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Socialist feminism is a young feminist movement, born

in the 1970?s. But despite the three hundred-year age
difference, socialist feminism retains many of the same
goals as the first feminist movements. We will outline the
major themes found within socialist feminism, including
its analysis of women?s oppression, its ideas for
activism, and its similarities to other kinds of feminism,
specifically its synthesis of Marxist and Radical
"How can you say Mrs. Henry Ford IV is really in the
same class as a Guatemalan peasant woman? We
socialist feminists see the problem as a combination of
male domination and class exploitation - our fight is
against both! Real liberation is impossible as long as
power and wealth in the world is monopolized by a tiny
minority, and economic and social life is ruled by their
lust for profits." -Introducing Feminism, Watkins, Reuda
& Rodriguez
To understand socialist feminism, one must understand
praxis. Praxis is a Marxist concept meaning the ability
humans have to consciously change the environment in
order to meet their needs. Socialist feminists, like
Marxist feminists, hold that praxis is the one thing
universal to all humans. Unlike Marxist feminists,
socialist feminists hold that praxis has gender specific
forms and extends to the private sphere of life. The
private sphere of life is that of the home and the work
that the woman (typically) does in giving birth to
children, raising children, and maintaining the
Socialist feminists agree with radical feminists in the
idea that gender roles need to be abolished. But they
see gender and sexuality as social constructs both
capable of transformation. While they acknowledge that
biology does play a role in determining personality (as
previously stated), anatomy does not confine or limit our
capabilities as human beings on an emotional or a
physical level.
Like Marxists, socialist feminists see capitalism as a
major factor in women?s oppression, as well as in the
oppression of other minority groups. Unlike Marxist
feminists, however, socialist feminists believe that
capitalism is only one of many intertwined factors that
contribute to women?s oppression. Other factors include
male dominance, racism, and imperialism. However,
because women?s work (within and outside of the
home) is not as valued as that of their male
counterparts, women are forced to remain dependent
upon males. For example, although a woman who is
both a wife and a mother works 20 hours a day within
her home, she is not monetarily compensated, and is
therefore unable to gain equal status with her husband,
who works 9 hours a day and is paid. Socialist feminism
provides an answer to the problem of women?s poverty:
the destruction of class distinctions.
Unlike Marxist feminist theory, socialist feminists believe
that the home is not just a place of consumption, but of
production as well. Women?s work within the home,
having and raising children, as well as supporting men
by doing cooking, cleaning, and other forms of
housework which permit men to work outside the home,
are all forms of production because they contribute to
society at large. Production, according to socialist
feminists, should not be measured in dollars, but rather
in social worth.
"Put more emphasis on making alliances with other
oppressed groups and classes ? anti-imperialist
movements, workers? organizations, the political parties
to the left. They [socialist feminists] were engaged in a
permanent dialogue ? sometimes exhausting,
sometimes exhilarating ? with the progressive men in
these organizations about the meaning and importance
of the feminist struggle, about the way gender
oppression is reflected and reinforced within personal
and family relationships ? within the very structure of
liberal movements and parties." -Introducing Feminism,
Watkins, Reuda & Rodriguez
Socialist feminists propose the complete eradication of
all political, economic and social foundations of
contemporary society. Specifically, education, work,
sexuality and parenting must undergo thorough
transformations. Sexual division of labor, which locks
men and women into stereotypical occupational
categories, must cease. Women should be permitted,
respected and valued for all types of work within
traditionally male as well as female fields, and
adequately compensated for such work. They should be
free from economic and gender specific constraints,
even if it means reorganizing the family structure of
sharing of child rearing responsibilities. They should be
also be reunited with the fruits of their labor, by ending
the alienation produced when they are forced to tailor
their goals, personalities, and very lives to the wishes of
Alienation refers to relationships that are naturally
interdependent but have been artificially separated or
placed in opposition. Socialist feminists have adopted
the Marxist concept of alienation to describe the
situation of women in the world. Unlike Marxist feminists
who only consider alienation in the workplace, socialist
feminists also apply alienation to women's work in the
Socialist feminist activism differs from other forms of
feminist activism in that it focuses a great deal on
collaborating with other oppressed groups. Feminism
has frequently been condemned as exclusionary
representing only white heterosexual middle class
women. But socialist feminists are inclusive, however.
They include all groups that suffer as a result of
capitalism, male dominance, or discrimination in their
Quiz: Are you a socialist feminist?
(Feminist Theories and Feminist Psychotherapies by
Carolyn Enns)
Self-Assessment Questionnaire (Authored by Edna
Rawlings and Diane Carter in 1977) Indicate your level
of agreement for each item by using the following scale:
Don't agree 1
Slightly agree 2
Moderately Agree 3
Strongly Agree 4
Completely Agree 5
1) Women must gain full economic rights and independence in order to be guaranteed the
freedom and civil liberties they are entitled to.

