On Women As A Class: Materialist Feminism and Mass Struggle

The relationship between gender and capital is complex, but a materialist approach to both requires us to recognize the centrality of proletarian revolution for the liberation of women.

Poster from Red Women’s Workshop (1983)

Women As A Class:

In order to reconcile the Materialist Feminist account of gender with a Marxist theory of proletarian revolution, we must first understand the way that Materialist Feminism theorizes gender. As always, I turn to the work of Monique Wittig in order to succinctly capture the nuances of this theoretical approach.

Gender And Primitive Accumulation:

In order to properly contextualize Wittig’s theory of gender, I will turn to the work of Italian feminist Silvia Federici’s account of primitive accumulation. In her groundbreaking text Caliban and the Witch, Federici complicates Marx’s theory of primitive accumulation by focusing on the ways that primitive accumulation “was also an accumulation of differences and divisions within the working class, whereby hierarchies built upon gender, as well as ‘race’ and age, became constitutive of class rule and the formation of the modern proletariat.” This emphasis on the accumulation of differences is of the utmost importance for a materialist theory of gender, because it can historicize the ideology of sexual difference that Wittig highlights as a central justification for women’s oppression.

Mass Struggle and Women’s Liberation:

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