- On the failings of Liberal Feminism, the need for Proletarian Feminism -
- Abstract -
This post was made for a comrade on Discord called “Robert” and wanting me to write a post on the failings of Liberal Feminism and the need for Proletarian Feminism. Just like the last post on Class Conflict of course, the sources are both sources and further reading into the manner. This time it has been arranged in chronological Order for the first half then varying levels of informational mediums for the second half (in fact for the whole source section). Undoubtedly, there are some additional sources that serve to expand upon this concept and should, regardless, be inspected as this post has been inspected.
This post also serves as a complementary addon to my post on the need for political activism for LGBTQIA+ peoples as well. (Despite of course not centering them as the main focus but included in the section on Proletarian Feminism.) Regardless, both posts should be read together, as-is all my posts for this back-to-back philosophy fortnight. Even the Class Conflict post in unity with this; as all posts unite and interpenetrate on some level with each other.
Now unto the actual subject itself, what is Liberal Feminism? Liberal Feminism was the first ever school Feminism to exist in the World that wished to expand upon the Enlightenment’s ideals while reacting against the Feudal Culture that had long kept them down and male-centric Enlightenment thought that wished to only fetishize further female sexuality. Liberal Feminism, in its heroic and progressive state, was a force that pushed forth the aiding of (nota bene: white) women and to help supersede the differences between the male and female sex that was forced upon by both the Base (economy) and Superstructure at the time. Note, not to be wholly 1:1 to males or to make males be as oppressed as them! Just to be as equal to males as possible until the most literal biological features just separates them, even then that wouldn’t be a factor of discrimination.
- The failures -
- History -
However, one must note specifically on the goal of Liberal Feminism: to erase the sexual divisions. On that front we can happily say it did had massive strides, but on confronting the issues that intersect and relate to that very carefully it failed elsewhere. The first evident failure of liberal feminism (and indeed showcasing the change from a progressive force to a reactionary/semi-reactionary force) was proudly printed in the USA post-Civil War.
To get at the point, liberal feminists that protested against the 14th amendment which gave the indiscriminate right to vote regardless of race; note here why this would be a gravitating issue to the liberal feminist: no legal ending to the discrimination of vote based on the sexes (and genders). Yet why is it bad? Ho-ho, they didn't just voice that it simply lacked the evidently lacking feature on the voting issue; they outright advocated that it wouldn't get passed until it was revised to include their concern, or simply centered on them. To add upon this, note how the latter option not only shows their limited scope of concerns but showcases that they don't care, legally, for other oppressed groups, they don't care for the subgroups within the female sex (and gender).
The another evident one, as Alexandra Kollontai points out in her 1909 The Social Basis of the Woman Question book which lends itself far into around the World, is the primacy around voting rights and extended legal rights. While the right to vote is something that should be fought for no matter who you are, to only focus on legal matters and not combating the socio-economic causes is pretty telling. Indeed, they only seek to fill up the gap and make men and women legally equal and cut scene they disband entirely; since the entire concern was not really for gender and sexual equality in the fullest matter. Nie. The fight was simply to legally end the sexual (and gender) barriers but not to resolve the other conflicts which can't be legislated away nor threatening to the Capitalist structure. Indeed, most liberal feminists that were outright white, bourgeois females only cared really to be equal to her male counterparts; they could care less that now proletarian females can enter the workplace and be equal to her male counterparts there. (Though ironically doubly oppressed for being first prole and secondarily a domestic servant which reproduces the labour power needed to sustain Capitalism).
- Theory -
Let's make a quick detour to the theory department as to explain why these historical failures where even allowed to happen. Due to the liberal feminist mainly coming from the bourgeoisie, their class consciousness, though heavily affected as being forced into female gender roles, informed them of their true class interests: to be able to wield the bourgeois weapons of power like their male counterparts and to eliminate the sexual division of labour to certain extents. And the only way the liberal feminist was willing to take this was through legalism; or sincerely: to instate legal reforms as to remove the feudal social practices that got updated into Bourgeois culture while rooting out any anti-capitalist radicalism. As they were primarily bourgeois, this came into conflict with their "younger sisters" (a real phrase used by them) who saw that Capitalism greatly hindered their existence and horribly oppressed them. So often, they played the double game of propaganda and leader: to discourage radicalism and to take the charge, which then hinders radicalism in the blood and makes it impossible for radicals to take charge. Of course, the "young sisters" would soon to catch unto it but not before the liberal feminists pulled the plug when they got their legal rights.
