• Category Archives: Gender Equality

Lasch: Did 20th century feminism feed into the capitalist ideal?

In “Women and the Common Life”, written by Christopher Lasch then finished and published by his daughter Elisabeth Lasch-Quinn after her father’s death, Lasch faults 20 century feminism for succumbing to capitalist ideals instead of more radical, anti-capitalist ideals he had thought feminism to be. This stemmed from Lasch’s personal beliefs in giving “everyday” citizens more power and limiting the authority of a centralized few (658).

Within his essay, he critiques the feminist movement’s push to have more rights outside of the home and inside of the workforce. He insists that organizations such as NOW, the National Organization for Women, is feeding into capitalist propaganda and “[making] a paycheck the only symbol of accomplishment” (663). In order to prove this, he cites NOW’s apparent nonsupport of requiring employers to grant parental leave, which would in turn perpetuate the sexual division of labor (663). Towards the end of his essay, his tone arguably becomes less offensive and more critical of the movement, which could be because his daughter finished the final aspects of his essay although she was simply continuing his train of thought. The solution he offers at the end states, “By rejecting ‘progress,’ of course, [feminism] would put itself beyond the pale of respectable opinion – which is to say, it would become as radical as it now merely claims to be” (663).

Considering Lasch’s opinion on feminism outside of his patriarchal tone and experience as a man critiquing a woman’s plight and experience, he does grasp the concept of the combative and problematic nature of feminism within a capitalist society, although capitalism is not the only reason women tend to be in more subservient roles compared to their male counterpart. Do you believe Lasch’s argument on 20th century feminism, and specifically the sexual division of labor, was valid? Why or why not?

Emma Goldman

In Emma Goldman’s “The Tragedy of Women’s Emancipation,” she brings up so many valid points about the stance of women and the disadvantages faced. Not only were her points true back in the early 1900’s when she wrote this, but many seem to still ring true now. Emma points out that while equal rights can be afforded to women, there is a distinct disadvantage they face. She essentially said that while a woman could choose her profession, she did not have the training or preparation to compete with men. Emma then goes on to say:

Very few succeed, for it is a fact that women teachers, doctors, lawyers, architects, and engineers are neither met with the same confidence as their male colleagues, nor receive equal remuneration (Cummings. 2014. p.430).

Hmm…What Goldman says in the quote sounds pretty familiar…Women are not treated the same as their male colleagues AND not paid the same. 105 years later and we are still having the battle Goldman discusses in this piece! Campaign platforms today run on the mission to create a truely equal society for woman; a good example of this is Hilary Clinton. Goldman later goes on to say:

the dread of love for a man who is not her social equal; the fear that love will rob her of her freedom and independence; the horror that love or the joy of motherhood will only hinder her in the full exercise of her profession (Cummings. 2014. p.430)

It find it amazing that something written so long ago is still so true today. While things have obviously gotten better over the years it is still a mans world. Even now, the thought of being a mother is scary to some women because of what it will do to the security of their jobs. Goldman knew that granting freedoms to people does not make them ‘free’ or  ‘equal,’ but she had a thought as to a necessary course of action women needed to take to achieve true emancipation:

History tells us that ever oppressed class gained true liberation from its masters through its own efforts. It is necessary that her freedom reaches. It is, therefore, far more important for her to begin with her inner regeneration, to cut loose from the weight of prejudices, traditions, and customs (Cummings. 2014. p.432).

This is a wonderful piece of advice for Goldman to offer. She said women need to be their own advocates and rise up against the injustices against them and change the way they do things to combat the oppressive society.

Emma Goldman

I want to know what you think…

There have been many different fights for equality throughout the history of the United States; has equality ever really been achieved for these people (politically and socially)? Could true equality ever really be achieved when there was always the dominant race and gender?

