The Role of Marxist-Feminism in International Women’s Day
In honour of International Women’s Day, I had the misfortune of coming across a Wall Street Journal article whose heading was: “The March 8 commemoration has Communist roots, but capitalism by far has done more for gender equality”. This sentence alone has so many errors, I must break it down.
International Women’s Day only became an official holiday in 1975 but was fought for all over the world since the early 1900s.
Between 1909 and 1913, National Women’s Day was celebrated in the United States every February 18th.
In 1910, The International Conference of Working Women, a conference of over 100 women from 17 countries, was held in Denmark. It was proposed that every country should celebrate “Women’s Day” yearly at the same time in order to press their demands for better working conditions and fairer wages.
In 1911, Austria, Denmark, Germany, and Switzerland celebrated International Women’s Day for the first time.
In 1913, four years before the Russian monarchy fell and on the eve of World War I, Russian women celebrated their first International Women’s day, campaigning for peace.
The list goes on, but the point is International Women’s Day doesn’t have communist roots, it has socialist roots (at best).
Furthermore, unlike what the article argues, capitalism literally did not do anything for women’s rights except oppress them. When capitalism first arose, the very first thing it did was bar women from the workforce. And if they were allowed to work, they were paid a fraction of the salary of a man and their wages went to their husbands.
The only reason women eventually managed to flourish under capitalism is because of feminist movements, all anti-capitalist and some rooted in Marxist-Feminism.
Charlotte Perkins Gilman (1960-1935) is one of the earliest Marxist-Feminists and laid the groundwork for Marxist-Feminism, a theory inspired by the works of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels.
She believed that women would only truly be equal to men once they’ve achieved economic independence and although First-Wave Feminism started in 1848, it didn’t end until 1920, leaving her theory to play a large role in the fight for economic equality between men and women.
The reason feminist movements are all anti-capitalist by definition is that they aim to change the system of systematic gender oppression we know as capitalism.
Therefore, saying that capitalism did more for women’s rights than communism is not only ignorant because it is confusing socialism and marxism (the two main roots of feminism) with communism, but it is simply wrong because the advances women have made in our Capitalist society can only be attributed to the Socialist and Marxist feminist movements that have fought to reform capitalism and are now fighting to overthrow it.
By Sophie Dufresne