III. U.S. Responsibility for Subjugation of Women Around the Globe and Within the U.S.
What can the organized Left and the social movements demand of the institutions of U.S. imperialism to counter the subjugation of women?
The exploitation and abuse of women across the globe is
escalating. At the same time, women everywhere are resisting, and the movements of women in the Third World are placing demands on the U.S. military, in particular, and on international bodies such as the
United Nations to stop the mass murder of women and children and to establish global standards for women's rights in general. There is tremendous motion, yet the international Convention on the
Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, adopted by the UN General Assembly in 1979, is still not ratified by the United States. The Bush administration is using defense of women's
rights as a justification for a war that kills women and children. The President himself promotes the right-wing religious fundamentalism that has led the attack on hard-won women's rights inside the
U.S. Around the world and right in their own home, U.S. corporations, the U.S. military, and all U.S. institutions of governance insist upon the structural subjugation of women, in fact, play a leading
role in violating presumed inalienable rights.
Male supremacy, including men's groups organizing to protect their dominance and
individual male brutality, seems to be on the rise. Yet it is U.S. economic and military policies that join forces to effectively and massively control women's bodies. The U.S. executes policies
of "population control," such as forced sterilization of poor and oppressed nationality women, on the one hand and denies affordable birth control and access to safe abortion on the other. The U.S.
promotes pharmaceutical research that uses the bodies of Third World women for testing and is complicit with the sex-slave trade and prostitution that cater to U.S. military bases and business/corporate
class men nationally and internationally. The U.S. backs structural adjustment policies that displace women small farmers in favor of transnational agricultural corporations and thereby drive girls and women
of all ages into prostitution. As the unchecked military power of the United States is projected across the globe, the confluence between gendered oppression, sexual violence and military aggression
Women now constitute the majority of the poor in the Western countries and the bulk of the Third World labor force. As Maria Meis has analyzed beginning with Women: The
Last Colony, women's labor in particular is relegated to invisible sectors—concentrated in Free Production Zones employed by large-scale manufacturers at very low wages, in small-scale production better
known as "income generating activity," in subsistence agriculture, in caregiving and domestic labor, in the transnational sex trade—where women are isolated and unorganized.
pervade every area of our political work; every campaign is a campaign for the liberation of women and needs to be understood in those terms.
We believe it is critical to understand the
interdependence of class exploitation, the exploitation of nations and peoples, and the subjugation of women under imperialism. We do not see distinct systems of patriarchy, capitalism, and
national/colonial exploitation. Today these operations are causally linked in one world system—imperialism—which cannot survive without patriarchy. This requires an understanding that the
subjugation of women is based in the exploitation of women. The oppressions of sexual discrimination, inequality of rights, objectification and domination by men in general have a
material basis in the superexploitation of women in the informal economy of subsistence production and reproduction of the species.
We recognize imperialist patriarchy as a foundation for
extraction of surplus value and understand violence against women as fundamental to colonial conquest and superexploitation achieved through low-paid and unpaid labor. Women do not voluntarily submit
to these conditions. Millions of women have been raped, tortured, murdered and had their property confiscated in the development of capitalism. Violence today is not simply a leftover from a
feudal past, but rather it is totally integral to the development of capitalism. Patriarchy today ensures "ownership" of women's bodies (in production and reproduction) as well as the conquest of
nature and appropriation of colonies as property.
Patriarchy has developed as a structure of familial relationships through which the head of family, designated as father, owns his wife, his
and her offspring, property, livestock, servants, serfs, slaves. Patriarchy constructs all relations of economic domination and dependence as familial. Rooted in patriachal systems that predate
and transcend particular modes of production, the sexual division of labor has provided the basis for the gendered division of labor in the international economy and all political, social and military
institutions. This international division of labor denotes wage labor as "male" and non-wage labor (servant or subsistence labor) as "female." This is the ideology with which international
development strategies are implemented.
