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Socialist and Marxist feminism: A demand for the liberation of women

Updated on July 13, 2013

The scholars of this school of thought attributes women’s oppression to social class ,race and ethnicity.The liberation of women is therefore the liberation of oppressive social class relations.Fredrick Engel’s theory of Origin of the family locates women’s oppression in the inability to participate in the public sphere.The assumption that liberation of women from domestic to public sphere would automatically contribute to the liberation in every sense of the word was misplaced.In both the capitalist and socialist,it didn’t since women occupied a low paid job.

Reproduction concept has been proposed as an antithesist of the familiar concept of production.The debate links production to the economy and reproduction to the sexual system.Production and reproduction however take place in both systems ie. In every mode of production involves reproduction of labor,social class and technology.For example the replacement of machinery is an example of reproduction in the economy.The formation of Gender identity is an example of production in the domain of gender system but not all multi- variations of social reproduction can be attributed to the gender system.Gender system is the domain of social life.

The Marxist feminist participation in reproduction/production debate is summarized as:

1.Women are a reserve labor force of capitalism.Their lower wages provides surplus to the capitalist employer.They serve capitalism interest through management of family consumption.The underlying link between productive and reproductive activity operates on at least 3levels i.e structural, community and household levels.Structural factors refer to political,economic and social factors that pertain in each state in the region.Community factors apply to localized situations in a specific geographic location.Household dimensions refer to unique situations within individual homes.

2.There is a relationship between housework and the reproduction of labor.Several researchers have according to the Marxists that women’s work is not valued as recognized.They cite the fact that women’s social reproductive functions such as unpaid child care,domestic work, care for the aged and so forth are vital for the regions economies.

Housework is not perceived as work by male dominated society since no wage is paid for it. Marxists ultimately consider women’s labor as contributing to the final quantity of surplus value realized after surplus value is derived from unpaid labor of the worker.The broad economic picture should include women in the formal sector or subsistence farming.This women belong to the lowest social strata band suffer from numerous difficulties such as poverty,access to credit,social harassment.inadequate information,dissemination network etc.

Education researchers argue that the reproduction considers schools as photocopiers.Schooling in the capitalist section is considered as reinforcing social inequities and solidifying social class structure.It also maintains a workforce divided by social class.Schools also confirm identities of success and failure.This ensures that the mass of future employer labor force accepts its low position in the overall labor process.

One variant views schools as producers.This approach maintains that schools so not only reproduce but go further to provide social class system.This view is supported by developing countries.Regional and gender differences are produced by universal access to primary education.

Traditional division of labor too has been broken down by the absence of men in the rural sector.Women’s workload has increased dramatically and most women found themselves in the informal sector while those in the formal sector were concentrated at lower levels.The contradiction is evident to Marxists that liberation of women from public employment would automatically lead to their liberation.

The male dominated socialist states have not changed the situation of women but merely adjusted it to suit the needs of socialism.Female headed households is a dilemma which faces feminists from all walks of life.Marxist feminists on the ability of the traditional Marxism to contribute to women's liberation by allocating class oppression in the specific socio- cultural milieu.They believe socialism can improve conditions of women but not liberation from men.

Interaction between class,gender and race or ethnicity has been one of the greatest challenges of Marxist feminist in the region.Marxist feminist has been particularly attractive to feminist scholars challenging male white dominated ideologies and demanding development of black feminist theories.


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