- Modern iterations -
To get back to history but to step it up to more relatable comparisons, it's time to expose the reactionary side even further. Take for instance the 60s in general for the entire World when it came to politics, especially '68; there we see the progressive veil as a mere veil and underlies their reactionary side. Many conservative females reacted against the radical feminist movement (second wave feminists in comparison to first wave feminists, liberal feminism) and saw them as an existential threat to their gender identity (hypocritically enough). It must be noted, however, that the radical feminist movement would primarily be filled up of white, petite-bourgeois females which would discriminate against non-hetero and non-white females (while also abandoning trying to revise Marxism). But that's a digression to the point being made here: id est, what the radical feminist sought was to challenge the Bourgeois conception of female sex (and gender).
And for the liberal feminists, this is where they show their legalistic cares in full force despite the majority of radical feminists not even caring to get rid of Capitalism in its entirety nor resolving racism and patriarchal culture in the fringes! Now note how the liberal feminists aren't a monolith, but even then most would still go out of their way to defend anti-abortion, voice support the nuclear family structure, voice hatred for "free sex" and comply with the status quo by not joining in on the protests of the time. Not only that, but some would go on to write editorials, books, television and disrupt protests as to voice their distaste for radical feminism (and anything more radical like Marxist Feminism or Lesbianism; the latter literally a sexual-based separatist movement and the former a developing radical field). Meanwhile, it should be noted that ardent racism and internalized misogyny just outright bleeds from them whenever confronted on the matter and not supporting even just radical feminist concerns.
- Proletarian Feminism -
- Divergence -
And so, Proletarian Feminism came unto the scene nearly a century after Mary Wollstonecraft published her Vindications on the Rights of Woman (a superbly progressive text, though focused on the legalism aspect; still critiqued male-centric enlightenment thought and anti-female views). Though it is proper to mention Elanor Marx as the prime influence of Proletarian Feminism along with Karl Marx's wife that acted as a soundboard to his ideas, we would see more serious engagement with revolutionaries like Rosa Luxemburg, Alexandra Kollontai, Clara Zetkin and so on and so on in this time period. Most would notate, as I have superficially and generally analyzed above, the universal aspect of liberal feminism, legalism, and find it horrifically limiting and discriminatory of the female sections of the working classes. To the point where they notated the language used by Bourgeois/liberal feminists, notated the class character of such, tried to work through Marxist theory while as a member of the female sex (and gender) and live to see the Russian October Revolution. That last item being highly significant as their theory (and practice) would soundboard off the socio-economical politics of the Russian October Revolution and where it was heading.
- History -
Indeed, though it should equally be mentioned that women had taken leadership roles in many social movements all about the World, it would be here in the Russian October Revolution that we see women taking leadership roles but even encouraged to do so. As we would see figures like Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov Lenin (VI Lenin / Lenin) who would champion and be an ally to the liberation of the women, especially the working women. He with the Bolsheviks, both male and female, would actively recruit women all across the RSFSR, and later the USSR/CCCP, as to not only break down gender divisions, but to give a loudspeaker to voice the concerns of working/majority women and allow them to combat the Patriarchal aspects as the Russian October Revolution would form into the USSR. This would only increase under the General Secretary years of Joseph Vissarionovich Stalin and their participation in the overall Supreme Soviet quadruple by the time Stalin was deceased.
In China, an even brighter tale and harder struggle was fought for all women there; yet, as Mao Zedong would famously say, "women hold up half the sky." There we would see all across the newly formed People's Republic of China (PRC) massive campaigns for women's liberation as headed by the Communist movement. Of which it would only increase under the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution (GPCR); where many of those proletarian feminists would join the Red Guards and help the masses overthrow Traditionalist (Neo-Confucianist) and Capitalist Roader bureaucrats while raising up a proletarian culture. With the rooting out of landlords, the ending of foot-binding all across the PRC, the recruitment of women into the red guards and encouraging women into high leadership roles (even Lady Mao being part of the Gang of Four with Zhang Chunqiao, Yao Wenyuan, and Wang Hongwen). The GPCR was a massive effort and one that successfully reflected both the buildup of a proletarian Social Order and the rooting out of feudal and capitalist Social Orders.