2) Women will only gain full equality with men when institutions and social relationships are

3) Financial resources should be redistributed so that adequate education, child-care, and

work are available to all.

4) Education, work, parenting practices, and sexuality (reproductive freedom) must be

restructured in order to eliminate male domination and other oppressions.

5) Some of the most significant issues facing women include comparative worth issues,
guaranteed maternity and paternity leave, and the feminization of poverty.

6) Oppression has multiple causes based on gender, class, and race distinctions.

7) Economic institutions are the source of some of the most virulent forms of oppression.


7-14 Points: You feel fairly satisfied in a capitalist society, and have either not experienced, or
not recognized oppression in your life, or in the life of those around you. While you do need
for slight societal reform, you find the degree of reform suggested by socialist feminists to be
extreme and unnecessary.

15-21 Points: While you agree with some of the basic ideas of socialist feminism, you do not
see a need for change as drastic as that proposed by socialist feminists. As you read the
explanation of the socialist feminist ideals and suggestions for change, consider the impact
that the combination of male domination and capitalism have had on your life, as well as on
the lives of other oppressed people.

22-35 Points: You are a socialist feminist! You recognize the necessity of fundamental change
in all areas of society: political, economic, and social. Hopefully as you read the summary of
socialist feminism, you will find validation of your own pre-existing ideas, as well as new
concepts for societal reform.
Definition: The phrase "socialist feminism" was increasingly used during the 1970s to
describe a mixed theoretical and practical approach to achieving women's equality.
Socialist feminist theory analyzed the connection between the oppression of
women and other oppression in society, such as racism and economic injustice.

Socialists had fought for decades to create a more equal society that did not exploit the
poor and powerless in the ways capitalism did. Like Marxism, socialist feminism
recognized the oppressive structure of capitalist society. Like radical feminism, socialist
feminism recognized the fundamental oppression of women in patriarchal society.
However, socialist feminists did not recognize gender and only gender as the exclusive
basis of all oppression.

Socialist feminists wanted to integrate the recognition of sex discrimination with their
work to achieve justice and equality for women, working classes, the poor and all


