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How feminism became capitalism's handmaiden - and how to reclaim it

(28 Posts)
BuffytheReasonableFeminist Mon 19-Oct-15 10:47:40

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Poofus Mon 19-Oct-15 11:38:02

Thanks for the link! Very interesting article. I'm not sure it's capitalism in general though, or if it's a particular, neoliberal variety of "wild" capitalism in particular that does this.

shovetheholly Mon 19-Oct-15 15:20:59

I do agree with all those points. If one were in the mood to be mischievous, which of course would be very naughty, one might suggest that Fraser's own work has also unintentionally contributed to this, by putting forward the idea of a global "postwestphalian" geography, which deemphasizes local and particular cultural differences (mostly criticised as embedded in the national state) in favour of flows of action and solidarity across borders....wink

squidzin Mon 19-Oct-15 19:48:39

Feminists have been fighting for equal participation in capitalism, though. Not exactly fighting the class (wealth) war are they.

Feminists shouldn't take on the class war either...

Men are freer to engange in imperial capitalism, with it's inevitable exploitation, and women want equal freedom within this. (ie equal freedom to earn £££££ and exploit the vulnerable if they want).

squidzin Mon 19-Oct-15 19:56:07

It looks like another example of how women, feminists, fighting for women, are expected to be fighting for equality for all. All the time.

Theydontknowweknowtheyknow Mon 19-Oct-15 19:59:00

"Not exactly fighting the class (wealth) war are they."

I disagree. I think feminism is often very aware of the class aspect. Personally for me at the very heart of feminism is a dislike of hierarchy and inherited privilege.

In fact if you hang around here enough you will spot the oft espoused theory that a lot of women's woes began with the rise of the link between property and status. Women's reproductive and labour resources being property of course.

squidzin Mon 19-Oct-15 20:11:06

Sorry, as a novice it seems to me feminism wants equal access to wealth and privilege.

Obviously neoliberalism loves how women are now so eager to become top earners and big carreer go-getters. More resources to exploit pool.

I don't see feminism arguing for a maximum wage, that corporations should pay fair tax on profits or whatever. I dont hear feminism arguing to abolish the monarchy!

Why should it, either?

Why conflate the critical analysis of capitalism, with feminism? It seems like a monumental diversion.

Theydontknowweknowtheyknow Mon 19-Oct-15 20:22:27

"Sorry, as a novice it seems to me feminism wants equal access to wealth and privilege."

Well yes but I'd also say they want that wealth and privilege to be better distributed.

squidzin Mon 19-Oct-15 20:52:02


I get what you are saying but I've come across very right-wing (pro neoliberal) feminists. Perfectly happy to promote zero tax, zero social services, 100% private sector, in the name of personal triumph. Above fair and equal wealth division.

Meh, not sure what I'm trying to say actually!
Something along the lines of... Not feminism's fault for the outcome of feminism within the constraints of a very pro-capitalist society.

Good article.

scallopsrgreat Mon 19-Oct-15 23:12:05

A lot of feminists are against capitalism squidzin (most radical feminists for example), so I don't think that's particularly fair. Marxist feminism directly fights class oppression.

I think what she is describing in the article is "backlash" to feminism. Something that is facilitated more easily in capitalism, a patriarchal capitalist society at that.

BuffytheReasonableFeminist Tue 20-Oct-15 10:07:30

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shovetheholly Tue 20-Oct-15 10:50:33

Me too, Buffy.

But I think there's peril in talking about 'feminism' as a singular thing - there are Marxist feminists, there are neoliberal capitalist feminists, there are economically libertarian feminists... there is no one movement and no single economic doctrine either!

BuffytheReasonableFeminist Tue 20-Oct-15 11:02:06

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Poofus Tue 20-Oct-15 17:45:04

Yes, I don't think it's about a backlash to feminism, so much as (as Buffy says) a co-optation of some of feminism's insights and victories by neoliberal capitalism, to the detriment of what (lots of) feminists were actually arguing for.

almondpudding Tue 20-Oct-15 19:55:53

I don't know what I think about it.

It seems to be conflating a whole load of different situations in different parts of the world and in different time periods.

The move into waged labour for most women isn't from a position of being a SAHM in the sense that we understand it in the UK, where most of SAHM work is caring for others. It is from unpaid subsistence work or cottage industries to waged labour. I don't think the idea of large numbers of people having to move from one to the other is an idea taken from feminism. It is a process that has been taking place for hundreds of years, as a consequence of the industrial revolution, capitalism and colonialism.