Women, Race, and Class

After the struggle of reconstruction, many wondered and worried about who had what rights and what rights people were entitled to. This conflict could be found to reside in American societies that had inequality within class, race, and gender. When the conflict between race and gender rose up between the women’s movement and the antislavery movement the alliance that was once bonded these two factions now separated them. Women were told they were the lessor of their white male counterparts as well lessor than black males with the ability of voting. Women were outraged. Well educated white women were outraged.
A division of the entire nation had not been resolved, so different people with different problems associated with inequality were all fighting to become equal in the eyes of the constitution. Now freed slaves were fighting to acquire the rights of their male counterparts and yet the American political system did not allow for the advancement of their rights. People from differing economic classes also were fighting to have their needs met, but were not recognized as swiftly as other warring factions of American political society. Women wanted equality also. But their insubordination to their white male counterparts was found to be encased within the patriarchal structure of Americanism and (now discredited) the sciences of the time. The science of the time found that women, as well as blacks and the poor, were of a certain position in life for no other reason, but that they were incapable of climbing up the structural ladder of life.
Social Darwinism was the flame that needed to be smothered during this time period. Race, gender, and class alike were lumped into a group of undesirable people that were still necessary for the extension and existence of American life, but yet unworthy of full participation based on their statuses of less than. Women rebuked this status and fought against the structure that condemned them into a classification deeming them unworthy of equal participation of American society based on their ability to create future superiors.
This classification of less than for women was not something that women were willing to succumb to. Women knew that although the rights of all Americans were imperative for the existence of society, they learned that to fully address the unequal rights of women they needed to depart from their alliances within other movements. This separation to focus primarily on women’s rights was the only way that they thought could accomplish their goals of becoming an equal with their white male counterparts. A nation divided yet again to eventuate future changes to other structures of inequality within America.
I am not advocating for the separation of groups within America as a resolution to social issues that the nations faces, but the women of this time learned that when their issues within inequality were not being resolved, they changed the way that they approached the problems so that a resolution could occur. My question, what if women’s movement remained combined with the other factions that faced inequality of this time period? Do you think that the innovative nature of the women’s movement could have been applied to make changes in inequality within the class and race movements?

Reconstruction and Industrialization

Gender became the next large-scale social movement instead of class because deep in our founding documents there is one line everyone in history recites, “All Men are Created Equal.” Now, I am not saying that men are a far superior gender than women, but rather the precedence and conflict that comes out of that famous line. Precedence because in the Declaration of Independence was the first document that started the United States. Every social or people movement talk about this equality whenever they discuss the reason of why masses of people gather. It is the fuel of this line that gives women a opportunity to create conflict.

Women feel left out from the very beginning and have every right to be angry with the establishment. This is where the suffrage movement begins. Out of anger and feelings of have no voice, the women revolt and go against the grain. They won their right to vote and in doing so changed the course of United States history forever.

When I think about the gender vs. class issue, I keep thinking about the idea of capitalism. Government at the turn of the 20th Century is already dealing with recessions, depressions, and monopolies. The same issues we face today. Money speaks to power and power answers back. I feel women’s rights was one of the more less controversial movements during its time. Classism is a whole another ball and wax that we still to this day have not settled. It is because we live in a capitalist society and there are the have’s and the have not’s. No one was to take on the classism issue because you either wind up in jail or assassinated. Or you sell out everything you believe in to the system that controls everything, capitalism.

After reading the text, I found this quote that is interesting, “The field for socialism appeared fertile if European ideas and Indigenous American experience could be fused into a broad-based movement (Cummings, 316).”

I think that if we were able to blend this notion of European ideas and Indigenous knowledge, we would have had a different outlook on our country and the world. I think we wouldn’t have had a women’s suffrage movement and classism would not have been an issue. As a Native American, I believe many of my ideals stem from Communism and Socialism if you want to take the vocabulary of an uneducated Anglo.

Do you think if we blended European and Indigenous ideas together would the United States be the same as it is today?