Published On September 8, 2013 | By Kelly Bellin | Women's Rights

The following is an edited version of a speech given at Socialist Alternatives National Summer Camp.
Violence against women is at the forefront of the discussion on fighting for womens rights internationally and the
center of growing awareness and outrage in society about sexism. This outrage comes in the midst of this
decades-long slew of right-wing attacks on women, which have played a significant role in giving room for the
reassertion of sexist ideas in popular culture.
The examples of scandals featured in media seem endless, from high-profile cases of sexual violence in India
along with the fight-back in communities, to the Steubenville attacks, to systemic sexual assault within the
To successfully fight back, we need a successful strategy. Central to this is understanding the core differences
between liberal feminism the dominant ideology of mainstream womens organizations and socialist
feminism, which we adopt.
Fundamental Differences
According to Wikipedia, Liberal Feminism seeks individualistic equality of men and women through political and
legal reform, without altering the structure of society. Essentially, whats necessary is to change the currently
existing laws and attitudes which prevent equality.
What defines socialist feminism is a class analysis of how womens oppression has emerged historically through
the development of class society and how it is still perpetuated by the capitalist system, which we recognize as
necessary to overthrow in order to truly achieve equality.
The lack of a class analysis is absolutely fatal for building movements. It reduces liberal feminist movements to
fighting for policies that are underwhelming compared to the mood and consciousness driving forward these
movements. It boils down to effectively defining attitudes as the problem, individual laws as the problem, or even
men as the problem. What follows, then, is the implication that anti-sexist education and rewriting law is the
solution. It implies that women simply have to take power back from men.
Fighting for reforms, however, is not what differentiates liberal feminism from socialist feminism. Marxists fight for
and support any and all positive reforms that benefit the lives of women and all working-class people. And its true
that reforms have played an important, sometimes lifesaving, role in womens lives.
But through fighting only for reforms, liberal feminism does not adequately draw broader conclusions about the
system or whats necessary to truly achieve equality. In a practical sense, it becomes a superficial approach with
shallow solutions, primarily surrounding mainstream womens organizations which represent mostly middle-class
white women.
Liberal feminism hinges on examples such as high-power politicians like Hilary Clinton, or the hiring of Yahoo
CEO Marissa Mayer, a then-pregnant white woman who was first hailed as a brilliant example of breaking
through the glass ceiling. Yet months after taking her new position, Mayer canceled the work-from-home program
for all employees, which is particularly crucial for mothers, just before installing a private nursery in her office.
Without a class analysis, and resting on the idea that equality can be achieved within capitalism, liberal feminism
reduces down to promoting a few women into a few positions of power and educating men not to be sexist. By
extension, it accepts the idea that there are always going to be poor women, or that role models more CEOs
are all women need to be empowered.
For socialists, its a question of changing the balance of power in society and thats why mass movements are
so crucial. The key value of mass movements is raising the consciousness, confidence, and organization of
women and the broader working class.
Violence Against Women and Rape Culture
In recent years, the term rape culture has been developed and used to describe the violent sexism that women
face in many areas of life. The term itself encapsulates the idea that the problem isnt just the act of sexual
violence itself, but that the constant threat of sexual violence against women permeates throughout our culture to
oppress women. Rape isnt just a crime that happens because a bad man was in the alley; its taught, its
excused, and it must be fought on a wider basis. This analysis represents a step forward in the fight against
womens oppression.
Theres a serious contradiction that exists right now: widespread recognition and outrage that violence against
women is a problem, yet no movement to adequately fight back. Just in the last couple of years, there have been
a few powerful examples of the limits of movements directed by liberal feminist ideas, but also of the tremendous
potential that exists for explosive movements around the historic attacks on women.
The Slutwalk movement was an important attempt to confront and fight violence against women. As a direct
response to the Toronto officers offensive comment, the Slutwalk rallies captured the widespread anger of
women around victim-blaming. Yet its tactic represented a serious shortcoming, as many women rejected the
idea of claiming the term slut as a positive descriptor for sexuality when it has such deep roots in oppression
and violence against women.
By framing the problem as the attitudes of men or a lack of education, the Slutwalks took the logic of liberal
feminism to the extreme, exposing its ridiculousness by having demands that didnt go nearly far enough. Without
directly linking victim-blaming to the sea of oppression that women face, the Slutwalks couldnt maintain
momentum or build a serious challenge to sexism or the system which has created it.
Building Movements That Can Adequately Fight for Women
Programmatic failures result in the paralysis of liberal feminism and its inability to really answer the issue of
sexual violence. This is an absolute and dire obstacle preventing it connecting with all of the problems facing
working-class women, which is necessary to build a real movement for womens rights.
For movements to build and maintain serious momentum, we must put forward a class appeal to women, to men,
and to society at large. Socialist feminism is defined and strengthened by its ability to explain how sexism
functions as a tool of the ruling elite to maintain the oppression of the vast majority of working people. By
identifying sexism as a function of divide-and-rule under capitalism, it points to a way forward to liberation not
only of women, but humanity as a whole from the oppression of capitalism.

