Sexist and Economic Oppression
Feminism for the 99%

Sexist and Economic Oppression

Professors Cinzia Arruzza, Nancy Fraser and Tithi Bhattacharya pull no punches in their detailed, heartfelt rallying cry for a new, inclusive feminism.

Supporting feminism means championing marginalized women in unpaid, precarious jobs worldwide, say professors Cinzia Arruzza and Nancy Fraser of the New School, and Tithi Bhattacharya of Purdue. They advocate for an inclusive feminism that encompasses all women, whatever their ethnic and economic background. The authors do not shy away from controversy. They criticize the lapses and blind spots of modern feminism – which they suggest represents 1% of women and not the other 99% – but their true enemies are biased social systems. The authors call for social change and speak passionately on behalf of neglected women worldwide.

Obsolete

Liberal feminism, in the authors’ eyes, serves primarily managerial-status women in the global North striving for corporate or military power.They find that those who enjoy economic, cultural and social advantages can, at times, be blind to the struggles of other women. 

Liberal feminists encourage women to “lean in” to achieve corporate power, but often don’t consider whom they may “lean on”: the underpaid migrant or minority women performing their caregiving or housework. Feminism shouldn’t center around dividing up workplace management responsibilities. The rest of the women in the world need a feminist wave that also protects their interests.

Our answer to ‘lean-in’ feminism is ‘kick-back’ feminism. We have no interest in breaking the glass ceiling while leaving the vast majority to clean up the shards.Cinzia Arruzza, Tithi Bhattacharya, Nancy Fraser

On International Women’s Day in 2017, workers around the world went on strike together, reigniting feminism with a militant spirit from the past. Those strikes embodied the working-class roots of early 20th-century American feminists, primarily immigrant or Jewish female workers leading strikes and mass mobilizations. 

Today’s new feminism calls for expanding definitions of “labor” to include those who are performing invisible, unpaid, often gendered tasks, such as housework and child care. Today’s feminists must protect their communities by preserving public access to health care, transportation, housing and schools.

Collective Needs

The authors identify a new feminist wave that is fighting for the rights of working-class and poor women, people of color, and the queer, trans or disabled.This movement within feminism champions the needs and rights of anyone facing marginalization and systemic oppression. It advocates reproductive equity and justice for everyone, not only those who can afford access to health care.

Four decades of neoliberalism have driven down wages, weakened labor rights, ravaged the environment, and usurped the energies available to sustain families and communities.Cinzia Arruzza, Tithi Bhattacharya, Nancy Fraser

Women tend to occupy lower, more vulnerable positions of power in hierarchical organizations.In such settings, the authors say, feminists must advocate protecting everyone’s freedom and elevating the status of the underserved.  

Oppose Systemic Violence

The authors’ found that men who attempt to control and dominate their wives and children sometimes resort to physical violence. Overall, gender-based violence becomes more prevalent during economic crises and political uncertainty. 

Violence against women occurs systemically in ordinary circumstances, such as in the workplace, and in extraordinary situations, such as during a war. Stopping gender-based violence requires fighting for more egalitarian workplaces, opposing war, and working against men who abuse their authority and influence.

Arruzza, Bhattacharya and Fraser warn that feminists must be prepared for their opponents to threaten modern personal freedoms in reactionary, often violent ways, Social movements supporting feminism and LGBTQ+ rights should never make judgments about people’s economic status.

Anti-Racist and Anti-Imperialist

Feminists have practiced racism in the past, the authors report. British feminists once supported the United Kingdom’s colonial rule of India, and some American suffragettes complained about Black men gaining voting rights after the Civil War when women – both Black and white – were still not allowed to vote. Recently, some feminists have – likely unintentionally – engaged in racism by treating the experiences of middle-class, white women as universal while ignoring the marginalization of women from other socioeconomic groups and diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds.

We understand that nothing that deserves the name of ‘women’s liberation’ can be achieved in a racist, imperialist society.Cinzia Arruzza, Tithi Bhattacharya, Nancy Fraser

Fighting for feminist values includes combating racism and fighting for the rights of migrants and women of color working as domestic laborers and caregivers. Today’s feminists should stand up for vulnerable women in service jobs that provide scant wages and few safety measures.

Prevent Environmental Catastrophe

Climate change is accelerating because those in power extract fossilized energy from the Earth at an unsustainable rate to fuel mass production and short-term economic profit. Fully 80% of the world’s climate refugees are female, the authors point out, and women make up the majority of rural workers in the global South.

The liberation of women and the preservation of our planet from ecological disaster go hand in hand.Cinzia Arruzza, Tithi Bhattacharya, Nancy Fraser

The majority of those attempting to protect waterways by leading protests against the Dakota Access Pipeline are women.And, women in Northern India are fighting hydroelectric dams that threaten Garhwali communities. Arruzza, Bhattacharya and Fraser call for modern feminists to recognize a fundamental connection between gender equity and protecting the environment.

Global Democracy and Peace

As corporations gain more control over certain aspects of social life, and powerful states from the global North dominate states with less power, the authors maintain, capitalist governments are falling short of their foundational mission to serve democracy and peace. 

To the state bureaucrats and financial managers, both male and female, who purport to justify their warmongering by claiming to liberate brown and Black women, we say: ‘Not in our name’.Cinzia Arruzza, Tithi Bhattacharya, Nancy Fraser

Feminists should be leery of economic reforms that loan money to poorer nations, which in turn provide wealthier nations with cheap exports in industries, such as textiles, in which low-paid women laborers struggle to make a living.

Today’s feminists need to support peace and democracy across the globe, the authors insist, since women often suffer disproportionately from inequity, poverty, war and rape.

Universalism

Though Arruzza, Fraser and Bhattacharya frame their arguments around feminist concerns, they mostly call for a new universalism that recognizes and honors the rights of the disenfranchised everywhere, as well as those of any woman suffering sexist oppression. Their tone is neither strident nor conciliatory. They state most of their opinions as facts and offer facts to support most of their opinions. This is a deeply researched – if controversial – manifesto offered with strength, conviction and a clear, firm call to action.

Cinzia Arruzza also wrote A Wolf in the City; Nancy Fraser also wrote Cannibal Capitalism; and Tithi Bhattacharya also wrote Social Reproduction Theory and The Sentinels of Culture.

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