The Guardian • Issue #2089

HALF THE SKY

Women’s Economic Inclusion

  • The Guardian
  • Issue #2089
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This year, UN Women Australia has set the theme for International Women’s Day as ‘economic inclusion for women,’ but what does economic inclusion for women look like? In the lead-up to IWD on the Eighth of March, we will hear many ideas on this topic from the media and politicians, but do they hold any weight, and if not, how should our perspective differ?

Every year on International Women’s Day, we hear statistics along the lines of there being more CEOs named John than there are CEOs who are women, and how the vast majority of management and executive positions are held by men even in woman-dominated industries. Are there important conclusions that can be drawn from these statistics? Absolutely! But the conclusion that we hear repeated ad nauseam is that we need to expand the access to capital that a select few men in bourgeois society have to a select few women and integrate those women into bourgeois society as well. Given how often this argument has been repeated since the 1970s, you would think that the liberal reformers would have achieved  some success by now, but as the statistics they repeat every year show, they have not. What they should be drawing from the statistics but continue to dance around is a very simple truth; capitalism, by its nature and history, disempowers women.

The insurmountable hurdle that the liberal reformers cannot overcome is that capitalism is a system of wealth accumulation. The profit that capitalists make is a cut of the labour done by workers. When capitalism came from feudalism, a fundamentally patriarchal system, naturally the capitalists were men, who created laws to exclude women from the new system from the first day. No matter how much those laws were changed over capitalism’s history to make capitalist accumulation nominally something that women could do, the world’s wealth had already been accumulated in the hands of bourgeois men at the expense of working women and men. Under capitalism, this wealth will continue not only to transfer from one generation of bourgeois men to the next, but to accumulate, leaving less and less of it available to working women and men for them to have their shot at getting in on the exploitation of workers. The liberal reformer ignores this in order to either believe or pretend that a system of accumulation for one class at the expense of another can actually be a system of transferral between classes, if only the right technocrats can get their hands on shaping it in their image. This can only ever get concessions for the needs of women.

So what perspective do we need instead? We must view  women’s struggle as part of the working class struggle against capital, rather than the struggle to be integrated into capital. We must fight for the proper valuation of the labour done in women-dominated industries such as nursing, midwifery, education, and aged care. We must fight against imperialism, which disempowers women everywhere while decimating them. We must fight for supports for working women at the local, state, and federal level. And we must do all of this as a part of the fight for socialism, a system under which women actually can achieve their liberation as a part of the working class through working class power.

(The NSW Women’s Fraction will be running a panel called “Women’s Economic Empowerment: a Left Perspective” at the MUA HQ (365 Sussex St, Surry Hills) at 2:00 on the 9th of March, where we will discuss what we can do to achieve women’s liberation.)

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