Notes Toward a Marxist Theory of Gender [I]

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The fundamental essence of Marxism rests in totalisation. Marxists understand that human history is created by a plurality of praxis – that is, by the mass movement & action of humanity in the production of their material existence. Society is, therefore, both product & producer of human praxis. Totalisation is the summation of this understanding; it is the understanding of what is, what has been & what can be, with the mass praxis of the human being at its centre.

The Communist Manifesto calls for the abolition of the family. The family is the economic unit by which the superexploitation of women is made viable. Capitalism requires the slavery of bourgeois marriage, of domestic prisons. All of this is argued by Engels in The Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State.

In the development of the family, as an historical process, the development of gender as a binary can be glimpsed. The bourgeois family requires as both precondition & product, the existence & continued reification of gender binaries.

[N]ot only has housework been imposed on women, but it has been transformed into a natural attribute of our female physique and personality, an internal need, an aspiration, supposedly coming from the depth of our female character. Housework had to be transformed into a natural attribute rather than be recognised as a social contract because from the beginning of capital’s scheme for women this work was destined to be unwaged. Capital had to convince us that it is a natural, unavoidable and even fulfilling activity to make us accept our unwaged work. In its turn, the unwaged condition of housework has been the most powerful weapon in reinforcing the common assumption that housework is not work, thus preventing women from struggling against it, except in the privatized kitchen-bedroom quarrel that all society has agreed to ridicule, thereby further reducing the protagonist of a struggle. We are seen as nagging bitches, not workers in struggle.‘ (Silvia Federici, Wages Against Housework (April, 1975).)

The gender binary is an economic relation.


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