So even if, as advised in the article, in the West we started being much more aware of how important caring work done by women is, that doesn't change the fact that the caring work done by women in the UK would be possible (as most office based work in the UK is) because someone else, somewhere else in the world, who is probably a woman, is growing our crops, sewing our clothes and making our goods.

The relevant insights of feminism are that:

A. Women, particularly those with caring responsibilities, should be participating in influential roles.
B. Women should have power over resources they and their children need.

These remain absolutely essential, in any economic system. They are not really the same thing as waged labour.

Also, is second wave feminism now just basically the devil? If you don't like something a bit feminist, you just claim that it is second wave feminism? How can second wave feminism be responsible for the notion of gender identity (as claimed in this article) and yet be totally opposed to the notion of gender identity (as claimed in numerous other places) at the same time? I don't know that second wave feminism did particularly claim the things written in this article.

This whole article just seems weirdly ahistorical, but it is raising some really important points about what the consequences of waged labour are.

grumpyuncleR Wed 21-Oct-15 03:57:01

Yes, almondpudding, I agree it is weirdly ahistorical.
I think it is not second wave feminism but the liberal third wave version of feminism which is facilitating neoliberalism.

shovetheholly Wed 21-Oct-15 08:40:56

Yes, I read it as almost nostalgic for the clarity of early second wave feminism (which is the movement from which all those idea of 'care' that she's mourning over emerged). The interesting thing is that the terms of it are VERY late 1980s - we're back to 'equality in difference' (which is mapped onto the idea of women offering a radical economic alternative to capitalism, collectivism) versus 'equality in sameness' (woman in positions of capitalist power, a narrow focus on gender identity, individualism).

BuffytheReasonableFeminist Wed 21-Oct-15 09:55:17

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shovetheholly Wed 21-Oct-15 12:45:48

YY - it is an old binary. And a huge, loose, saggy one which is capable of being pulled in all kinds of directions, which means it gets rejigged in various ways at different moments. It's the linked association of economic alternative-caring work-collectivism-difference versus neoliberal capital-female business leaders-individualism-sameness that I find a bit 1980s. (I disagree with it as an overly simplistic description, but that's not remotely to say that it's useless rhetorically or in other ways. My initial comment was more 'Blimey, are we back here?' grin)

BuffytheReasonableFeminist Fri 23-Oct-15 11:45:52

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almondpudding Fri 23-Oct-15 12:23:35

That is really useful as it gives a list of feminist writers to go to. I do think that if we are talking about the big feminist theories and economics, we have to be looking at the situation of women globally, because we are operating in a global economy.

I am very averse to the whole 'privilege' perspective, made in that article is far more convincing to me. Feminist theory that is not the typical feminism we see most commonly presented and discussed in the West is better feminism and should be the dominant model.

I think a lot of the 'listening and learning' and intersectionality often boils down to feminists already having a theory and wanting WOC and other groups to speak from personal experience, and that experience is then used to illustrate the dominant 'white/western' theory, with an occasional mention of Bell Hooks.

What needs to happen is for feminist theory to have WOC, rural women and their feminism as the starting point for developing and creating feminist theory and action, because it is simply better.

BuffytheReasonableFeminist Fri 23-Oct-15 16:21:29

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almondpudding Fri 23-Oct-15 17:06:08

My post was eaten.


"What kinds of feminist methodology and analytic strategy are useful in making power (and women’s lives) visible in overtly nongendered, nonracialized discourses? The strategy discussed here is an example of how capitalism and its various relations of rule can be analyzed through a transnational, anticapitalist feminist critique, one that draws on historical materialism and centralizes racialized gender. This analysis begins from and is anchored in the place of the most marginalized communities of women—poor women of all colors in affluent and neocolonial nations; women of the Third World/South or the Two‐Thirds World.14 I believe that this experiential and analytic anchor in the lives of marginalized communities of women provides the most inclusive paradigm for thinking about social justice. This particularized viewing allows for a more concrete and expansive vision of universal justice."

Reading this. Feminist from the article.

BuffytheReasonableFeminist Fri 23-Oct-15 17:13:37

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BuffytheReasonableFeminist Fri 23-Oct-15 17:13:59

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