The contradictory development of the nuclear family. With the development of capitalism and large-scale industry, the content of the nuclear family took a contradictory turn. On the one hand, as pointed out by theorists such as Selma James and Mariarosa Dalla Costa in “The Power of Women and the Subversion of the Community,” the nuclear family was strengthened by the gendered division of labor characterized by the wage. Women and children were excluded from the wage and relegated to reproductive work; men received a wage and were relegated to productive work. This meant that men needed women and children to reproduce them, and women and children needed men to bring in a wage to reproduce the family as a whole (of course this wage was sometimes supplemented by a woman’s low wage earnings as a domestic or other paid reproductive worker). And so on the one hand, the development of capitalism strengthened the nuclear family.
On the other hand; however, capitalist relations also undermined the nuclear family. As James and Dalla Costa point out, the gendered division of labor is
“rooted in the framework of capitalist society itself: women at home and men in the factories and office, separated from the other the whole day … Capital, while it elevates heterosexuality to a religion, at the same time in practice makes it impossible for men and women to be in touch with each other, physically or emotionally — it undermines heterosexuality as a sexual, economic, and social discipline” (James, Sex, Race and Class, 56).— http://gatheringforces.org/2013/09/12/i-am-a-woman-and-a-human-a-marxist-feminist-critique-of-intersectionality-theory/
A separation of production and reproduction. Along with commodity production came a separation between production and reproduction. To be clear, “reproduction” does not solely refer to baby making. It also includes meeting the many various needs we have under capitalism, from cooking food and cleaning the home, to listening to a partner vent about their shitty day and holding their hand, to caring for the young, sick, elderly and disabled members of society.
As capitalism developed, generally speaking, productive (value-producing) labor corresponded to the wage, and reproductive labor was unwaged (or extremely low waged), since in appearance it produced no surplus value for the capitalist. This separation, characterized by the wage, took on a specific gendered form under capitalism. Women were largely excluded from productive sphere and therefore did not receive a wage for the reproductive work they did. This gave men a certain amount of power over women, and created antagonisms within the class based on a gendered division of labor. Silvia Federici, in Caliban and the Witch, calls this the “patriarchy of the wage” (97-100).— http://gatheringforces.org/2013/09/12/i-am-a-woman-and-a-human-a-marxist-feminist-critique-of-intersectionality-theory/
Sylvia Federici, Caliban and the Witch
Or, “How racism hurts everybody.”
The plantation system was crucial for capitalist development not only because of the immense amount of surplus labor that was accumulated from it, but because it set a model of labor management, export- oriented production, economic integration and international division of labor that have since become paradigmatic for capitalistic class relations.
With it’s its immense concentration of workers and its captive labor force uprooted from its homeland, unable to rely on local support, the plantation prefigured not only the factory, but also the later use of immigration and globalization to cut the cost of labor. In particular, the plantation was a key step in the formation of an international division of labor that (through the production of “consumer goods”) integrated the work of the slaves into the reproduction of the European work- force, while keeping enslaved and waged workers geographically and socially divided.— Sylvia Federici, Caliban and the Witch
it was from this alliance between the crafts and the urban authorities, along with the continuing privatization of land, that a new sexual division of labor or, better, a new ‘sexual contract,’ in carol Pateman’s words (1988), was forged defining women in terms- mothers, wives, daughters, widows- that hid their status as workers, while giving men free access to women’s bodies, their labor, and the bodies and labor of their children.
According to this new social- sexual contract, proletarian women became for male workers the substitute for the land lost to the enclosures, their most basic means of reproduction, and a communal good anyone could appropriate and use at will. Echoes of this of this ‘primitive appropriation’ can be heard in the concept of the ‘common woman’ (Karras 1989) which in the 16th century qualified those who prostituted themselves. But in the new organization of work every woman (other than those privatized by bourgeois men) became a communal good, for once women’s activities were defined as non-work, women’s labor began to appear as a natural resource, available to all, no less than the air we breathe or the water we drink.
This was for women a historic defeat. With their expulsion from the crafts and the devaluation of reproductive labor poverty became feminized, and to enforce men’s ‘primary appropriation’ of women’s labor, a new patriarchal order was constructed, reducing women to a double dependence: on employers and on men. The fact that unequal power relations between men and women existed even prior to the advent of capitalism, as did a discriminating sexual division of labor, does not detract from this assessment. for in precapitalist Europe women’s subordination to men had been tempered by the fact that they had access to the commons and other communal assets, while in the new capitalist regime women themselves became the commons, as their work was defined as a natural resource, outside the sphere of market relations.— Caliban and the Witch -Sylvia Federici
(TW: sexual assault) I felt a sour taste in my throat, the one that immediately precedes my gag reflex, when I read the NY Times piece about an immigration official who forced a woman to perform oral sex on him in exchange for her green card.
After the 22-year-old Colombian woman, whose name has not been released, went in for an interview for her green card with immigration agent Isaac Baichu in December of 2007, she started receiving phone calls from Baichu demanding sex. When he called her to meet in a restaurant’s parking lot in Queens, she was prescient enough to stash her cell phone, which was recording their conversation, in her purse. Her cell phone captured Baichu asking for sex “one or two times. That’s all. You get your green card. You won’t have to see me anymore.” Later in the tape there’s a minute-long pause when, the reporter writes, the young woman “yielded to his demand out of fear that he would use his authority against her.” The Times posted an audio clip of the woman’s recording in the web edition of the article (yay, multimedia?).
The sexual exploitation of immigrant women is nothing new, but there’s a very specific pattern of abuse tied to this case. News of a Miami ICE agent who made a pit stop at his home so he could rape the Haitian woman he was responsible for transporting to detention and reports of sexual assault on a woman held at the Don T. Hutto Family Residential Facility, a de facto prison in Texas for families awaiting immigrations processing, come to mind. Similar scandals have been reported in Maryland (Deputy Lloyd W. Miner this year), California (Agent Eddie Miranda in 2007) and Georgia (Agent Kelvin R. Owens in 2005).—
Anti-Immigrant Fever Ignites Violence Against Women
From RaceWire, 3/27/08
Sheriff Arpaio of Maricopa County, AZ. He has physically assaulted pregnant immigrant women, forced them to sleep in soiled sheets by denying them sanitary products for menstruation, and notoriously shackled detained immigrants to the bed as they gave birth.
i was talking about this recently, but i get really annoyed sometimes with the talk of how “race was created to divide the working class.” there’s some truth to it, but it’s just not wholly accurate. in an american context (the only one i’d ever be comfortable commenting on) race created the working class, meaning that the establishment of a racial hierarchy was a prerequisite to the stabilization of capital. furthermore, people, particular white activists of my ilk, are fond of talking about how race divides the class, but typically will go 500 miles out of the way (and some will walk 500 more) just to avoid the fact that white supremacy is also extremely profitable. just look at how many people made money off of the transatlantic slave trade. whole economies have been built on the exploitation of people of color in the united states, particularly those with black, brown and red skin. look at how gentrification drives the housing market. look at how slave patrols employed working class white folks. look at how hollywood giants like disney made so much money on shit like ‘song of the south.’ white supremacy is big business, and it doesn’t just “keep us apart.” for some of us, it is a death sentence that the rest of us profit from. in fact, the profits created by white supremacy and patriarchy are pretty much the only profits that have ever been shared by the white male cross- class alliance.