Socialist feminism is a branch of feminism that focuses upon both the public and private spheres of
a woman's life and argues that liberation can only be achieved by working to end both
the economic and cultural sources of women's oppression.[1] Socialist feminism is a two-pronged
theory that broadens Marxist feminism's argument for the role of capitalism in the oppression of
women and radical feminism's theory of the role of gender and the patriarchy. Socialist feminists
reject radical feminism's main claim that patriarchy is the only or primary source of oppression of
women.[2] Rather, socialist feminists assert that women are unable to be free due to their financial
dependence on males in society. Women are subjects to the male rulers in capitalism due to an
uneven balance in wealth. They see economic dependence as the driving force of women's
subjugation to men. Further, socialist feminists see women's liberation as a necessary part of larger
quest for social, economic and political justice.

Socialist feminism draws upon many concepts found in Marxism; such as a historical materialist point
of view, which means that they relate their ideas to the material and historical conditions of people's
lives. Socialist feminists thus consider how the sexism and gendered division of labor of each
historical era is determined by the economic system of the time. Those conditions are largely
expressed through capitalist and patriarchal relations. Socialist feminists, thus reject the Marxist
notion that class and class struggle are the only defining aspects of history and economic
development. Marx asserted that when class oppression was overcome, gender oppression would
vanish as well. According to socialist feminists, this view of gender oppression as a sub-class of class
oppression is naive and much of the work of socialist feminists has gone towards specifying how
gender and class work together to create distinct forms of oppression and privilege for women and
men of each class. For example, they observe that women's class status is generally derivative of her
husband's class or occupational status,.e.g., a secretary that marries her boss assumes his class

In 1972, the Chicago Women's Liberation Union published "Socialist Feminism: A Strategy for the
Women's Movement," which is believed to be the first to use the term "socialist feminism," in

Other socialist feminists, notably two long-lived American organizations Radical Women and
the Freedom Socialist Party, point to the classic Marxist writings of Frederick Engels (The Origin of
the Family, Private Property and the State) and August Bebel (Woman and Socialism) as a powerful
explanation of the link between gender oppression and class exploitation.

On the other hand, the Socialist Party USA is an example of a socialist feminist party which is not
explicitly Marxist (although some members identify as Marxists). The party's statement of principles
says, "Socialist feminism confronts the common root of sexism, racism and classism: the
determination of a life of oppression or privilege based on accidents of birth or circumstances.
Socialist feminism is an inclusive way of creating social change. We value synthesis and cooperation
rather than conflict and competition."[4][dead link]



2Marxist feminism

3Later theoretical works

o 3.1Zillah R. Eisenstein

o 3.2Donna Haraway and "A Cyborg Manifesto"

o 3.3Autonomist feminism

o 3.4Material feminism

4Socialist feminist praxis

o 4.1Chicago Women's Liberation Union

o 4.2Women's International Terrorist Conspiracy from Hell

o 4.3Big Flame

5Motherhood and the private sphere


7Socialist Feminism Groups

8See also


10External links


Anarcha-feminism (also called anarchist feminism and anarcho-feminism)

combines anarchism with feminism. It generally views patriarchy as a manifestation of
involuntary coercive hierarchy that should be replaced by decentralized free association. Anarcha-
feminists believe that the struggle against patriarchy is an essential part of class struggle, and
the anarchist struggle against the state. In essence, the philosophy sees anarchist struggle as a
necessary component of feminist struggle and vice versa. L. Susan Brown claims that "as anarchism
is a political philosophy that opposes all relationships of power, it is inherently feminist".
Bakunin opposed patriarchy and the way the law "subjects [women] to the absolute domination of
the man." He argued that "[e]qual rights must belong to men and women" so that women can
"become independent and be free to forge their own way of life." Bakunin foresaw the end of
"the authoritarian juridical family" and "the full sexual freedom of women." [6]

