3/04 Globalization and social re-composition, II: gender. Nadia

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See also: WORLD SOCIAL FORUM: VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN: THE “OTHER WORLD” MUST ACT


Day 5

Globalization and social re-composition : gender

Reporter: Nadia De Mond

First part

Distinction sex (biological) and gender (socially constructed).

Patriarchy, probably oldest form of domination, articulated with other forms of oppression and exploitation.

Globalization: women\’s work, one third paid two thirds unpaid. Men the opposite. Women earn 10 per cent of world\’s income, own one per cent of property. Two thirds of the world\’s poor are women as are two-thirds of illiterates. 10 per cent of women in Parliaments, one per cent in the centres of economic power (banks, multinationals, IMF, etc.)

Capital looks for cheap labour – in the South, in the East. Especially female labour. This brings women a certain independence in relation to the patriarchal family. But in general they are super-exploited, the work is exhausting and employment precarious. No trade-union rights (cf. the maquillas). Employers are looking for the most "virgin" labour power possible, no experience of wage labour.

Women are often responsible for the survival of a lot of people, so accept working in the worst conditions. Subjected to violence.

Women possess 2 per cent of land in the world. In Africa women do 75 per cent of subsistence agricultural work, but receive only 10 per cent of credits destined for small businesses (one per cent of total credit).

Men are the first to migrate, there are regions of the South where there are only women, children and elderly people.

Unfolding process of dependence on the market, development of commercial crops to the detriment of traditional agriculture. Control by multinational over seed supplies takes away autonomy of peasants (men and women). And weakens diversity.

Diminution of public services affects first of all women, who substitute for the lack of them.

Extension of in-depth capitalism, in every sphere of life. Commodification of women, sold, two million young girls trafficked for the sex trade every year.

Sale of organs, embryos

Beauty market.

Patenting of human genes.

Sub-contracting of care for old people and children in the First World, who are looked after by women of the Third World. Large-scale migration of women to do this work.

Women migrants keep the strongest links with the country of origin, providing for the needs of 5-6 people on average. Regular links, sending money. Men tend to lose contact after several years, only pay episodic visits.

Women suffer most in wars. Control over women and their bodies important for control of territory, for both attackers and defenders.

Second part

What is patriarchy? A system of domination of one sex over the other. Domination that is economic, social, political, cultural, personal.

Sexual division of labour. Women responsible for looking after the family. In the South, fetching firewood, water, etc., finding and cooking food. In the North, shopping, cooking, housework.

Feminine professions have less status – a good example is the job of secretary – 70 years ago a man\’s job, status, now women\’s work, devalorised.

Historic exclusion of women from political power.

Social and cultural spheres – Men\’s bodies and behaviour are the norm, women are defined as those who are different from men, all behaviour not typically "masculine" is deviant.

The family as the most patriarchal institution. Boys are brought up to assert themselves, girls to live their lives in relation to another (man).

Violence by men against women. The most important means of maintaining masculine domination.

Explicit violence and also the threat of violence – which keeps women in a situation of fear, not necessarily acute, but in a state of precaution which limits their freedom of movement. Sexual violence is the first cause of death among women between the ages of 15 and 45 in the world. In Britain one woman in ten is battered till she bleeds every year In Italy only one per cent of rapes are committed by non-Italians. Which is not ho wit comes across in the medias… One million girls suffer sexual mutilation every year. Necessary to break the wall of silence surrounding violence against women. And the complicity – "not my business, it\’s a private matter". Question of sexist jokes and language.

Different degrees of oppression. Not the same for Black and white women, or Muslim and Christian women.

Third part

Oppression can lead to despair, even suicide. But also to resistance: Individual – cf. the many women, not only lesbians, who became nuns in the Middle Ages in order to escape male domination. But also collective – first wave of feminism at the beginning of the 20^th^ century: the fight for women\’s suffrage which was won in most advanced capitalist countries lees than a hundred years ago, in some cases nearer to fifty years, and is still not won everywhere in the world. Second wave of feminism in the 1960s, global contestation of male domination – political, cultural, personal, sexual. Autonomous organization of women a necessity. The FI and feminism – the big step forward in the document of the 1979 World Congress, an international women\’s secretariat, international coordination.

The situation of women is very differentiated – whether you live in India, Burkina Faso, Latin America, the advanced capitalist countries, and in latin America, for example, whether you are an Indian woman or not. Need for an international feminist organization – importance of World March of Women – and of a coordination of FI women within it> WMW born in 1998-99. First initiative 2000. And again in 2005. In between, encounter with the World Social Forums.

