Marxist Feminism

 




In contrast to liberal feminist views on women's oppression and liberation prospects, the Marxist feminist believes that women's freedom is hampered by material realities of existence rather than legal impediments. 

Whereas liberal feminists blame legal, social, and intellectual inequalities for women's oppression, Marxist feminists argue that capitalism is to blame for women's oppression in society.

Marxist feminists, as their name implies, depend on and expand on Marxist theory; for Marxists, class oppression is the basis of all other types of oppression, as well as the most ubiquitous.

 Friedrich Engels, Karl Marx's long-time intellectual companion, was the first and possibly most influential Marxist feminist. 


Friedrich Engels traces the emergence of women's oppression in The Origin of the Family, Private Property, and the State, using Marx's critique of capitalism and the method of historical materialism (a method of analyzing human history from the perspective of materialism, the understanding that it is the material aspects of human existence that are real). 


According to Engels, we can understand how women's influence in the home changed through time by looking at how production developed. Whereas families were once matrilineal (since mothers are the only ones who know for sure who their offspring are), a shift in production – that is, a shift in how humans satisfy their material needs – resulted in a shift in the familial structure. 

The ‘world historical defeat of the female sex,' according to Engels, is the domestication of animals, the formation of private property, and the fall of the ‘mother-right.' Men became the ‘owners' of the means of production, and women's social standing plummeted. Furthermore, Engels demonstrates how laws prohibiting adultery were enacted to preserve the male head of household's private property. ‘The collapse of mother-right was the female sex's worst historical setback. 

The woman was degraded and subjected to slavery in the household as well; she became the slave of his passion and a simple instrument for the creation of offspring.' The Origin of the Family, Private Property, and the State, Friedrich Engels (1884). Marxist feminists after him have continued Engels' argument by examining women's position in capitalism today. 


Wages for housekeeping are one of the most prominent modern Marxist feminist debates. 


Capitalism is based on a class of individuals who do unpaid ‘productive' labor (including everything from bearing and raising children to making lunches, mending socks, and caring for the elderly). Marxist feminists have advocated that reproductive labor should be viewed as productive and rewarded, or that it should be socialized so that women are not consigned to the unpaid job. Insofar as it implies a historical beginning point for women's oppression, Marxist feminism is unique among feminist schools of thought. 

If the foundations of oppression can be located in capitalism's class structure and private property, then theoretically, in order to end women's oppression, capitalism must be eliminated. 


The eradication of a class society and private property is the first step. Women must work in the producing sector or in the public sector. 


Furthermore, the family as an economic unit must be destroyed, as Engels contended. This last idea indicates that every adult would work for a living income and that marriages would no longer be based on financial need. This does not rule out the possibility of marriages or families. 

Although this explanation of Marxist feminism is brief, it demonstrates the importance of society's economic structure in understanding and alleviating women's oppression. According to Marxist feminists and Marxists, freedom is defined as the absence of economic necessity's compulsion, rather than a refined conception of autonomy. 

Similarly, the social and political value of equality is defined as the absence of social class distinctions and near equality in the capacity to meet material demands, rather than formal civil equality.


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