Image credit Films for Action
First Appeared in Radical Rebels, June 2017
After many decades of whitewashed feminism, a movement in the United States that was originally started by Black woman scholars, many feminist academics of colors began to branch out in order to develop more theory to the ideology that would better include their own issues. Women like Audre Lorde, Chandra Talpade Mohanty, Bell Hooks, Yuri Kochiyama, and Alice Walker began to write their own work and move to the forefront of the movement, by introducing transnationalism, inclusiveness, and how gender often intersected with other systems of oppression, like race, orientation, and class. It was not until 1989 that scholar and legal activist Kimberle Crenshaw, who had also founded the area of study of critical race theory and had worked as part of the legal team representing Anita Hill, coined the term “intersectionality” with her essay, “Demarginalizing the Intersection of Race and Sex: A Black Feminist Critique of Antidiscrimination Doctrine, Feminist Theory and Antiracist Politics.”
This theory was revolutionary, centering the struggles of non-white women, especially Black women, describing how racism intersecting with misogyny creates more difficult struggles that are unique to women of color, thus making all racism sexualized and all sexism racialized. This form of feminist praxis has spread even more to describe intersections of misogyny with other forms of oppression besides race, like when transfeminist Julia Serano coined the term “transmisogyny” to describe the intersection between cissexism and misogyny, and other specifics, like when Black feminist Moya Bailey created the term “misogynoir” to describe the intersection between anti-Blackness and misogyny.
While intersectional feminism grew, another movement trying to refine mainstream hegemonic feminism took form: radical feminism. While its name seems rather inviting, with a semblance to the term Radical Activism, or genuine activism, radical feminism, while claiming to have Socialist underlying, has a deeply reductionist and transmisogynistic past. One of radical feminists’ biggest criticisms of mainstream feminism was its neoliberalism and lesbian exclusion, which were both fair and serious concerns; Betty Friedan, a white mainstream feminist scholar in the 1960s, rarely brought up the struggles of non-white women and condemned lesbians, creating the term “Lavender Menace”, because she believed that they posed a threat to the media’s digestible view of the feminist movement.
Radical feminists believe that the root of all feminized oppression lays in a cisgender woman’s anatomy, and as a result, humanity is divided into two classes based on sex. Thus, women are a class under the patriarchy and need Marxism to abolish such a system. If transmisogyny was out of the question, this theory would be wonderful, but it is unfortunately not and is sadly a growing feminist ideology. It is incredibly flawed and ignores basic concepts about sociology and anthropology, what this study of this axis of oppression is formed by; forgetting that gender is different from sex; that there must be nuance within this class system; that the same and added marginalization affects trans women; that radical “feminists” claim that both genders is not real yet at the same time there is a gender binary; and that trans women are harassed by cis women as well as all men. These fallacies and trans women are signs that these women are not real feminists, as they do not stand for all women, and should be debunked and referred to as TERFs (Trans Exclusionary Radical “Feminists”) instead.
However, intersectional feminism under Radical Activism is inherently Marxist and anti-Capitalist in order to carry out this feminist theory, and this leftist implementation can even be found in original intersectional feminist doctrines. Women are a class under a White Supremacist Capitalist Heterocissexist Patriarchy, one that is nuanced and has its own internal struggles concerning misogyny and one that needs liberation.
First and foremost, it is important to understand this class system under Marxism of annihilating oppressive classes which are inherently tied to benefitting from Capitalism. Transnational non-white feminist scholars, like Mohanty and her analytical feminist book, Feminism Without Borders, explain that you can not hold all women as a single class without nuance because of exclusiveness and lack of understanding that women who do not live in west face different specialized struggles.
Women in countries with governments that are not secular may struggle with being forced to adopt a religious garment and thus fight for the right to choose to remove that attire, like mandatory hijab in Saudi Arabia. Women in western countries, on the other hand, may need to fight for their safety while wearing a religious garment that they are racially coded for from western white Fascists. Both women would be women of color but would experience struggles surrounding their autonomy under a misogynistic white supremacy in different ways.
In that same sense, it can not be ignored that women do make up an oppressed class, as poverty has been heavily feminized due to rising statistics, as similar issues plague them yet they may face increasing or different impairments based on location and other identities that stem from intersectionality.
Even then, all oppression, or disenfranchisement of a collective group of people by a privileged group in social, economic, and political situations, are all linked to Capitalism. Misogyny, or the hatred and oppression of women, is Capitalist through wage. Under Capitalism, woman laborers are exploited further by being paid less than men; White women make 77 cents to a White man’s dollar, which is only worse for women of color, where Black women make 64 cents and Latina women make 56 cents. With this Capitalism, it becomes more difficult for all women, but specifically women of color, to progress and gain the same amount of wealth after doing the same amount of work. This system, as a result, can not reward all its workers for their labor or allow them the same amount of control of success that more privileged people have the Capitalist belief that productivity leads to class ascendancy. This inequality can also be seen in other areas not concerning wage.
