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Gender Inequality: Marxist and Feminist views Week 8 Gender and Society.

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Presentation on theme: "Gender Inequality: Marxist and Feminist views Week 8 Gender and Society."— Presentation transcript:

1 Gender Inequality: Marxist and Feminist views Week 8 Gender and Society

2 Recap Social construction of gender Considered the role of different structures such as education and work in the construction of gender Liberal feminism Equality / Difference debate

3 Outline Introduce Marxism Feminist critiques Reproductive labour Dual systems theory

4 Marxist theory Capitalism is the basis for the organisation of society (economic determinism) Two main classes –Bourgeoisie Owners of the means of production –Proletariat Have no choice but to sell their labour

5 Marxist theory Wage labour is key to production Profits arise through exploitation (surplus value) Classes produced through relations of production

6 Marxist theory The workers transform raw materials to make profits. Profits go to the shareowners and directors

7 Engels ‘Origins of the Family, Private Property and the State’ 1884 New forms of production allowed men to gain ‘surplus’ leading to wealth and power Monogamous marriage developed to allow men to pass on property Sex oppression is also class oppression

8 Engels ‘In the great majority of cases today, at least in the possessing classes, the husband is obliged to earn a living and support his family, and that in itself gives him a position of supremacy, without any need for special legal titles and privileges. Within the family he is the bourgeois and the wife represents the proletariat…. With the transfer of the means of production into common ownership, the single family ceases to be the economic unit of society. Private housekeeping is transformed into a social industry’ family/ch02d.htm

9 Engels on Marriage Marriage is based on economic conditions Although constructed as a voluntary contract it is coerced by the organisation of society. Bourgeoisie wives are similar to prostitutes they sell their bodies to one man rather than many

10 Marxist theory To what extent do you think this model is a useful way of understanding society?

11 ‘The woman question’ 1960s revised interest in Marx and Engles’ writings But it didn’t seem to account very well for women. Two strands of feminism emerged –Adding the theory of reproduction to that of production Marxist feminism –Dual systems theories - capitalism & patriarchy Socialist feminism

12 Theory of Reproduction Marxism is based on a divide relating to the relationship to the means of production Bourgeoisie Proletariat Women’s domestic work does not fit into this picture

13 Theory of Reproduction Women’s labour is important in two dimensions –Their labour in the home is necessary for workers to be employed –They physically give birth to the next generation of workers

14 Reproducing the labour force Capitalism requires workers Women have to give birth and care for children in order to restock the labour force

15 Marxist feminism ‘Relations of production, grounded as they are in a deeply ideological division of labour, cannot be investigated through economic categories alone. (…) the capitalist division of labour is not determined by technical requirements alone’. Barrett M (1980) Women’s Oppression Today London, Verso

16 Marxist feminism Capitalism is the primary cause of women’s oppression Reforming or ending capitalism is the primary goal

17 Talk to the person sitting next to you about the to extent to which you think capitalism may be responsible for women’s oppression.

18 Limitations Theorising reproduction went some way to explaining women’s position, but it could not answer many questions –Why were/are women oppressed in non- capitalist countries? –Why are women paid less than men? –Why are women responsible for domestic sphere?

19 Socialist feminism For socialist feminism, Marxist ideas on class oppression are important But they do not fully explain women’s position Developed dual systems approach Different combinations of capitalism and patriarchy

20 Capitalism and patriarchy Hartmann shows that capitalism and patriarchy often work against each other but do not destroy each other Capitalism and patriarchy may have competing interests and need to adjust to each other.

21 Reproducing for capitalism If women did not work in the home then workers could not sell their labour –Eat, sleep, keep healthy etc If workers had to pay for these services then wages would have to go up

22 Not class alone Women’s oppression is related to their class position –Not paid properly for their labour either in or out of the home But patriarchal privilege is also a central structure to society Racism also recognised as interrelating to class and gender oppression

23 Patriarchal Capitalism Traditional heterosexual families developed within an institutionalized sexual hierarchy Women have primary responsibility for the home and children Women may be excluded from the marketplace (unpaid housewives) Women could be hired at lower wages than men because their primary responsibility was considered to be home and family.

24 To overcome gender inequality Class oppression through reform/ending capitalism Patriarchal oppression through challenging the traditional family

25 Area of interest/activism Socialist feminist concentrates on the material and historical conditions in which women live –Heterosexuality is a structure that needs to be understood as part of women’s oppression –Employment conditions and recognising women’s unpaid work –State involvement in perpetuating women’s position (welfare organisation) –Access to contraception and abortion essential for women’s autonomy

26 Do you think the ideas of socialist feminism are more likely to explain women’s position in society?

27 Comparison to Liberal Feminism Liberal feminism concentrates of formal mechanisms in the public sphere to challenge inequality –A level playing field? It does not challenge the structure of society itself. Marxist/Socialist feminism argue that the structure needs to change to end inequality

28 Summary Considered how feminist theory has interrelated with Marxism Outline concept of ‘Reproduction’ of the workforce Considered dual systems theories of capitalism and patriarchy

29 Next week Looking at radical feminism Considering concept of patriarchy in more detail Outlining the ‘continuum of sexual violence’


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