Abra Heritage | Opinion and Debate Editor
Approaching and researching feminist ideals for the first time, you may be struck with notions of ‘breaking the glass ceiling’. White liberal feminism calls for equal opportunity domination, a world in which we have just as many women in positions of leadership and authority as men. This branch of feminism places #GirlBoss sentiments onto women in positions of power and fails to note the devastation that capitalist hierarchal structures bring upon the 99%. White liberal feminism only helps the rich elite, pushing forward ‘talented’ and ‘hard-working’ women (almost always white, upper/middle class) into high positions and leaving working class women, women of colour, disabled women, queer women, trans women, and poor women at the bottom of the pecking order. The real answer to gender inequality? We need anti-capitalist, anti-racist, and eco-socialist feminism.
The very foundation of capitalism undermines work typically associated and carried out by women. Rather than striving to place women in top positions, why don’t we define what makes a ‘top position’? To achieve gender equality, we have to redefine where value lies in a job or form of labour. Globally, women carry out at least two and a half times more unpaid household and care work than men (UNWomen). As a result, women have less time and energy to engage in paid work. Capitalism fails women and denies them of opportunity to have economic independence. This unpaid work supports the failures of capitalism, filling in for lack of public expenditure on social and domestic services. Estimates have put the total value of this unpaid labour at £1.01 trillion, the equivalent to 56% of UK GDP (ONS, 2016). Feminism for the 99% argues that capitalism’s ‘key move was to separate the making of people from the making of profit, to assign the first job to women, and to subordinate it to the second. With this stroke, capitalism simultaneously reinvented women’s oppression and turned the whole world upside down’. With this in mind, the obsession with placing ‘top’ women in leadership positions seems misplaced. The majority of women would instead benefit from a reimagined view of work, with increased spending on social services.
White liberal feminism often promises women ‘sexual liberation’, which is simply not possible under capitalism. Disguises of sexual liberation often simply recycle capitalist ideals. New heterosexual dating culture encouraging hook-ups, casual sex, and online dating attempt a false liberation through sentiments that women ‘own themselves’, yet the very premise of dating apps exist as a way for men to physically rate women and pick accordingly. Capitalism thrives off of body insecurity; to sell more, women must hate their bodies more. Sites such as OnlyFans similarly have a ‘liberating’ false pretence to them, while overwhelmingly commodifying women’s bodies, snatching a whopping 20% commission from every content creators’ post. 78% of sex-workers reported experiencing emotional or psychological abuse, and a devastating 82% reported physical violence. A study of 1,000 female sex-workers in Cambodia found 93% of women surveyed had been the victim of rape in the past year (2015). Sex work under capitalism thus remains liberating only to rich, white bodies.
Modern capitalism is rooted in unsustainability. We are exhausting our natural resources, poisoning the air and water, and running thousands of species into extinction. Women make up 80% of climate refugees and are therefore disproportionality affected by the climate crisis. Climate catastrophe as a result of capitalism is most harming to women of colour in particular. In the global South, women, who make up the majority of the rural workforce, are entirely dependent on a stable climate for good results. Drought, the overexploitation of land, and pollution means that these women live in utter vulnerability. The preservation of our planet is only possible using anti-capitalist methods; the perpetual growth goal of capitalism is simply not achievable alongside saving our planet.
Fundamentally, feminism is not compatible with capitalism. If we want to truly liberate and represent women in society, we need a new framework. To achieve this goal, feminists must collaborate with movements focused upon anti-racism and sustainability. Marginalised women have been ignored for far too long, and an utter reimagining of gender justice is what is now needed.