Society’s control of the market also does not allow women to have a broad range of choices career-wise. Whereas both men and women make up an equal percentage of the labor force, split 46.8% for women and 51.1% for men, according to the United States Department of Labor, these women are not being compensated for the same level and quality of labor, since they hold the same positions as these men. This injustice is tied to Capitalism because under Marx’s analysis, women belong to a class under Patriarchal systems because this inequality in labor makes women a gender under a ruling class.
Men also get four times the exposure in art, based on percent employment in that industry as well as a number of solo exhibitions women receive compared to women, and men hold 71% of all jobs in STEM careers, even when women earn 57% of all Bachelor degrees. Due to this injustice, women need social equity, not equality, or, in other words, they need equity in order to gain equality for women of all races and other demographics. Equity, the main pillar of Leftism and the reason for many Leftist distributions of global wealth and power, is when a marginalized group is given more resources by the government, and lesser amounts of these resources are given to people who hold many institutional privileges and thus are part of the Bourgeois class, in order to give the oppressed class a boost and level out the playing field for all groups.
Even healthcare is an issue that affects women with ties to Capitalism. Under Capitalism, health care is privatized, leaving impoverished people to have more difficulty in accessing it. According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), more women, or 13%, over the age of 18 are in poor health than men at 12.2%. Women also have higher statistics of hypertension and obesity, but health expenditures can be costly without access to insurance. Women, as a result, have to be careful about procreating or becoming injured due to this indirect control of the bodily autonomy of women via the need for acquisition of capital from healthcare.
Under misogyny also comes the intersection of race, where cisgender men of color are certainly not alone in their experiences under a white supremacy. A majority of manufactured goods are outsourced, or produced in factories by workers living in factories not situated in West, in Capitalism in order to keep production costs for a company low since outsourced factory workers are often paid meager wages. 85 to 90% of laborers in sweatshops are women, making this an issue that affects one gender to a majority.
Since the working class suffers under Capitalism, it is also important to remember that people of color, or a term used for non-white people in majority-white countries, make up a majority of the working class.
As classism intersects with racism, racism also intersects with misogyny on an axis of oppression; it can be seen on the wage disparity scale, where women of color earn even less than white women. Along with the Proletariat class being made up of mostly women, people of color are expected to make up most of the working class by 2032. Situationally, colonialism, which has helped contribute to white supremacy by Capitalism’s method of competition and needs to gain control of non-western land and people in order to further production.
In an analysis by Enakshi Dua, they state that “Orientalism, European culture, modernity, and whiteness are constituted significantly through a dynamic global capitalist mode of production, and, institutionally and ideologically, within and among capitalist states within a global system of power”. This statement is true, based on the Scramble for Africa, where several European nations, especially Britain and Belgium, seized control of African countries under brutal conditions in order to garner more products for their home nations; the conquest of South America; African slave trade, where Africans were sold while facing inhuman violence in the name of free trade; and colonization of Asia, where many non-white people were stripped of their cultures in order for European nations to gain better control through superiority.
As a result of these historical events, non-white people, especially people of color with intersecting identities, suffer in institutions, not including inequities in wage. Even with liberal efforts trying to solve racial injustices in steps people generally need to take forward to advance their careers, such as Affirmative Action during the college admissions process, the unemployment rate is higher for educated Black and Latino people, even though these same demographics are enrolled more by percentage in college. A solution to this issue might not be liberal revisionism to Capitalist methods of employment, but providing the socioeconomic tools necessary in order for all qualified to be able to be educated and employed by government regulation of private property and education in order to monitor hiring inequality under possible assumptions of performance based on installed white supremacy.
Oppression is linked to Capitalism in more ways than one, and human beings are not limited by some supernatural outside force to belonging to only one oppressed identities. What oppressed women need is liberation from systems that socially, economically, and politically harm them based on their multiple intersecting identities, and it is so important to remember that feminism needs to be anti-Capitalist as well as inclusive in order to harbor all women’s struggles. True feminism that is actually “radical” is intersectional, including all women’s struggles and understanding that women are a class under the patriarchy, but have varying experience when it comes to additional issues concerning race, economic class, location, heterocissexist oppression, colorism, and disability. There is no dichotomy between Marxism and intersectional feminism when it comes to a feminist movement that is both proactive and includes all misogyny. Instead, intersectional feminism is an immortal science that is both intrinsically inclusive of all oppression and radical at the same time.
Vriddhi Vinay is a writer and social activist born in 2000 and living in Pennsylvania. A South Indian femme, they write fiction, nonfiction, and poetry surrounding topics of feminism, LGBTQIP, mental illness, leftism, and the Asian-American identity. They are also a staff writer for Affinity [...]