The "visible" exploitation of male wage labor in the advanced industrial countries could only come about on the backs of women in the advanced
capitalist countries and colonized peoples, predominantly women. The formally recognized wage laborer then is given a so-called "family wage" in order to establish himself as a nuclear family patriarch
and thus believes he has a stake in the global system of imperialist patriarchy.
Imperialist patriarchy entails the subjugation of women and oppression of nations and colonies in a
predatory mode of production that needs warfare, conquest and accumulation. Colonization and housewifization are inextricably linked in a process Maria Meis calls "universal housewifization." To be
"housewifed" means that—female or male, spouse or child, in a home, a factory, a field, or a street—your labor is "gendered" and regarded as that of a "free good" given by nature. Labor such as the
nurturing of a wife/mother is considered natural, outside of work and society; more specifically, the labor of marriage and child bearing, the labor of education and socialization of children to become
future producers and consumers, and the labor of "nurturer" of the worker are considered given freely by nature, therefore invisible to the economy. According to nuclear family ideology, if a woman is a
"housewife," she is not the primary breadwinner. Her income is considered "supplemental" so she will work for less pay. Ironically, this in fact makes women the most desirable labor force.
They become head of household while being designated "wife"—both by an economy that does not want to recognize their labor and also often by their own partner who has been forced to compete for lower wages
or be displaced from the wage labor market. In many households such dynamics create the conditions for domestic violence.
In previous sections we have described how the
superexploitation of colonies, nations and peoples is fundamental to the process of capitalist accumulation, especially in the current stage of imperialist global integration. The superexploitation of
women through no-wage and low-wage labor is fundamental to both the exploitation of wage labor in the industrialized countries and the superexploitation of nations, in which women undertake the majority of
labor. We have described the role that conquest of colonies played in funding early capitalism. Without the superexploitation of women—as invisible no-wage labor in the home (precondition for the
proletarianization of the man) and invisible low-wage labor in social production—capitalism could never have developed. Taken together, the subjugation and superexploitation of women and conquered
peoples creates an international invisible economy made up of highly productive but unrecognized (and unaccounted for) labor. This is imperialist patriarchy in which the global "family" is defined by a
few transnational corporations as patriarchs who view oppressed nations and peoples as either the "free goods" of nature or the accumulation of productive property.
Then there is the supremacy/submission ideology
that has taken on a relatively autonomous life of its own as sexism, misogyny (the hatred of women) and subordination occur in every gendered relationship—whether between corporate patriarchs and their female labor force or between husband and wife bonded in the wedlock of the nuclear family. The ideology of male supremacy pervades so-called civilized societies; it can be found in the very social construction of nature as "female" and not yet colonized lands as "virgin," in the metaphor through which "man married to the sea" is used to describe man's voyage to gain control over nature, and in the language employed by the Left to describe settler exploitation of natural resources, "the rape of the land." As we discussed earlier when looking at the ideology of racism, these ideological constructs (while always in some way related to economic imperatives) develop a logic of their own that becomes itself a material force.
Although explicitly gender-based oppression is unquestionably on the rise, none of the main types of social organizations in the U.S. that have arisen to combat such oppression today seem
able to link the struggle for women's liberation with struggles for national liberation and international class struggle. Thus, the organized sectors of the U.S. working class remain bitterly divided,
unable to effectively confront even the basest gender oppression. The predominantly white women's movement remains unable to effectively dialogue with women of color, and often seems led by class
interests very similar to those which seek to guide the black and Latino middle class. While organizations comprised of women of color throughout the world aim to link these struggles, they confront
triple and sometimes quadruple "jeopardies," often doing so with only tangential support or even awareness from women in the United States.
At the same time, women's liberation cannot happen
without an antiimperialist analysis. For this reason, we choose to look to the organized Third World women's movements for our strategic focus.
Dilemmas for the Left
Perhaps the biggest dilemma for the Left with regard
to the position of women internationally is how to develop unity about the status of gendered subjugation and the role and responsibility of Leftists in the U.S. All too often, because analysis of the
subjugation of women focuses not on exploitation but on the oppression of women—discrimination, violence, rape and harassment by men, exclusion, even misogyny—capitalism and male supremacy are viewed as two
separate systems. This leads to tremendous disorientation and down right hopelessness because of the lack of a viable comprehensive strategy.