Anarcha-feminism began with late 19th and early 20th century authors and theorists such as anarchist
feminists Emma Goldman, Voltairine de Cleyre and Lucy Parsons.[7] In the Spanish Civil War, an
anarcha-feminist group, Mujeres Libres ("Free Women") linked to the Federacin Anarquista Ibrica,
organized to defend both anarchist and feminist ideas, [8] while the prominent Spanish anarchist and
feminist leader Federica Montseny held that the "emancipation of women would lead to a quicker
realization of the social revolution" and that "the revolution against sexism would have to come from
intellectual and militant 'future-women.' According to this Nietzschean concept of Federica
Montseny's, women could realize through art and literature the need to revise their own roles." [9]

In Argentina Virginia Bolten is responsible for the publication of a newspaper called La Voz de la
Mujer (English: The Woman's Voice), which was published nine times in Rosario between 8 January
1896 and 1 January 1897, and was revived, briefly, in 1901. A similar paper with the same name was
reportedly published later in Montevideo, which suggests that Bolten may also have founded and
edited it after her deportation.[10] "La Voz de la Mujer described itself as dedicated to the advancement
of Communist Anarchism. Its central theme was that of the multiple nature of women's oppression.
An editorial asserted, We believe that in present-day society nothing and nobody has a more
wretched situation than unfortunate women. Women, they said, were doubly oppressed - by
bourgeois society and by men. Its feminism can be seen from its attack on marriage and upon male
power over women. Its contributors, like anarchist feminists elsewhere, developed a concept of
oppression that focused on gender oppression. Marriage was a bourgeois institution which restricted
women's freedom, including their sexual freedom. Marriages entered into without love, fidelity
maintained through fear rather than desire, oppression of women by men they hated - all were seen
as symptomatic of the coercion implied by the marriage contract. It was this alienation of the
individual's will that the anarchist feminists deplored and sought to remedy, initially through free love
and then, and more thoroughly, through social revolution." [11]

Luca Snchez Saornil, leader of Mujeres Libres in 1933

Mujeres Libres (English: Free Women) was an anarchist women's organization in Spain that aimed to
empower working class women. It was founded in 1936 by Luca Snchez Saornil, Mercedes
Comaposada and Amparo Poch y Gascn and had approximately 30,000 members. The organization
was based on the idea of a "double struggle" for women's liberation and social revolution and argued
that the two objectives were equally important and should be pursued in parallel. In order to gain
mutual support, they created networks of women anarchists. Flying day-care centres were set up in
efforts to involve more women in union activities.[12] Luca Snchez Saornil, was a Spanish poet,
militant anarchist and feminist. She is best known as one of the founders of Mujeres Libres and
served in the Confederacin Nacional del Trabajo (CNT) and Solidaridad Internacional
Antifascista (SIA). By 1919, she had been published in a variety of journals, including Los
Quijotes, Tableros, Plural, Manantial and La Gaceta Literaria. Working under a male pen name, she
was able to explore lesbian themes[13] at a time when homosexuality was criminalized and subject
to censorship and punishment. Writing in anarchist publications such as Earth and Freedom,
the White Magazine and Workers' Solidarity, Luca outlined her perspective as a feminist.

In the past decades two films have been produced about anarcha-feminism. Libertarias is a historical
drama made in 1996 about the Spanish anarcha-feminist organization Mujeres Libres. In 2010 the
argentinian film Ni dios, ni patrn, ni marido was released which is centered on the story of anarcha-
feminist Virginia Bolten and her publishing of the newspaper La Voz de la Mujer (English: The
Woman's Voice).[14][15]
Marxist feminism[edit]

Socialist feminist Clara Zetkin and Rosa Luxemburg, 1910

Marxist feminism is a sub-type of feminist theory which focuses on the social institutions of private
property and capitalism to explain and criticize gender inequality and oppression. According to Marxist
feminists, private property gives rise to economic inequality, dependence, political and domestic
struggle between the sexes, and is the root of women's oppression in the current social context.

