Gender and Class Consciousness

Gender and Class Consciousness

Gender and Class Consciousness

Gender and Class Consciousness

Excerpt

Those who approach history from a feminist standpoint have stressed that patriarchy, in a variety of forms, has characterised human society for thousands of years. What marks out Capitalism is not the subjection of women as such, since this pre-dates Capitalism, but the privatisation of domestic labour and the exclusion of women from social labour, which serves to reproduce the subjection of women in a specifically capitalist form.

Thus as Angela Weir points out:

In other historical epochs the family was more or less codeterminous with the unit of production, although women were still subjugated within it. Under capitalism the family ceased to have a direct relationship with production and women and children were gradually excluded from the factories, mines and workshops … Women began to labour in the home to reproduce male labour power for the market. (Weir, 1974, p. 218)

As a result the domestic worker became totally dependent on incoming wages (Gardiner, 1974, p. 246). Even when the domestic worker also worked in industry, the separation between women's work in the family and work for wages created a situation in which women never quite came to see themselves as wage earners (Rowbotham, 1973, p. 33), and the belief took root that men's wages ought to be enough to support the entire family (Oren, 1974, p. 227).

Awareness of women's confinement to a narrow domestic sphere, and her consequent dependency, forms a backcloth to many feminist studies of the broad cultural ramifications of woman's position within capitalist society. Mary Wollstonecraft, writing in 1792, relates shallow, vain aspects of 'feminine' psychology to women's confinement to a lap-dog existence. Betty Friedan (1963) provides a similar explanation for the apparent vacuousness of the modern American housewife, although, as one might expect in a . . .

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