“Since men are not equals in white supremacist, capitalist, patriarchal class structure, which men do women want to be equal to?”
― Bell Hooks
Women and the families they are responsible for suffer tremendously under the system of capitalism. Capitalism is not an economic design that supports families, but instead, it strips resources from their livelihoods.
In addition to seeking to bring socio equilibrium to their households; women also face patriarchy and the female politics it supports. Consequently, their financial outlooks are tangled in multiple systems.
According to an article on aauw.org, women face barriers as they work to secure better career opportunities. The hindrances are:
- Old Stereotypes
- Fewer connections
- Bias and discrimination
- Lack of Flexibility
In corporate leadership, women still have a small presence compared to their male counterparts. Women are at 7.2% in Fortune 500 CEO leadership; 22.5% in Fortune 500 board seats; 11% top jobs in S&P 1500, and 25% at C-Suite jobs in 1000 companies. Archaic, western conclusions about the role of women continue to disrupt women’s chances of climbing the workplace’s ladder. Plus, the “good ole boys” club creates greater connections and networks for men, while women are pressured to adhere to the rules of the club.
As a result, men are deprived of contributing to the nurturing of children and their emotional needs. The website, aauw.org, says that “Just as the status quo is holding women back from leadership positions, it is holding men back from from embracing care-taking and support roles.”
The family unit suffers when the woman takes on the sole governance of children-rearing and work life. In addition, she also faces a harsh business environment where men have been stationed for many generations, and where women are still working to erase damaging perceptions about them.
Western Civilization and Patriarchy
Western civilization still thrives on a colonial conclusion that says a superior group must govern groups who are forced into the lower socio-economic scale. Through a history of military conquests and capitalistic agendas; Europe(west) would capture and hold land, water, and even human beings in captivity. Those actions were mainly initiated by males, who in-turn, carried their cultural blueprints into new territories.
Patriarchy is a system that supports toxic male-masculinity concepts and actions. The belief of male-dominance are then reinforced within the culture and the religion of males. These male-dominion messages can be found in religious doctrines and have reduced women to low social statuses.
As patriarchy grows from the environments of culture-and-religion; the world is seeing the toxins it unleashes. On unwomen.org, the statistics on gender-based violence is eye-opening. The article states that, “Most violence against women is perpetuated by current or former husbands, or intimate partners.” Additionally, the prevalence of violence is felt by over 736 million women( 1 in 3) who have been subjected to physical and/or sexual intimate partner violence, or both at least once in their life. Violence is felt both mentally and physically and brings on more distress and “The rates of depression, anxiety, unplanned pregnancies, STD and HIV, are higher in women who have experience violence compared to those who haven’t.”
Laws have certainly passed to combat the insurgence of domestic violence and workplace discrimination against women. Still, atrocities against women continue and they incur a certain cost. The “Costs are both indirect and direct, and tangible and intangible” reports the UN Women organization. Gender-based violence in the European Union was at 366 billion Euros a year in 2021. Also, 79% of violence against women amounted to 289 billion Euros in that same year.
Author, bell hooks, said this about the way sexism formulates to actions of dominance. She writes, “Unlike other forms of oppression, most people witness and/ or experience the practice of sexist domination in family settings. We tend to witness and/ or experience racism or classism as we encounter the larger society, the world outside the home.” She expounds on this further by saying, “In our society, sexist oppression perverts and distorts the positive function of family.”
I think of infanticide when I read hooks’ books as well as other forms of subjugation of women in the global world. The harsh reality that has been set in cultures where the birth of boys is celebrated and the presence of girls is considered burdensome. .
An article on the bbc.org’s website explains infanticide as, “Female infanticide is more common than male infanticide, and in some countries, particularly India and China, is likely to have serious consequences on the balance of the sexes in the population.” Furthermore the article says that cultural patterns are the primary reasons why young girls are oftentimes abandoned, or killed. Infanticide is the direct result of socio-economic rules that still favors boy/men over girls/women.
The causes are listed as:
- Anti-female bias– Women are perceived as subservient because of their role as careers and homemakers, whilst men predominantly ensure the family’s social and economic stability.
- Family Economics– Girl babies are often killed for financial reasons.
- Earning power: Men are usually the main income-earners, either because they are more employable or earn higher wages for the same work, or because they are able to do more agricultural work in subsistence economies. Since male babies have a greater income potential, they are less likely to be killed.
- Potential pensions: In many societies, parents depend on their children to look after them in old age. But in many of these cultures a girl leaves her parental family and joins her husband’s family when she marries. The result is that parents with sons gain extra resources for their old age, when their sons marry, while parents with daughters lose their ‘potential pensions’ when they marry and move away. This gives parents a strong reason to prefer male children. Some parents (particularly poor ones) who can’t afford to support a large family, will kill female babies. Girls are considered a drain on family resources during their childhood without bringing economic benefits later on.
- Dowry: Some girl babies are killed so that the family doesn’t have to pay a dowry when they get married. In Indian society it is tradition for the parents of the bride to give a dowry to the groom and his family. The dowry consists of large amounts of money and valuable goods. For families with several daughters this can be a serious financial burden.
Patriarchy, Feminist movement and bell hooks
Patriarchy is deemed a western philosophy that has become influential in other parts of the world. Since patriarchy and capitalism operate as equals; together they have saturated their philosophies as the agenda of capitalism became global.
In her book, Feminist Theory: Left Margin to Center, stated that while “Sex roles existed in the past but not enough evidence to discuss that.” The former associate professor also stated that “The sexism, racism, and classism that exist in the West may resemble systems of domination globally. They are forms of oppression which have been primarily informed by Western philosophy.”
The current feminist movement was born from the work of European women who rallied against their white male counterparts. We understand those women combined efforts in Europe and America as fighting a patriarchal definition. Western civilization was built by the military and “superiority complex” conclusion of the European male.
White women have earned advantages as a result of the feminist movement, but by excluding non-white women. African and indigenous women come face-to-face with a racist-and-capitalistic system that is supported by both the white male-and-female.
In bell hooks’ analysis, she said that, “Since bourgeois white women had defined feminism in such a way to make it appear that it had no real significance for black women, they could then conclude that black women need not contribute to developing theory. We were to provide the colorful life stories to document and validate the prevailing set of theoretical assumptions.” Hooks advocated for the removal of oppression in its in different trajectories and expounded on how a new way of understanding feminism must happen. She said, “The foundation of future feminist struggle must be solidly based on a recognition of the need to eradicate the underlying cultural basis and causes of sexism and other forms of group oppression.”
Hooks’ placed great emphasis on family, but acknowledged the differences in class structures between white women and women of color. In her words, hooks teaches that, “Within the present family structure, individuals learn to accept sexist oppression as “natural” and are primed to support other forms of oppression including heterosexist domination.”
She went further by saying that, “Feminist activists need to affirm the importance of family as a kinship structure that can sustain and nourish people; to graphically address links between sexist oppression and family disintegration; and to give examples, both actual and visionary, of the way family life is and can be when unjust authoritarian rule is replaced with an ethic of communalism, shared responsibility, and mutuality. The movement to end sexist oppression is the only social change movement that will strengthen and sustain family life in all households.”
Lastly, hooks proposed a new “theoretical framework” to help mitigate the combative feminist exposition that is in place. The kind that seeks to exclude men in order to showcase their flaws, and also the expulsion of non-European women. Hooks would like to see a feminist movement where all women have a “safe place.”
bell hooks. Feminist Theory: Left Margin to Center.
bell hooks. Understanding Patriarchy.