When men talk about the working class, or war, or anything else, they always forget the women\’s dimension, the specific oppression of women.

We need to change the way we do politics and the way our organizations function, there is not only the Transitional Programme, we also have to take account of the multiple facets of life, including sexuality, so that we can live well – men too.

Questions and discussion

Women oppressed, but what about Condoleeza Rice. Gender and class. Question of violence, commodification of women\’s bodies Speak more about the family, where oppression is strongest, girls oppressed from the years of their lives. Catholic family. Nadia should say more on positive discrimination. In Mexico, the feminist movement is accused of being divisive. How does the feminist vision function in our sections. Theory and practice, how can we deconstruct the masculine solidarities that are created. Role of the state. Fighting for abortion rights, victory there can make it possible to move on to other issues. Would like Nadia to talk about other feminist movements, not all revolutionary. In left organizations, fixing a percentage of women in the leadership doesn\’t necessarily settle the problem. Not just women and men, but upper-class women and working-class women Psychological effects of centuries of tradition, religion, etc. The "preference for sons" – on the part of women too. What is the dominant model? In Pakistan, feudalism and religion. Question of "honour killings". There are comrades who go to demonstrations, including on women\’s issues, but they don\’t bring their wives, sisters, etc. Third World women are the most oppressed. How to organize them for their rights. We talk of class struggle, but working-class men exploit working-class women. Socialism – does it include ecology and feminism. Talk about the different kinds of feminism, all the schools of thought. Appreciate the last part about changing the way we do politics. Question about not tolerating violence and sexism in our movement. What does that mean? Example of "Women of Colour Against Violence". What do we demand of the state on issue of violence. In the US, one out of four Black men is, was or will be in prison. We shouldn\’t rely on the criminal justice role of the state. There are 75 women (out of 273) in the Pakistan Parliament – but they are the wives, sisters. Mothers of influential feudals and businessmen.

Reply by Nadia

No one form of oppression more important than another. Of course, there are women who exploit women, and who also exploit men. No problem about what Condoleeza Rice is – but she can still be attacked as a woman, e.g. when the media accuse her of being a lesbian,. "Crimes of honour" not only in Asia, also in the South of Italy. In our organizations, men have to take a step back to make space for women. Not easy for them…

Our vision of socialism includes ecology and feminism, and we will not get there through the class struggle alone. Re violence, we do not put the accent on punishment, we demand resources for women\’s centres, refuges, we conduct campaigns. Women can and must be feminists, men can and must develop a gender approach in their thinking and speech. They can do that, because it\’s just a question of knowledge and intellectual approach, method. Feminism is a long process, there are now grassroots women who define themselves as feminists in Brazil, Ecuador, Mexico, etc. Come back on different schools of thought later.

Report-backs from discussion groups

Weakness of feminism in the FI. Before there were women\’s schools, ther should be again. New spaces in Latin America. But the women\’s movement is sometimes seen as divisive, on the basis that the priority is to fight capitalism. In the Brazil split, most feminist activists stayed in the PT. But some came to PSOL. Problem of Heloisa Helena and abortion. The feminist struggle – organized aspect, but also in daily life Feminism not a subject apart, but every day.

In Pakistan, not just "honour killings", also the "Black Law" of 1979, stoning for adultery. Attacks on abortion in the US. Question of dowry.

A problem for the FI, difficulty in building feminist movements. Yes, autonomous organization. Can Nadia come back on "men can\’t be feminists" - not everyone agreed. And on positive discrimination.

Conclusion by Nadia

On the question of feminism being taken over by capitalism Two things: a) bourgeois feminism They fight for their rights within their class. We can do things together with them – fight for right to vote, abortion. b) Attempt to take over the issues. The method is to suck certain women into institutions of state, and their struggles with them... Need to exercise control over women in institutions of state;

There are moments when the movements retreat. Only a revolutionary Marxist organization can maintain memory, consciousness, continuity. WMW work with other women\’s movements, accumulation of feminist forces. Question of positive discrimination. Differentialist feminism – argues on the basis of biological difference for women\’s superiority. Men cannot be feminists, feminism start from lived experience. There are new feminist experiences outside the framework of the WMW – Latin America, Italy. Yes, we do need women\’s schools.