefore solve their respective problems: contrary to what happens in mathematics, two negatives do not make a positive. This movement of slaves has produced, as is known, hundreds and thousands of martyrs and heroines.

Tens of thousands of working women were to be found in the ranks of fighters for the liberation of the serfs. It is not surprising that millions of working women have been drawn in beneath the banners of the revolutionary movement of the working class, the most powerful of all liberation movements of the oppressed masses.

Working women — workers and peasants — are the greatest reserve of the working class.

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This reserve constitutes a good half of the population. The fate of the proletarian movement, the victory or defeat of the proletarian revolution, the victory or defeat of proletarian power depends on whether or not the reserve of women will be for or against the working class. That is why the first task of the proletariat and its advance detachment, the Communist Party, is to engage in decisive struggle for the freeing of women workers and peasants form the influence of the bourgeoisie, for political education and the organization of women workers and peasants beneath the banner of the proletariat.

Working women are not only reserves, however. They can and must become — if the working class carries out a correct policy — a real army of the working class, operating against the bourgeoisie. The main and fundamental thing in Bolshevism and in the Russian October Revolution is the drawing into politics of precisely those who were most oppressed under capitalism. These were oppressed, deceived, and robbed by the capitalists under a monarchy as well as in democratic bourgeois republics. This oppression, this deception, this filching the toil of the people by the capitalists was inevitable as long as the private ownership of the land, the factories, and works existed.


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The essence of Bolshevism, the essence of Soviet power, lies in exposing the fraud and hypocrisy of bourgeois democracy, in abolishing the private ownership of the land, the factories, and mills, and in concentrating all political power in the hands of the toilers and the exploited masses.

These masses are taking politics, i. This is a difficult task; the masses are downtrodden and oppresses by capitalism; but there is no other way out of wage slavery, of slavery to the capitalists, nor can there be any other way out. And it is impossible to draw the masses into politics without also drawing in the women; for under capitalism, the female half of the human race suffers under a double yoke.

The working woman and peasant woman are oppressed by capital; but in addition to that, even in the most democratic of bourgeois republics, they are, firstly, in an inferior position because the law denies them equality with men, and secondly, and this is most important. The Bolshevik, Soviet Revolution cuts at the root of the oppression and inferiority of women more deeply than any party or any revolution in the world has dared to do.

Not a trace of inequality between men and women before the law has been left in Soviet Russia. The particularly base, despicable, and hypocritical inequality of material and family rights, inequality in relation to the child, has been completely abolished by the Soviet government. This is only the first step towards the emancipation of women. But not a single bourgeois republic, even the most democratic, has dared to take even this first step.

The second and principal step was the abolition of the private ownership of the land, the factories, and mills.

"The Woman Question," an article by Haleh Esfandiari | Wilson Center

But the transition has been started. Things have begun to move, we have started out on the new path. Encouraging appeals will be made not to lose heart in the face of the raging and often brutal bourgeois reaction. An example of this is the democratic republic of the United States of America. But the masses of the workers have already awakened. The imperialist was has finally roused these slumbering, half-asleep, conservative masses in America, in Europe, and backward Asia.

The emancipation of the peoples from the yoke of imperialism, the emancipation of the workers, men and women, from the yoke of capital, is moving irresistibly forward. This cause is being advanced by scores and hundreds of millions of working men and women and peasant men and women. That is why the emancipation of labor from the yoke of capital will be achieved the world over. Women in the U. The possibility of exercising these rights is ensured to women by granting them an equal right with men to work, payment for work, rest and leisure, social insurance, and education, by state protection of the interests of mother and child, by state aid to mothers of large families and unmarried mothers, pre-maternity and maternity leave with full pay, and the provision of a wide network of maternity homes, nurseries, and kindergartens.

The fifth specific feature of the draft of the new Constitution is its consistent and thoroughgoing democratism. From the standpoint of democratism bourgeois constitutions may be divided into two groups: One group of constitutions openly denies, or actually nullifies, the equality of rights of citizens and democratic liberties. The other group of constitutions readily accepts, and even advertises, democratic principles, but at the same time it makes reservations and provides for restrictions which utterly mutilate these democratic rights and liberties.

They speak of equal suffrage for all citizens, but at the same time limit it by residential, educational, and even property qualifications. They speak of equal rights for citizens, but at the same time they make the reservation that this does not apply to women, or that it applies to them only in part.

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And so on and so forth. What distinguishes the draft of the new Constitution of the U.

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