The Equal Rights Association and Discrimination Laws

To me, this meme explains the split that happened during reconstruction between those who advocated for equal rights – mostly Black people and women. Because these two groups were disenfranchised and navigated in a white, male dominant society, they came together for a common cause. However, once the civil war was over and the government began pushing solely for the rights of Black men, the two groups split. Cummings states, “The issue split the Equal Rights Association, the postwar successor to the various antislavery associations, and gave rise to the separate National Woman Suffrage Association, which thereafter opposed the Fifteenth Amendment in Congress” (321). Is some progress good enough, or do you believe the NWSA was right in opposing the 15th amendment?

Moreover, even though Congress wanted to give Black men rights to help their plight, especially in the South, they also had a large political motive. If Black men had the right to vote, and most of them would vote Republican, then the Republican party would remain in political control. Cummings argues, “Without Republican black votes in the South, the Democratic Party might well have quickly returned to majority status . . . ” (320). He goes on to state that the enforcement clauses in the laws Congress passed to ensure the equal treatment of Black people eventually waned without the lack of support from Northerners, and eventually white supremacy again took control of the south (321). “Congressional power, therefore, did not extend to the control of ‘private’ inns, theaters, and similar establishments did in the way of discrimination against blacks” (321). Currently, there is great debate over discrimination laws and whether or not someone is allowed to discriminate in their place of business. For example, in this opinion article: http://www.nationalreview.com/article/372650/why-bakers-should-be-free-discriminate-alec-torres, an author reasons why it is okay and perfectly legal to discriminate based on moral beliefs.

Where does one draw the line between refusing due to religious beliefs and complete, outright discrimination?

Sit Down & Shut Up

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/b/ba/Susan_Brownell_Anthony_2.jpgAt the end of Susan B. Anthony’s trial for illegal voting, she was ask to to state her opinion about the sentencing. Yet as she proceeded to do so Judge Hunt interrupted her with this statement:

The court can not listen to a rehearsal of arguments the prisoner’s counsel has already consumed three hours in presenting. (Cummings 326)

Judge Hunt seems annoyed that a woman is being allowed to speak in his courtroom and that her case is taking up so much of his valuable time. Undaunted, Anthony replies to him:

May it please your honor, I am not arguing the question but simply stating the reasons why sentence can not, in justice, be pronounced against me. (Cummings 326)

She reminds him that she is merely doing what she was invited by the court to do. Anthony is repeatedly interrupted as she points out that this is the first opportunity she has had to speak for herself since her arrest (Cummings 326). As she continues on, Judge Hunt becomes increasingly irritated with her and orders her to sit down and not say another word. Yet when she does, he orders her to stand up again, passing sentence of a fine of $100, which Anthony promptly promises never to pay (Cummings 327). Anthony was willing to do what was necessary to see that women received the rights that they needed, even if that meant going to jail. She did not listen when she was told to “shut up” by those with power.Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., is known for pushing back Wall Street banks. (Timothy D. Easley, AP)
Much like Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Warren takes on those in power and refuses to “shut up” when threatened. This week Warren upset banking officials at Citibank, JP Morgan, Bank of America and other big banks with her suggestion that they be broken up because they wield too much power. In retaliation for Warren’s remarks, banking officials are threatening to withhold donations to Democratic candidates unless she “shuts up” (Flitter) Based on Warren’s record, that is not likely.  And for Warren supporters, her response did not disappoint. In response to the threats, Warren responded:

The big banks want a Washington that works only for them and that puts their interests first — and they would like to get a little public fanny-kissing for their money too. Well forget it. They can threaten or bully or say whatever they want, but we aren’t going to change our game plan (Schouten).

Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Warren are both women who refuse to listen when powerful men tell them to sit down and shut up. Do you think it is difficult to stand up to someone who has power?

Cummings, Michael S. “Susan B. Anthony’s Statement at the Close of Her Trial (1873)”.  American Political Thought. 7th ed. Los Angeles: Sage, 2015. 326-327. Print.

Flitter, Emily. “Exclusive: Upset by Warren, U.S. Banks Debate Halting Some Campaign Donations.” Reuters. Thomas Reuters, 27 Mar. 2015. Web. 29 Mar. 2015.

