Economic Rights for Women

Here, I examine and analyze some of the most pressing and ongoing challenges world wide concerning women's economic equality. 

Following feminists argued for the right to equal job opportunities, equitable remuneration and equivalent worth, and remuneration for housework. 

The majority of these concerns in the West fall into the second wave of feminism, according to a chronological analysis of the waves of feminism. 

However, because we're applying a thematic interpretation of the waves, these economic concerns belong in the first. Equal opportunity in the workplace simply implies that women should have the same chance as men to get a job and climb up the corporate ladder. 

Women were not allowed equal opportunity in many sectors until recently, and there are still instances of gender discrimination in the workplace. 

Equal opportunity may be thought of as a three-step procedure:

  1. The first step is to eliminate the overt obstacles that prevent women from obtaining decent employment. Employers used to be allowed to hire and promote people based on their gender. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 makes it unlawful in the United States. 
  2. The second stage is to eliminate those subtle types of discrimination that may follow the text of the law but not the spirit. For example, employment that specify certain weight or height criteria may be designed to exclude the majority of women. 
  3. The final phase entails altering workplace attitudes or cultures. Employers and coworkers who are sexist or harassing women may limit their capacity to prosper or even seek for promotions. 

Similarly, if coworkers perceive one of their newly recruited colleagues as a "affirmative action hire," they may believe she or he is unqualified for the job. While this is an incorrect conclusion, it does indicate an oppressive corporate culture that must be altered before women can achieve complete equality at work. 

Both Marxist feminists and socialist feminists, see women's oppression as inherent in the material conditions of existence. 

This is in sharp contrast to liberal feminists' notion that women are oppressed because of legal inequity. Nonetheless, these many feminist schools of thought have certain similar aims. Just remuneration and equivalent worth are two of them. Just remuneration is that men and women should be compensated equally for doing the same job. 

Women and men should be compensated equally for completing same work, according to equivalent merit. Both Marxist and liberal feminists would add that we need to alter pay in historically gendered occupations in a systematic manner. 

In other words, positions historically performed by women (elementary school teacher, day care provider, nurse, to mention a few) are frequently undervalued since a 'woman's salary' was seen as a complement to her husband's/main provider's income. 

Even if we ignore the reality that not all women have providers, the wage gap between men and women practically implies that women labor for free for around a quarter of the year while men get paid throughout the year. 

The disparity can be significantly greater depending on the occupation, socioeconomic circumstances, and other cultural variables. 

In order for women to truly have equal opportunity in the workplace, Gloria Steinem, a well-known contemporary American feminist, points out that, in addition to having access to jobs and adequate pay for all jobs (including the bad ones), workers must also have some flexibility in their work schedules to allow for those times when family obligations pull one away from a nine-to-five job. 

Steinem also believes that married couples should share parental obligations equally. 

Another topic concerning women's economic rights, which also impacts on the family-society relationship, is whether or not women should be compensated for housework. 

Whereas most liberal feminists claim that sharing parenting and cleaning responsibilities will suffice to relieve women of their major domestic worker roles, Marxist feminists seek changes in how the capitalist system perceives and employs domestic workers. Margaret Benston argues, following Friedrich Engels, in ‘The Political Economy of Women's Liberation' (1969), that we must examine the position of women under capitalism. 

Women appear to be a distinct class, one that capitalism both requires and exploits. Women, according to Benston, are those who produce use-values in the house. 

The worth of things for immediate consumption that satisfy demands is referred to as usevalue. 

It is a product's worth to the owner. In the house, women produce a variety of ‘products' such as meals, clean laundry, healthy settings, and other luxuries. 

Homemakers also give essential emotional support, allowing the worker to return to work each day. 

Women, on the other hand, provide this use-value in the house without being compensated in any way. Housework, according to Benston, should be translated into public productive activity. 

To put it another way, she pushed for the industrialization of domestic labor. This plan has a community appeal in many ways, and we have already begun to industrialize or socialize housekeeping in many ways. 

The concept of increasing the unit of consumption has a community appeal. 

There are more chances for community interaction and maybe greater collective feeling and emotional support if neighborhoods or communities, rather than single households, enjoy meals together or construct living quarters around a shared kitchen. 

Daycares and schools, take-out dinners, cleaning teams, and even maintenance or construction workers are just a few instances of how we now share home responsibilities that used to be completely the duty of the individual family. 

The majority of them are not socialized in the economic sense; in other words, they are not government-sponsored services. 