Marxist feminism's foundation is laid by Friedrich Engels in his analysis of gender oppression in The
Origin of the Family, Private Property, and the State (1884). He argues that a woman's subordination
is not a result of her biological disposition but of social relations, and that men's efforts to achieve their
demands for control of women's labor and sexual faculties have gradually solidified and become
institutionalized in the nuclear family. Through a Marxist historical perspective, Engels analyzes the
widespread social phenomena associated with female sexual morality, such as fixation
on virginity and sexual purity, incrimination and violent punishment of women who commit adultery,
and demands that women be submissive to their husbands. Ultimately, Engels traces these
phenomena to the recent development of exclusive control of private property by the patriarchs of the
rising slaveowner class in the ancient mode of production, and the attendant desire to ensure that
their inheritance is passed only to their own offspring: chastity and fidelity are rewarded, says Engels,
because they guarantee exclusive access to the sexual and reproductive faculty of women possessed
by men from the property-owning class.

In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, both Clara Zetkin and Eleanor Marx were against
the demonization of men and supported a proletariat revolution that would overcome as many male
female inequalities as possible.[16] As their movement already had the most radical demands in
women's equality, most Marxist leaders, including Clara Zetkin [17][18] and Alexandra Kollontai,[19]
counterposed Marxism against bourgeois feminism, rather than trying to combine them.

Orthodox Marxists argue that most Marxist forerunners claimed by feminists or "marxist feminists"
including Clara Zetkin[21][22] and Alexandra Kollontai[23][24] were against capitalist forms of feminism. They
agreed with the main Marxist movement that feminism was a bourgeois ideology counterposed to
Marxism and against the working class. Instead of feminism, the Marxists supported the more radical
political program of liberating women through socialist revolution, with a special emphasis on work
among women and in materially changing their conditions after the revolution. Orthodox Marxists view
the later attempt to combine Marxism and feminism as a liberal creation of academics and reformist
leftists who want to make alliances with bourgeois feminists.

For what reason, then, should the woman worker seek a union with the bourgeois feminists? Who, in
actual fact, would stand to gain in the event of such an alliance? Certainly not the woman worker.
-Alexandra Kollontai, 1909 [23]

Radical Women, a major Marxist-feminist organization, bases its theory on Marx' and Engels' analysis
that the enslavement of women was the first building block of an economic system based on private
property. They contend that elimination of the capitalist profit-driven economy will remove the
motivation for sexism, racism, homophobia, and other forms of oppression. [25]

Later theoretical works[edit]

Zillah R. Eisenstein[edit]
Capitalist Patriarchy and the Case for Socialist Feminism was a collection of essays assembled and
anthologized by Zillah R. Eisenstein in 1978.

Sociologist and Academic Rhonda F. Levine cites Eisenstein's work as a "superb discussion of
the socialist-feminist position" in her anthology Enriching the Sociological Imagination: How Radical
Sociology Changed the Discipline.[26] Levine goes on to describe the book as " one of the earliest
statements of how a Marxist class analysis can combine with a feminist analysis of patriarchy to
produce a theory of how gender and class intersect as systems of inequality." [26]

"Eisenstein defines the term 'capitalist patriarchy' as descriptive of the 'mutually reinforcing dialectical
relationship between capitalist class structure and hierarchical sexual structuring" [27]

She believes that "The recognition of women as a sexual class lays the subversive quality of feminism
for liberalism because liberalism is premised upon women's exclusion from public life on this very
class basis. The demand for real equality of women with men, if taken to its logical conclusion, would
dislodge the patriarchal structure necessary to a liberal society."[28]

Donna Haraway and "A Cyborg Manifesto"[edit]

In 1985, Donna Haraway published the essay "A Cyborg Manifesto: Science, Technology, and
Socialist-Feminism in the Late Twentieth Century" in Socialist Review. Although most of Haraway's
earlier work was focused on emphasizing the masculine bias in scientific culture, she has also
contributed greatly to feminist narratives of the twentieth century. For Haraway, the Manifesto came at
a critical juncture at which feminists, in order to have any real-world significance, had to acknowledge
their situatedness within what she terms the informatics of domination. [29] Feminists must, she
proclaims, unite behind an ironic dream of a common language for women in the integrated
circuit. [29] Women were no longer on the outside along a hierarchy of privileged binaries but rather
deeply imbued, exploited by and complicit within networked hegemony, and had to form their politics
as such.