Schouten, Fredreka. “Elizabeth Warren Pushes Back at Banks.” USAToday:ONPolitics. USAToday, 28 Mar. 2015. Web. 29 Mar. 2015.

Image 1: WikiCommons

Image 2: Timothy D. Easley, AP

Race, Gender and the Oppression Olympics

In the debate between Frederick Douglass and the various suffragettes like Susan B. Anthony and Lucy Stone one can observe similar themes that have and continue to mar the progressive politics of the left. The theme is that of identity politics, namely which identity is more important and which oppressed group “wins” the oppression Olympics and deserves to have their grievances addressed first.

Something like this

Something like this

Frederick Douglass:

“I must say that I do not see how any one can pretend that there is the same urgency in giving the ballot to woman as to the negro. With us, the matter is a question of life and death, at least, in fifteen States of the Union. When women, because they are women, are hunted down through the cities of New York and New Orleans; when their children are torn from their arms, and their brains are dashed out upon the pavement; when they are objects of insult and outrage at every turn; . . .then they will have an urgency to obtain the ballot equal to our own.”

Susan B. Anthony:

“Mr. Douglass talks about the wrongs of the negro; but with all the outrages he to-day suffers, he would not exchange his sex and take the place of Elizabeth Cady Stanton.”

Lucy Stone:

“But woman suffrage is more imperative than his own; and I want to remind the audience that when he says what the Ku-Kluxes did all over the South, the Ku-Kluxes here in the North in the shape of men, take away the children from mother, and separate them as completely as if done on the block of the auctioneer.”

This race-to-the-bottom for status as most oppressed and, thus, most deserving group is something which seems difficult to remedy. A quick glance over the more progressive ends of the internet reveal bitter infighting as individual belligerents assert their membership in downtrodden groups to garner sympathy and clout. The irony of this is that by swapping in group identities the individual loses itself in the myriad of intersectional identity politics, and the entire movement for social progress and justice suffers as more broad-based coalitions devolve into factionalism.

Susan B. Anthony shows great wisdom when she remarks:

” . . . Mr. Douglass’s remarks left her to defend the Government from the inferred inability to grapple with two questions at once. It legislates upon many questions at one and the same time, and it has the power to decide the woman question and the negro question at one and the same time.”

Social justice is not a zero-sum game. If the slated objective of all those who agitate reform is the improvement of human lives then there is no contradiction in arguing for broad based improvement rather than factional identity politics.

Lucy Stone somewhat expresses this sentiment:

“Woman has an ocean of wrongs too deep for any plummet, and the negro too, has an ocean of wrongs that can not be fathomed. There are two great oceans; in one is the black man, and in the other is the woman. But I thank God for that XV Amendment, and hope that it will be adopted in every State. I will be thankful in my soul if any body can get out of the terrible pit.”

Are identity politics harmful and divisive to the achievement of progressive goals? Or are certain identities and their grievances too unique and important to compromise?

First Women in American Politics

The history of America has not been kind to women both foreign and people born here.  Women are still having more of a hard time then men. In the beginning of our country women were excluded from political life. We have “all men are created equal” in the Declaration of independence. More importantly the country was created by men who also didn’t think much of women. Elizabeth Cady Stanton even came to this conclusion by a stamen in her speech Declaration of Sentiments and Resolutions by stating that “The history of mankind is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations on the part of man toward woman, having in direct object the establishment of an absolute tyranny over her.”  (249) I do believe that she does have a point, women were not allowed to vote (thus not able to have a say in the laws being made and being passed), to practice certain occupations and the ones they could practice they could not live off of the wages in those occupations, and could be discriminated against if they had land and were often paying more taxes than a man who had the same amount of land. When she got married then all her rights that she had when she was single are striped from her and she is practically owned by her new husband.  Elizabeth Cady Stanton calls this being Civilly dead. The wife can’t have property, has to be obedient to her husbands demands and the men have all the control over the divorce proceedings (as well as who gets the children).  This means she can’t cheat on him without getting divorced, but he can cheat on her without getting divorced because he is the one with the power and money.