Some, though, may be. In the United States, the state provides free education as well as transportation to that school for children aged five to eighteen. Other countries' social services, such as healthcare and elder care, are much more extensive. 

The argument is that, though Benston's suggestion may appear to be unachievable or at least overly extreme at first, it is not purely science fiction. Benston further notes that the conventional family structure, which includes female homemakers, converts those women into customers for the capitalist economy. 

Women become consumers in quest of an identity when they don't have one at home.

The fact that so many people are unemployed creates an army of reserve labor, which is possibly the most crucial part of capitalism's reliance on housewives. 

According to a Marxist understanding of capitalism, this keeps worker wages low and generates a pressure on workers to care for all members of the home who do not provide for themselves via wage labor. Benston, like many feminists, believes that women's independence is predicated on their ability to work outside the home and the socializing of housework. Childrearing, too, should be shared by all members of society and not only the duty of parents. Juliet Mitchell, in a similar spirit, claims that the distinction between job and family is false. 

Work and family life are inextricably interwoven, especially for women and children. In the family, children learn what it means to be a part of society. 

Gender roles and class roles are all taught there initially. Unlike Benston, who believed that capitalism exploited women's use-value, Mitchell emphasizes on women's lack of time to engage in capitalism's exchange-value. In other words, Mitchell is more concerned with women as employees than with the tasks women undertake to support workers at home. 

Her case for equal opportunity for women is based on this knowledge of women's labor market exclusion. Mitchell makes the bold claim that women's emancipation must be achieved in tandem with the emancipation of the working class, and vice versa. Mariarosa Dalla Costa offers a third perspective on women's domestic work. Dalla Costa argues in her article "Women and the Subversion of the Community" (1971) that women's domestic work is the fundamental focus of women's role in society. 

She examines housekeeping to demonstrate that, according to Marx and traditional Marxism, it is socially valuable activity. Dalla Costa claims that women at home are secluded, but that all women, including those who work outside the home, are housewives. 

Women are expected to fill household responsibilities, nurture relationships, and clean up mistakes in the public domain of production.

Dalla Costa, unlike many of the feminist thinkers we've covered so far, concentrates on the working-class housewife. This focus exposes how capitalism produces and exploits the position of the housewife outside of the home. 

The work that women perform outside the home is related to the work that they undertake at home (as we saw with the jobs labeled as traditional women's labor above). 

Nonetheless, the labor that women undertake in the home is invisible to society and is not counted as part of social output (or a country's GDP). 

The visible results of domestic labor are the children and/or the employee. However, Dalla Costa does not believe that labor is a way to women's freedom because labour is still exploited in the capitalist system. 

Instead, she contends that liberation for women must take place within the home. Dalla Costa believes that the entire structure of housekeeping should be rejected. She claims that women require a new identity separate from their home responsibilities. She believes that paying women to perform housework will simply serve to reinforce domestic labor's "institutionalized servitude." 

As one might assume, Dalla Costa anticipates a more comprehensive battle alongside the working class to destroy capitalism systems; "wages for housekeeping" would not offer the essential changes. 

Employment is insufficient to alleviate women's oppression because labor is part of capitalism; one would be substituting one type of exploitation for another. 

Instead, Dalla Costa advises that the housewife position be abolished and that a revolutionary war for emancipation alongside the working class be waged. 

These three approaches to the proposed pay for housekeeping proposal highlight some of the challenges in achieving true societal change. 

The difficulties are all intertwined, and they frequently impact not just our community relationships, but also our own identities. 

That explains at least some of the discrepancies across feminist theories: feminists take diverse approaches to the same issue. Despite the fact that all feminists want to see women liberated, they typically see different pathways to get there. 


The glass ceiling is an impenetrable barrier that prevents women from reaching the highest levels of business, academia, politics, and other professions. The metaphor from the 1970s depicts the ongoing battle for women's rights. 

Overt regulations that keep women out of positions or tracks where progress is feasible, as well as subtle, hidden beliefs about women's talents, contribute to the ceiling. 

  • A liberal feminist could suggest legislation to guarantee that all women have equal access to decent occupations and opportunities for growth within those occupations. 
  • A Marxist feminist would argue that the capitalist class system that relies on women being underpaid or jobless should be challenged. 
  • A socialist feminist would argue that the links between race, class, and gender are all based on destructive dualisms, which serve as a form of oppressive unifier. 

Other feminists would explore for more reasons of injustice and propose new ways to liberate women. Despite their disagreements, feminists have the same aim of freedom in mind.

~ Jai Krishna Ponnappan

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