Feminism must be anti-capitalist in order to liberate marginalized women
After reading an article published in last week’s Argosy about the interaction between capitalism and feminism, I felt the need to respond as a long-time feminist and a low-class woman.
My feminism is inherently and necessarily anti-capitalist, as feminism must demonstrate solidarity with poor women, otherwise it is not based in genuine liberation. We must stand in solidarity with the millions of incarcerated BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, people of colour) women who live and die in privatized prisons that profit off of a racist “justice” system. We must stand in solidarity with peasant women farmers who grow the majority of the world’s food, yet are forced to compete with major agribusinesses. These have the initial wealth to accumulate more land and capital in order to outcompete small producers. We must stand in solidarity with women worldwide who have been forcibly impoverished by neoliberal austerity measures implemented by capitalist governments. And we must stand in solidarity with the millions of girls whose families have been murdered by imperial states in wars designed to prime poor countries for natural resource theft.
While workers worldwide fight for liveable wages, corporate executives earn billions and are quite adept at tax evasion. The greatest irony of capitalism is that the bourgeois class have tricked many of us into believing that they have somehow earned this wealth, as if it was not literally made through the blood and sweat of the poor. Liberal, capitalist feminism would have us believe that a multi-billion dollar corporation run by a woman is a victory, but I do not care whether my oppressor is wearing a tie or stilettos.
To defend capitalism is to defend a system that is predicated on the exploitation of poor, racialized women. As a student of economics, it is easy to recognize that the fathers of capitalism held deeply bigoted views that inform their philosophies. Within capitalist theory, there is a false assumption of merit, an assumption that every person starts on an equal playing field and has the same ability to participate within this economic system. We know this is deeply false in a world where racism, classism and other forms of oppression thrive. To assume that capitalism does not have differential impacts on marginalized communities is to ignore reality. The reality of capitalism is that initial capital accumulation is based on the dispossession of Indigenous and/or peasant lands, on the exploitation of the poor and on productivity at the direct cost of the environment. Do sexism and racism predate capitalism in much of the world? Absolutely, because patriarchy and white supremacy are systems of oppression in and of themselves. But has capitalism worked with and on behalf of these systems ever since it became the dominant economic ideology? Without a doubt. Capitalism is a lot more complex than ECON 1001 would have you believe.
We do not need surface-level equality. We need liberation – liberation from a patriarchal world order that does not count domestic labour as work, that undermines the bodies and minds of femmes at every stage in our lives and that is killing our potential to live on this planet in the face of global climate change. Liberation is our goal, and I believe that genuine liberation is inextricably bound to anti-capitalism.
In love and solidarity to my anti-capitalist sisters and allies.
Disclaimer: Jill MacIntyre is the Argosy’s business manager.