Monday, May 12, 2014

Eleanor Marx on socialist feminism and bourgeois feminism

I've italicized my favorite parts of the following bits from Eleanor Marx: Working Women vs. Bourgeois Feminism:
As women we certainly have a lively concern about winning for women the same rights as men, including working men, already possess today. But we believe that this ‘women’s question’ is an essential component in the general question of the emancipation of labour.

There is no doubt that there is a women’s question. But for us – who gain the right to be counted among the working class either by birth or by working for the workers’ cause – this issue belongs to the general working-class movement. We can understand, sympathise, and also help if need be, when women of the upper or middle class fight for rights that are well-founded and whose achievement will benefit working-women also. I say, we can even help: has not the Communist Manifesto taught us that it is our duty to support any progressive movement that benefits the workers’ cause, even if this movement is not our own?

If every demand raised by these women were granted today, we working-women would still be just where we were before. Women-workers would still work infamously long hours, for infamously low wages, under infamously unhealthful conditions; they would still have only the choice between prostitution and starvation. It would be still more true than ever that, in the class struggle, the working-women would find the good women among their bitter enemies; they would have to fight these women just as bitterly as their working-class brothers must fight the capitalists. The men and women of the middle class need a ‘free’ field in order to exploit labour. Has not the star of the women’s rights movement, Mrs. Fawcett, declared herself expressly in opposition to any legal reduction of working hours for femaIe workers? It is interesting and worth mentioning that, on this question, the orthodox women’s-rightser and my good friend Mr. Base, the weak epigone of Schopenhauer’s, both take absolutely the same position. For this women’s-rightser as for this misogynist, ‘woman’ is just woman. Neither of them sees that there is the exploiter woman of the middle class and the exploited woman of the working class. For us, however, the difference does exist. We see no more in common between a Mrs. Fawcett and a laundress than we see between Rothschild and one of his employees. In short, for us there is only the working-class movement.
And:
For us there is no more a ‘women’s question’ from the bourgeois standpoint than there is a men’s question. Where the bourgeois women demand rights that are of help to us too, we will fight together with them, just as the men of our class did not reject the right to vote because it came from the bourgeois class. We too will not reject any benefit, gained by the bourgeois women in their own interests, which they provide us willingly or unwillingly. We accept these benefits as weapons, weapons that enable us to fight better on the side of our working-class brothers. We are not women arrayed in struggle against men but workers who are in struggle against the exploiters.