Socialist feminism

 



Another school of feminist thinking attempts to reconcile patriarchal and capitalist critiques. Both ideological systems, according to socialist feminists, are harmful to women and must be combated. Although they draw inspiration from socialist ideas (particularly utopian socialists), the socialist movements of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries were frequently sexist in their policies and practices. 


Socialist feminists want to include feminist politics within the socialist agenda while staying away from the excesses of both Marxist and radical feminists. 


The second question is how, and socialist feminists have a variety of approaches to both patriarchy and capitalism. One of the most important distinctions between radical, Marxist, and socialist feminism is how they see the origin or foundations of women's oppression. 

Radical feminists argue that oppression stems from women's biological role in reproduction or their position in a sex-divided society, while Marxist feminists argue that it stems from capitalism, and socialist feminists argue that both are true and then try to figure out how capitalism and patriarchy are linked. 

Of course, there may be a deeper relationship, and some socialist feminists prefer to look for a "unifying concept": something that not only connects capitalism and patriarchy, but also explains all kinds of oppression. 

If we imagine each form of oppression as a branch of a very large tree, we can better understand the conceptual structure of oppression by recognizing the "unifying concept," and we can tear out all oppression by its roots rather than continuing to trim away at branches that appear to grow and even flourish despite near constant attack. In feminist writing, a variety of competitors for the unifying theme have been proposed. 


One is the concept of 'labor division.' This is understandable because both patriarchy and capitalism use some form of labor division, whether based on sex or class. Of course, the gender distribution of work has its limitations. 


Other ideas for a unifying notion include "dominance systems," "alienation," and "either/or dichotomous thinking." Each of these characteristics may be found in many types of oppression, but in different ways. 

However, much like with the gender distribution of work, any of these might have issues. Feminism, as a critical movement, must not only provide recommendations, but also evaluate those suggestions for their merits and flaws. 


Capitalism and patriarchy, according to certain socialist feminists, are inseparable. 


Heidi Hartmann, for example, notably contends that patriarchy is a material state or economic relationship that supports males controlling women's joint labor. She contends that the gender wage gap, which requires women to care for children while men work in the public sector, promotes women's subjugation in all parts of society. 


Battling patriarchy will be futile until capitalism is also deposed. 


Other socialist feminists see capitalism and patriarchy as two separate ideological systems that exist side by side. 

Each oppresses women in various ways, necessitating diverse strategies for fighting oppression. For example, a radical feminist would examine sexism by pointing to the biological basis of women's position in the home and their exclusion from public and political activity. 

That same feminist may believe that capitalism is to blame for part of the economic exploitation of women's domestic labor. In other words, the subjugation of women is a result of both women's reproductive potential and capitalism's need on a huge unpaid workforce. 


Socialist feminists suggest a variety of answers, but they are unified in their desire to alter or abolish capitalism and patriarchy. 


Although some of the proposals to end oppression are more revolutionary than others, socialist feminists generally agree that challenging patriarchy without also challenging society's class divisions, or challenging class division without also addressing sex-based divisions, will not be sufficient to end women's oppression. 

They also tend to think that arguing over whether kind of oppression is worse or which kind should take precedence is detrimental for feminists. Instead, socialist feminism contends that all types of oppression are interdependent or interlinked, as the unifying notion demonstrates. 


For the socialist feminist, women's liberation, and indeed all emancipation, is defined as independence from social and historical class and gender roles. 


But socialist feminists go much farther, emphasizing each individual's right to self-determination within a community. Between the individual and the community, there is a balance. Individual rights should not take precedence over collective responsibility. 

One assumption is that people are already part of a community. Humans are biological organisms whose identities or natures are shaped by the community in which they live, as well as their physical makeup and surroundings. 

Women's metaphysical and epistemological claims must take into consideration this jumble of influences. Some feminists link socialist feminism to what they call "standpoint epistemology." 

To summarize, perspective epistemology is a theory of knowing that maintains that one's perspective or social position affects (or even determines) one's knowledge claims. This is in contrast to liberal feminism, which believes that objectivity in science and knowledge is attainable.

~ Jai Krishna Ponnappan 

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