By RA Monaco
Are women being kept second-class citizens to maintain the profitability of capitalism and the dominant social order?
Generally, these days men like Russell Brand probably don’t want to be thought of as sexists, but his response to the criticism of being a sexist may have some validity. Unwitting men like Russell Brand—who claimed to be suffering from an “unaddressed cultural hangover”—may in fact be the product of an ideology keeping women second-class citizens.
Constant exposure to a sexist ideology validated through a larger effort of societal compromise—designed to maintain the profitability of capitalism and the dominant social order—may just support Brand’s explanation for sexism.
University of Maryland, Professor Maurine Beasley, a journalism historian who specializes in women’s portrayal and participation in journalism says, “[i]n our economy capitalism thrives on the sale of products and many of these products are aimed at female consumers. Some of these products - beauty aides, diet regimes, plastic surgery (which I consider a product), revealing attire that pushes the envelope, etc. - may well conspire to keep women from seeing themselves as full-fledged players in the social order and instead focus their attention on personal appearances and possible psychological issues (eating disorders, for example).”
Discrimination and Injustice for Millions of Women
The system isn’t just exploitative, it’s oppressive too. There’s a repetitive chant of discrimination and injustice for millions of women around the world who live in poverty and struggle daily for basic education, employment and good health.
Consider that women make up 70 percent of the world's poor. Despite being responsible for two-thirds of all working hours, women receive only 10 percent of the world's income and own less than 1 percent of the world's property.
Domestically, the economic headwind for single mothers often guarantees a compromised existence. When Beth Leyba’s 15 year marriage came to an end, finding housing and employment became “a hellish experience.” She explained to Huffington Post readers that her experience was hardly unique among the legions of “single working mothers who are trying our damnedest to do right by our kids; to not just feed and clothe them and put a roof over their heads, but to show them an example of hard work and resilience.”
The Structure of Capitalism is Based on the Antithesis of Sharing
California surgeon Cole Fulwider, M.D., thinks women are “seen as a potential enemy to the basic structure of the wealthy patriarchy." She explains that, “women teach the children to share, and the structure of capitalism is based on the antithesis of sharing.” She believes that, “[b]ecause of this different outlook, there has been an attempt to keep us out of the controlling positions of power in the economy and the State, which has been successful to date.”
In general agreement, Elizabeth Warren argues that if the country is true to its values of equal opportunity, fairness and rule of law, it will create a level playing field. This in turn will not only boost the poor and middle class, but also grow the economy, benefiting the rich as well.
Midge Wilson, Ph.D., a Professor of Psychology and Women’s & Gender Studies says, that “[t]here are other reasons in men’s interests to keep women as second class citizens in my view.” Suggesting for example, the “fear of women’s power to control reproduction as reflected in efforts by Republicans in this country trying to deny women access to contraception and safe, legal abortion, and men being sexually insecure if women become too knowledgeable of what good vs. bad sex is from having as many partners as men.” Just her opinion, noted the DePaul University, Assistant Dean who leaves the impression that there were more reasons but that these were just two examples that came to mind.
Speaking to her own logic, Dr. Wilson observed, “[a]ctually it is my understanding that the more educated a country’s girls and women are, the more its GNP grows." Asking, “[w]ouldn’t that strengthen capitalism?”
Gender Equality and Empowerment Agenda
Apparently, Professor Wilson’s observations are shared by the United Nations which has spoken to the idea that by “improving the lives of individual women and girls, gender equality improves the prospective of families, communities and nations according to a [February 2014] report. When gender inequalities are reduced, more children go to school, families are healthier, agricultural productivity improves and incomes increase.”
Gender equality and women’s empowerment promisingly, has become part of the post-2015 United Nations development agenda.
Although it may be an impossibility to financially value the role of women in society, understanding that for capitalism, gender inequality is an intrinsic property and fundamental economic requirement.
“Is this a "fault" of capitalism? I won't go so far as to say that, but it seems to be a feature of capitalism at this moment” observed, Prof. Maurine Beasley.
Employment Discrimination Law Upended
That awakening, tragically, has yet to arrive in the thoughts of U. S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia who’s opinion threw out an immensely large lawsuit by women employees led by plaintiff Betty Dukes, that claimed they’d been systemically underpaid and under-promoted by the world’s largest corporation—Wal-Mart. Surprised?
In the 5-4 ruling, the court in Wal-Mart v. Dukes, upended decades of employment discrimination law and created serious barriers to large-scale discrimination cases. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 opened the door to use the class-action lawsuits as a potent weapon for people who could not stand up for their rights on their own.
While Wal-Mart claimed a written anti-discrimination policy, local practices apparently were not consistent with that claim or their corporate policy. In his opinion, Justice Scalia rejected the notion that such a vast company should be held responsible for the workplace decisions of thousands of local managers exercising their own discretion, even if those actions ended up having a disparate impact on female employees.
The common-law doctrine of respondeat superior has long made employers—presumably employers just like Wal-Mart—liable for the actions of an employee when the actions take place within the scope of employment. Respondeat superior—Latin, Let the master answer—was established in seventeenth-century England to define the legal liability of an employer for the actions of an employee. Surely, Justice Scalia would love to hear from each of you on this matter.
Since the Wal-Mart decision became law, the lack of social protection has made women far more vulnerable and open to exploitation—as evidenced by a tripling of calls to the nationwide hotline of San Francisco Equal Rights Advocates.
“But now we have Western civilization, the rule of law,” said actor Matt Damon, reading from Howard Zinn. “The rule of law has regularized and maximized the injustice that existed before the rule of law—that is what the rule of law has done.”
The mood is dispiriting among advocates for women and minority workers. Now that capitalists have captured our legislature, it’s hard to imagine the Wal-Mart v. Dukes decision not being representative of our larger and equally troubling systemic failure.
Vulture Capitalism Saturated with Sexism
“The system has to fail worldwide and incite riots before the American public will radicalize,” says Dr. Fulwider. “As with ending the moral scourge of slavery, we will surely be the last country to end the moral scourge of vulture capitalism.”
American women are still vastly underrepresented in elected offices all across the nation. Having more women in office not only upholds democratic values of “fairness” and “representative government,” but various studies have also shown that the presence of more women in legislatures makes a significant difference in terms of the policy that gets passed.
“Societies where women are empowered develop democratic structures. Societies where women are not empowered do not,” observed Dr. Fulwider.
"The revolution is just a t-shirt away" for Russell Brand who's explanation—that he suffers from an “unaddressed cultural hangover” –seems surprisingly insightful in a culture saturated with sexism that turns women’s bodies into objects, doubly exploits them through unpaid domestic labor, and in the United States, refuses to allow women control over their own reproductive organs.