Lewd Women and Wicked Witches: A Study of the Dynamics of Male Domination

By Marianne Hester | Go to book overview
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Chapter 3

Men as primarily responsible for women’s oppression

It is men who are primarily responsible for women’s oppression, and it is men, rather than ‘capitalism’ or ‘society’, who benefit from the system of male-female social relations where women as a group are kept subordinate to men. This argument is common to both radical and revolutionary feminism, but it is radical feminism with which I am mainly concerned in this chapter. The socialist and Marxist feminist theories which I examined in Chapter 2 analyse women’s oppression by focusing to varying degrees on (public) ‘production’, and (public and/or private) ‘reproduction’, putting forward the possibility of transcending that oppression at the same time as the oppression arising from economic class inequality. By contrast, the approaches discussed in this and the following chapters focus on what may be considered to be the (private) ‘personal’ areas of sexuality and reproduction, and emphasise the process of consciousness-raising. Within these latter approaches the issues of human reproduction and sexuality is usually considered to be a product of social processes, and also increasingly related to the issue of violence against women (see Edwards 1987). While Marxist and socialist feminist theories criticise the male-orientation of Marxism generally, they still tend to work from within the Marxist framework to develop a more gender-comprehensive approach (see Mitchell 1971; Rowbotham 1972; Morgan 1970). Radical feminism, while developing from a similar place, has moved further beyond Marxism, although still employing the concept of conflictual class relations, as sex class as well as economic class.

The ‘Redstocking Manifesto’ (1970), is an influential radical feminist documents from the early part of the contemporary Women’s Liberation Movement. The Redstockings were a

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