An introduction to socialist feminism

Submitted by AWL on 24 October, 2021 - 9:52
Women's liberation banner

Workers’ Liberty believes that the liberation of women can only happen with the emancipation of humanity as a whole, through the socialist transformation of society. That transformation can only happen through working-class struggle, with women playing a full and equal role.

The working class is the vast majority of people: immensely diverse, but united by our dependency on waged labour to survive. Men and women both depend on waged labour, but it is mainly women who have a burden of both waged labour and unpaid domestic labour. Class societies have used women’s historic and current role in childbearing to maintain a gendered division of labour that influences the availability, price and type of waged labour men and women do.

Misogyny, sexism, racism, xenophobia, homophobia and other divisions suit the interests of capital because:

they provide the basis for extreme exploitation of minority groups: for example, the driving down of wages and conditions for women workers, migrant workers, and so on.

they undermine working-class solidarity and resistance: if you are busy hating your neighbour, you forget how much you ought to hate your boss.

Women’s oppression also provides the grist for some aspects of homophobia and transphobia. These have other roots as well, but a thread that runs through is an ideology around gender conformity: rigid ideas about gender presentation, what it means to be a “real” woman or man and strict gender roles in the nuclear family.

The family is a central focus for us. It is currently, and has historically been a key instrument for capitalist accumulation: helping to depress wages and ensure the reproduction of workers’ labour power, both day-to-day and generation-to-generation. The things we do to keep our families and communities going are mostly done for free, or by very low-waged workers, like nannies and cleaners.

The family has also been the site of gendered oppression and immiseration: the gendered division of labour, bullying and domestic violence, isolation and loneliness. But the family, despite its many flaws, remains a means by which working-class people can not just survive but find degrees of real fulfilment and pleasure in our daily lives.

So as socialist feminists, we want to expand the fulfilling and pleasurable aspects of familial relationships — giving people opportunities to nurture the relationships that are important to them and eradicating unhealthy power dynamics between partners, between parents and children, etc.

By overthrowing class society and cutting the roots of oppression, we can create the conditions for the liberation of all of humanity. In a society based on democracy and solidarity, it will be possible to work to end all forms of oppression and exploitation. Likewise, building a common socialist project that is feminist will create a organised working class that is fighting fit, empowered and working in common cause. In other words, without the abolition of class exploitation, there can be no end to women’s oppression. But without a mass movement of organised, mobilised women fighting for liberation, there can be no socialist revolution.

We fight for:

taxation of the rich, expropriate the banks; increase public funds to provide adequate, publicly-provided support services for all women — including trans women.

a living wage for all workers; decent, affordable housing, and a comprehensive benefits and welfare system.

solidarity across borders, free movement worldwide and full citizenship rights for migrants.

the decriminalisation of sex work and workers’ rights for all; including a comprehensive right to strike, freely and without limitation; for strong, democratic, militant, feminist trade unions.

sexual freedom and liberation for lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans people; for comprehensive sex and relationship education and healthy, positive attitudes towards sex.

safe, legal and free contraception and abortion on demand and an end to the social pressures and stigmatisation around women’s reproductive choices.

a secular society, in which religion does not dictate women’s roles, clothing or any other aspects of our lives

a complete breakdown of the public/private divide and reorganisation of the domestic sphere; free, flexible, universal childcare; expanded parental rights at work; a shorter working week.

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