Neoliberalism isn’t just harmful economics. Here is a look at its gender side. Academics and a few journalists have been writing about neoliberal feminism for some time. But most of them discuss it theoretically. Few recognize how neoliberal assumptions saturate specific proposals for advancing women, or how these proposals do not actually address women’s inequality, especially the inequality multiplied by race and class. At best these proposals are feeble in relation to most women’s problems, and they may even be part of the problem.
Forty-six years ago patrons at the Stonewall Inn, a popular New York City gay bar, fought back against abusive police, and in doing so launched the modern lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender movement.
When I first started writing this series of remarks in Italian (“Riflessioni degeneri”), subsequently collected into a single piece for the English version Remarks on Gender, my aim was twofold. The first was to make a complex debate – one that has unfolded over the course of several decades – accessible to a public of activists and people interested in gender, race, and class politics. The second was to contribute toward reopening this crucial debate about how we should conceptualize the structural relationship between gender oppression and capitalism.
Feminist theorists today are increasingly returning to the insight that capitalism must constitute the critical frame for understanding contemporary forms of gender oppression. Investigating the relationship between feminism and capitalism raises a host of difficult questions, however, which Cinzia Arruzza faces head on in her lucid essay Remarks on Gender. She gives an illuminative roadmap of the terrain in which this issue was debated in the 1970s and 1980s by laying out three different theses on how capitalism and gender oppression are related: dual or triple systems theory, indifferent capitalism, and the unitary thesis. She begins by assessing carefully the problems of the first two positions and concludes by defending the third, the unitary thesis: in capitalist societies, a patriarchal system that would be autonomous and distinct from capitalism no longer exists. Instead of treating gender and sexual oppression as separate forms of domination, a unitary Marxist-feminist theory must incorporate them in the total framework of capitalist accumulation.
It is not an easy task to reconstruct succinctly the main problematics that have traversed Marxist feminism in the last 40 years, without risking simplifications or serious omissions, or without producing a mere summary that avoids critically engaging with the subjects that it raises. And yet, I believe Arruzza’s text “Remarks on Gender” accomplishes the task very well: her reconstruction of the key theses on the relationship between patriarchy and capitalism proposed by different currents within socialist and Marxist feminism from the 1970s onwards is not only lucid and informative, but also extremely clear and accessible. Furthermore, her partisan critique of the different positions on the table, alongside an indication of the most promising questions for debate, give us – as feminists who locate ourselves in the Marxist tradition(s) – a great opportunity to begin and/or deepen a much needed discussion and exchange. A new generation of Marxist feminists has emerged in the last years; it begins to question, re-articulate, expand and criticise the theorizations and disputes it has inherited from previous generations.
This text raises the question of a unified theory of social relations. Cinzia Arruzza’s essay “Remarks on Gender” reminds us of the debates, left dormant for decades, around creating a unified theory of capital. However, Arruzza’s path toward that unification is one that abdicates the possibility of locating gender and race as part of the abstract, logical, or “essential mechanisms” of capitalism, opting instead to incorporate these pervasive relations as aspects of capitalism’s historical and concrete unfolding.
The social organization of humanity before the advent of agriculture tells us a lot about the context in which our species evolved over tens of thousands of years. It is in fact distinguished from that of primates by a more intense collaboration between individuals, which allows the development of a "cumulative culture." Researchers have just shown why gender equality may explain this propensity to associate a higher number of individuals coming from different groups (M. Dyble et al., "Sex equality can explain the unique social structure of hunter-gatherer bands ", Science, 15 May 2015).
Feminism requires us to recognise that "women" is neither a stable nor a homogeneous category. Does intersectionality as a universal framework help us to capture this complexity? This paper argues that it does not. It addresses this question through the intricacies of the terrain that feminist politics must negotiate, using the Indian experience to set up conversations with feminist debates and experiences globally. Feminism is heterogeneous and internally differentiated. We need to pay attention to challenges to the stability of given identities— including those of "individual" and "woman." These challenges constitute the radically subversive moments that are likely to be most productive for feminism in the 21st century.
On 17 January 2015 thousands of people demonstrated in Paris and other cities in France to commemorate the fortieth anniversay of the law legalising abortion in France for the first time, but also to denounce the inadequacies in its application, and to highlight other forms of women’s inequality. On this occasion the monthly journal of the NPA l’Anticapitaliste la Revue published this article retracing the struggle for the right to abortion in France.
The repression of women by the Irish state has been exposed yet again by the case of a clinically dead woman being kept alive in order to continue a pregnancy. The responsibility of the state for this woman’s situation was summed up in the claim by doctors that they were unable to accede to her family’s request that life support be switched off for “constitutional reasons”. In this case the legal imperative to preserve the life of the unborn raised the prospect of a woman’s body being maintained for up to twenty weeks despite there being no possibility of a live, never mind healthy birth.