Does any of these policies remind you of policies abroad today?  Are there examples of sexist laws today? Examples?

Elizabeth Cady Stanton and present-day parallels

I couldn’t help but be drawn to the words of Elizabeth Cady Stanton more so than that of Orestes Brownson or George Fitzhugh.  I saw Fitzhugh as nothing more than a slavery apologist. As for Brownson, opposing slavery while at the same time saying that slaves have it better than wage laborers comes off as rather hypocritical to me.

What I found most interesting was the 1860 “Address to the New York State Legislature,” Stanton drew parallels between being a slave and being a woman at the time—which she did with the example of Cuffy and Mrs. Roe. Stanton starts this example out “The negro has no name. He is Cuffy Douglas or Cuffy Brooks, just whose Cuffy he may chance to be; The woman has no name is Mrs. Richard Roe or Mrs. John Doe, just whose Mrs. she may chance to be” (Cummings, pg. 251). Why I found this passage striking was that it was practically true for the longest time. A slave didn’t have their own name—just whatever their master called them, much like a woman wasn’t seen as an individual—just as the wife of a man in the community.

Later on, Stanton lays it out as bluntly as possible, and this is was draws me in the most: “The prejudice against color…is no stronger than that against sex; It is produced by the same cause, and manifested very much in the same way” (Cummings, pgs. 251). Judging by how the U.S. was back then, I’d have to agree. While women could be afforded social freedoms, she couldn’t hold property or vote; while black men weren’t afforded those social freedoms, freed black men at least had suffrage and property rights (Cummings, pg. 251). Slavery is and always has been a truly reprehensible thing—one of the great evils that left a permanent scar on U.S. history. However, we can’t ignore the fact that this country was discriminating by gender just as long as it was discriminating by race and color.

Before I end this post, I’d like to look at  Stanton’s other featured work, “Declaration of Sentiments and Resolutions” (1848). In this essay, Stanton lays out how women have been oppressed and how that can be resolved. Examples of the resolutions include suffrage and equal positions in church (Cummings, 250). I see the Stanton’s fight for suffrage—among other things—to be parallel with the present-day pay equity struggle. Women make 77 cents for every dollar a man makes, despite all of this nation’s progress towards equal rights. Just last year, the Paycheck Fairness Act was shut down in Senate. The old saying goes, “Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” I think the U.S. has been guilty of this just as much as any other country.

Aside from equal pay, what other gender-related issues share parallels with Stanton’s? How are we to solve these issues? Does it require a new way of thinking about gender and equality?

Sources: http://www.politico.com/story/2014/09/senate-pay-equity-bill-110980.html


Elizabeth Cady Stanton

stantonElizabeth Cady Stanton was a fighter for freedom. She started her fight for freedom in the antislavery movement. She was even good friends with Frederick Douglass. After fighting hard for the rights of African Americans, she moved on to focusing on the rights of women. One of the areas she focused on was the right to vote for women. In an address to the New York Legislature Stanton said, “Man is in such a labyrinth of contradictions with his marital and property rights; he is so befogged on the whole question of maidens, wives, and mothers, that from pure benevolence we should relieve him from this troublesome branch of legislation. We should vote, and make laws for ourselves.” (Cummings, 252) Stanton was blunt and got right to the point. Women should have had  the right to vote and she made that very clear. While I admire her fight for women’s rights, I did not find her comparison of women to slaves fair. While I understood her point, I found it wrong to compare women’s situation to that of slaves. Women were undoubtedly treated fairly, there is no denying that. However, I do not think that many people would agree with Stanton that women were treated as poorly as slaves. Among many other comparisons, Stanton said, “The prejudice against color, of which we hear so much, is no stronger than that against sex.” (Cummings 251) Again, women were treated poorly. Everyone should be treated fairly and equally and women were not. Though I find her fight for civil rights for both African Americans and women admirable, I think her comparison of the treatment of women to the enslaved wrong and taken too far.

Was her comparison taken too far or is it validated?

I also came across an interesting article on Stanton. Do you agree with this article?