And let us not forget everywhere else! In Marxist-Leninist (ML) Cuba under the Fidel Castro years (and still ongoing), the Cuban peoples not only overthrew the American gangsters, Cuban compradors and secured the means of production, they effectively fought against the Capitalist culture that was forced on the Cuban nation. This would be seen with the mass number of women being there to take any governmental role post-revolution (as to continue on their radical legacy during the revolutionary unrest in Cuba), take regular employment in industry and medical fields and help combat sexism all over Cuba. Which the Proletarian Feminist movement later on would result, after rounds of self-criticism and thorough investigation, the political and socio-economic breakdown of anti-LGBT+ elements while promoting and defending the LGBT+ cause against reactionaries. To shift across a continent, we would see in Burkina Faso also upholding Mao Zedong's line of "women hold up half the sky" as well with Thomas Sankara. Thomas Sankara, along with fighting against French Neo-Colonialism, would fight against the Capitalist culture inside Burkina Faso, fight to champion the liberation of women in all areas of life under Burkina Faso and build towards the proletarian Social Order. But to the point: wherever there was a Communist Revolution, followed the great expansion and struggle for women's liberation as well.
- Theory -
So what of the Proletarian Feminist theory? It mainly differs from Liberal Feminism in that it fights against legalism being the only strategy for Women's Liberation. As you can legislate all the sexism away, the culture will still remain as it comes to benefit Capitalism in some way; plus: if the laws go unenforced, then the new laws are just ink on paper. Proletarian Feminism also seeks to radically supersede the Base-Superstructure (the economy working in conjuncture with Culture and Ideology) of the Capitalist Social Order as to achieve the liberation of women. For the belief, as substantiated in the revolutionary movements above, is that Capitalism will choose to be patriarchal for its benefit and that only an Anti-Capitalist World can guarantee the liberation of women and end the contradiction between men and women. And that's another thing, the Liberal Feminist cares only for the end of legal oppression of women; while the Proletarian Feminist will critique and fight against all forms of oppression of women.
(As a side remark: there was a time when men and women were so biologically indistinguishable that only superficial mannerisms seemed to separate people; even then gender wasn't male-female but so wide that the LGBTQIA+ movement seems to be the only portal to the past despite being so radically different to the past iterations of genders being more than male-female. Withal, most of human culture must be noted as Matriarchal or more pro-women way before the advent of civilizations like Sumer and the heroic age of Greece which started the shift towards a Patriarchal culture. Regardless, gender as a concept was radically different than our preconceptions; peck, gender was radically different in the feudal era alone to the Capitalist epoch. However, the point isn't to quibble on the past but to fight for a future that doesn't include the modern iterations of gender and the disgusting crass of Capital. If they can be overcome, then the future shall lend itself to a liberatory path and the supersession of gender, in our understanding, in its current form to more freer and nonrestrictive forms.)
- Concrete -
Upon here we see how limited the liberal feminist movement is, both in theory and practice. And to repeat the project is to make farce of their eventual tragedies when they did exact their reactionary character unto the World. Wherewith, we can see how the Proletarian Feminist movement had shined brightly wherever it had gone through, from failure to success. In where it succeeded, it created freedoms for the working women and the proletariat as a whole as they were equally concerned with ending suffering for all workers; in where it failed, they often gift us many insights of which we can learn from on building a feminist and proletarian future. Nowhere in the liberal feminist movement do we see an end to all suffering except in the proletarian feminist movement.
As it is now, the liberal feminists now are trying to erase and whitewash the many victories gained by all sects of feminism, including that of the proletariat sect. Not only that, the liberal feminists are branding themselves as simply feminists and trying to pacify the intersectionality movement of which it seeks to whitewash and become head honchos in. Not only that, but proudly stealing the victories gained by LGBTQIA+ peoples and proletarian feminists alike; indeed, they only envision a more legally equal society but care little of socio-economic divisions. To call for legal equality but be so afraid when a female asks for an end to patriarchal culture and Capitalism which props it up and uses it as a convenient weapon to subordinate all non-males. Indeed: hypocrisy of the highest kind, if we are to grant them any credence to wanting to end all forms of oppression.
Now this post obviously could've lended itself to critique even radical feminism and its focus on women's only struggles, reformist attitudes which reflects the liberal feminist's legalism struggles, anti-Marxism in certain sections and the theoretical soupy mess it has to even ask females on how to tear down patriarchy. But a post for another time, for which the authors below can help set you straight on these issues. (As I believe they possess more knowledge and more clarity on the matter, even on the liberal feminist matter as well!) Withal, tomorrow's post will contain several contest entries I've been meaning to get into and the start-end blurbs will be there as always; 'till then, na zdrowie!