Even Marxists who focus on women's liberation through the integration of women in production miss the essence of the problem by conciliating with the erasure of
women's unpaid labor. Women do not need to "enter production;" we are already always at the heart of production.
Another dilemma is that being a women is not more unifying to
women across the world than being different nationalities, races and classes. It is not only disunifying but antagonistic. White and middle class Western women are on the defensive, benefiting from but
often rejecting feminism. Moreover, these women disregard and exploit the working class women of color they rely on to replace them in the home as childcare workers and maids in order to achieve their
own gains. At the same time, superexploited and oppressed women of color the world over experience class, nationality, race and gender as one human being. They must not be made to choose
identity. Yet because they are often, in fact, faced with that choice, they rarely ally with the Western movement for women's equality; rather, they have given birth to many campaigns of women
organized to resist U.S. imperialism that make the struggle for women's liberation part of a national liberation strategy.
A persistent dilemma for the Left is posed by the fact that there
seems to be a need for state intervention against male brutality for the protection of women; repeat abuse of women, spouses and children is rampant. At the same time, 2 million men and
women—predominantly blacks and Latinos, who we have called colonial subjects—are in prisons, and there is no way under the current legal and judicial systems to stop the racialization of enforcement
and sentencing. Further, the very women who seek protection and, due to sexism, do not get taken seriously by the police or the legal system are all too often taken very seriously when the State can
put them in prison for self-defense against male attackers—be they partners or strangers. We have learned that calls for community control of police or for a "people's enforcement" system are commonly
co-opted by the State apparatuses themselves—a case in point is the police-led "Neighborhood Watch" that trains neighbors to watch each other. Now Bush wants expansion of Neighborhood Watch and
recruitment of volunteers for a "homeland security" force called the USA Freedom Core.
We want to address the serious obstacle that violence against women poses for our work, while we
continue to explore various approaches to transform this critical contradiction. We want to recognize the State's responsibility to protect basic women's right to not suffer from misogyny, yet craft
demands that don't reinforce the criminal justice system or U.S. intervention in Third World countries. We talk throughout this paper about exercising our rights to demand social services from the
State. We think that we should demand of the State every possible resource that can protect women, such as shelters, physical and mental health care, resources for reconstructing lives, creation of
jobs, childcare, educational programs for anger management and violence prevention.
Our focus then is on demanding U.S. governmental compliance with all standards of equality for women and
children and on U.S. government funding of all social service resources needed to aid women in obtaining protection from violence. And, as part of our commitment to reparations, we make demands for
redress for past acts of cruelty, misogyny and genocide suffered by oppressed nationality women in the brutal white male supremacist construction of the U.S.—both within this country and throughout the world.
Strategic demands around which the strategy center's program demand group is unified
We call upon the U.S. government and all U.S. corporations to take action to advance economic, cultural, and political independence for women. We call upon the
U.S. government to act affirmatively against state-sanctioned forms of misogyny, discrimination, subjugation, including sexual and economic brutality, and male supremacy against women.
Focal Campaigns we prioritize
n U.S. government and U.S. corporations, reverse all policies that foster,
explicitly and tacitly, the superexploitation of women, trafficking in women, particularly at U.S. military bases, and acts of hatred and violence against women.
n U.S. government, ratify the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women and fulfill the commitments
of the Beijing World Conference on Women's Rights; act now to enforce its provisions.
government, reinstate AFDC (Aid to Families with Dependent Children)—guarantee jobs or income, free childcare, transportation and health care.
n All U.S. governmental institutions and U.S. corporations, act now to ensure the right of women to control their own bodies. Guarantee free and accessible
abortions and free birth control in the United States and throughout the Third World; fund these medical services vital to women's very lives. End all practices of "population control" and social control
that result in forced surgical and chemical sterilization, and dumping of dangerous birth control methods into Third World countries, which constitute genocide of future generations of oppressed peoples.