We all know that the powers that be want to control women. Right? That’s what feminism is all about. Call it the system, the patriarchy, “the man,” the ruling class, the state, whatever you want, we all agree that women are pretty systematically fucked over. At least everyone reasonable does. If you don’t even believe women’s oppression is real, good damn day and please DO let the door hit you in the ass on the way out.
But here’s something feminists have been floundering on for decades: why? What’s the point of controlling women? Is it for sex? Is it so they only have your babies? Is it because men are by nature abusive and controlling? Is it because they’re generally physically larger and more dominant? Is it…is it lizard people?
Here’s my theory. Well, not my theory. Here’s a theory put together by a ton of people smarter than me and which I think makes the most sense.
First, a sexist system is not natural.
Not only is that an entirely depressing prospect and one which even most feminists seem to believe, it simply isn’t true. It’s a lie fed to us to keep us from questioning the status quo too hard. This shouldn’t sound too shocking when you think of how many other major, sweeping lies we are told and have been told in the past to keep the oppressed in place.
There have been numerous societies even in recent history that were not plagued by the kind of built-in sexism we see in most of the world today. Slightly more-well known examples are many of the tribal societies of the Americas and Africa, some of which were even “matriarchal” in the sense that families were based around the women and mothers and not the men and fathers like in our culture. And the further back in history we go, the more examples we begin to see, until we reach hunter-gatherer societies that were largely cooperative, communistic types of tribes and which studies are showing more and more were relatively free of any systemic elevation of one gender over any other.
So if we drop the concept that men naturally suck and women naturally take it, then why is it so prevalent?
The only answer that makes sense is capitalism.
Capitalism functions on people selling their labor, and capitalists making a profit off of it. There is a built-in interest in maintaining a sufficient labor force, keeping them functioning at as little cost as possible, and keeping a reserve force ready to take their place as soon as is convenient.
While capitalists may have a problem with the way I’ve put that–plainly–most of them wouldn’t disagree with the concept. You hear them blatantly discuss the fact that millennials aren’t having enough children to replenish the labor force, for example, not even denying that they require our proliferation to thrive.
How does this translate into women’s oppression?
In the simplest terms, the rise of the nuclear family and the growing attacks on reproductive rights came along with the industrial revolution in Europe and America, specifically intended to keep women reproducing the next generation of workers and keep the burden of childcare, cooking, and other domestic needs on families and off the state and/or the companies (reducing the cost of maintaining their labor force).
It seems kind of obvious when it hits you, doesn’t it? Why would they want to control every aspect of women’s bodies–how we have sex, how and when we reproduce, how and when we work, whether we are paid for that labor, and how we care for our children? Why would there be such a push against abortion–supposedly a religious motivation to care for children–with little to no public support for children who are born or the mothers who raise them? Why would we live in a system that simultaneously limits women from abortion while secretly sterilizing women of color, as occurred in the all-too-recent past right here in the United States? Why would contraception and sexual activity be limited? Why would women be shamed into having sex with only one partner, and not until marriage? Why would sex work be so stigmatized? Why would women have to fight tooth and nail for the right to work outside the home?
The capitalist system cannot thrive, and the capitalists cannot continue to grow richer, without women’s oppression. They desperately need us to keep producing their babies–on their terms–and then keep caring for them on our own dime, for them to have the cheapest, most consistent labor force possible.
This is also the reason the system is so opposed to LGBTQ rights. We indulge in what they consider sexually deviant behavior–freedom with our bodies that have little or nothing to do with reproduction, the nuclear family or propagating their system. We are a direct threat to them and this is why they try to control us for this too.
And this is why abortion rights are more than a “women’s issue” or even a feminist issue. They are a facet of reproductive rights and bodily autonomy for women that while they can be fought for within this system, will never be ideal for the powers that be under a capitalist system. If we’re going to get at the root of this issue, we must fight capitalism itself while we also continue to fight for reforms to improve our lives within it.
Here are a few excellent pieces about abortion rights from a leftist perspective that I recommend checking out:
And here’s a truly encouraging piece about socialism and the fight for a better world:
What do you think about capitalism and its relation to abortion and other reproductive rights? Share in the comments below!