Campus News

Feminism: A Socialist Perspective

By Zahid Alvarez | Posted January 1, 2016

fem by Banksy

When asked who he would like to see be elected president in 2016 on an episode of “Ellen,” pop singer Pharrell Williams said he would like to see Hillary Clinton become the first women president in the country’s history.

“It’s time for a woman to be in there,” Williams said. “Women think about things in a holistic way, it’s not so individual.” He added, “I’m saying I’m happy to be a man, but I love women. The thing is, if we had somebody looking after our country that thought about things as a whole, I just feel like it just would be different.”

It’s fascinating to see how one person, even the talented artist Pharrell, could equate a candidate with being holistic and not so individualistic merely because they are a woman. Hillary Clinton for white middle class feminists is the poster child for women breaking through the glass ceiling and earning her place at the top of society. They say that it is enough in our society that a women can get the right to climb higher than men in the corporate and political world, and that should be sufficient to inspire other women to do likewise.



This reformist liberal tendency misses one big point that should be central when talking about true equality and true shared opportunity for women’s capacity and the broader struggle for emancipation of all women. For there to be true equality of the sexes, it’s not enough to add more ladders to the pyramid of society for the sakes of upward mobility, but to alter the fact that the primary structure of society is in the form of a pyramid, where there are so many oppressed people at the bottom and such a few privileged at the top.


For socialists, this structure has a class-based character, and the major classes in our modern capitalist era are the working and capitalist classes. In the abstract general, women indeed are more holistic and less individualistic then men in their thinking and in their habits.

Even in times of turmoil and social change women had played an enormous role, like Harriet Tubman during the American Civil War and the women who took up factory jobs during the Second World War while most male workers went overseas to fight.


That’s not to mention the feminist revolution occurring right now in the context of the terrible Syrian Civil War. Kurdish women there have armed themselves against misogynists like ISIS but also armed themselves politically by setting up people’s assemblies that have the highest authority over things like justice, economics and education.


However, if the political leadership in society remains under capitalist social relations, there will never be any pretensions by those who rule to make a holistic or inclusive society that has private ownership of wealth, that makes people compete against each other for scraps the ruling class leave to us, and that has us trapped in a consumer-commercial mentality believing the absurd notion that happiness can be bought.

Be it a man or women who rules over a society of this likeness, the dominant thinking will always be towards self-centered individualism. Social relations that have true holistic-inclusive philosophical underpinning to them will be the mirror opposite of self-centered ones. The economic base of society will be under the democratic collective ownership of everyone for the sake of cooperation and teamwork that rewards everyone accordingly for their labor.


Take the example of the minimum wage. Single mothers working multiple jobs and having to care for their kids would benefit immensely with more income if wages were raised, especially for women of the immigrant, African American and Hispanic communities.

The burden of poverty and struggling to cope in capitalist society is placed most disproportionately on working class women of color, and in spite of more women being elected in government and taking positions in business, we see cuts to child care, reproductive healthcare and to unemployed or low-income families since the economic crises that occurred in 2008.


This should point out the need for addressing the systemic causes of inequality for women and help build mass movements that challenge them from below.

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