According to Haraway's "Manifesto", "there is nothing about being female that naturally binds women
together into a unified category. There is not even such a state as 'being' female, itself a highly
complex category constructed in contested sexual scientific discourses and other social practices"
(p. 155). A cyborg does not require a stable, essentialist identity, argues Haraway, and feminists
should consider creating coalitions based on "affinity" instead of identity. To ground her argument,
Haraway analyzes the phrase "women of color", suggesting it as one possible example of affinity
politics. Using a term coined by theorist Chela Sandoval, Haraway writes that "oppositional
consciousness" is comparable with a cyborg politics, because rather than identity it stresses how
affinity comes as a result of "otherness, difference, and specificity" (p. 156).

Autonomist feminism[edit]
Leopoldina Fortunati is the author of The Arcane of Reproduction: Housework, Prostitution, Labor and
Capital (L'arcano della riproduzione: Casalinghe, prostitute, operai e capitale), a feminist critique of
Marx. Fortunati is the author of several books, including The Arcane of Reproduction (Autonomedia,
1995) and I mostri nell'immaginario (Angeli, 1995), and is the editor of Gli Italiani al telefono (Angeli,
1995) and Telecomunicando in Europa (1998), and with J. Katz and R. Riccini Mediating the Human
Body. Technology, Communication and Fashion (2003). Her influences include Mariarosa Dalla
Costa, Antonio Negri, and Karl Marx.

Silvia Federici is an Italian scholar, teacher, and activist from the radical autonomist feminist Marxist
tradition.[30] Federici's best known work, Caliban and the Witch: Women, the Body and Primitive
Accumulation, expands on the work of Leopoldina Fortunati. In it, she argues against Karl Marx's
claim that primitive accumulation is a necessary precursor for capitalism. Instead, she posits that
primitive accumulation is a fundamental characteristic of capitalism itselfthat capitalism, in order to
perpetuate itself, requires a constant infusion of expropriated capital.

Federici connects this expropriation to women's unpaid labour, both connected to reproduction and
otherwise, which she frames as a historical precondition to the rise of a capitalist economy predicated
upon wage labor. Related to this, she outlines the historical struggle for the commons and the struggle
for communalism. Instead of seeing capitalism as a liberatory defeat of feudalism, Federici interprets
the ascent of capitalism as a reactionary move to subvert the rising tide of communalism and to retain
the basic social contract.

She situates the institutionalization of rape and prostitution, as well as the heretic and witch-
hunt trials, burnings, and torture at the center of a methodical subjugation of women and appropriation
of their labor. This is tied into colonial expropriation and provides a framework for understanding the
work of the International Monetary Fund, World Bank, and other proxy institutions as engaging in a
renewed cycle of primitive accumulation, by which everything held in commonfrom water, to seeds,
to our genetic codebecomes privatized in what amounts to a new round of enclosures.

Material feminism[edit]
Material feminism highlights capitalism and patriarchy as central in understanding women's
oppression. The theory centers on social change rather than seeking transformation within the
capitalist system.[31] Jennifer Wicke, defines Materialist Feminism as "a feminism that insists on
examining the material conditions under which social arrangements, including those
of gender hierarchy, develop... materialist feminism avoids seeing this gender hierarchy as the effect
of a singular... patriarchy and instead gauges the web of social and psychic relations that make up a
material, historical moment."[32] She states that "...materialist feminism argues that material conditions
of all sorts play a vital role in the social production of gender and assays the different ways in which
women collaborate and participate in these productions". [32]Material feminism also considers how
women and men of various races and ethnicities are kept in their lower economic status due to an
imbalance of power that privileges those who already have privilege, thereby protecting the status
The term Material feminism was first used in 1975 by Christine Delphy.[33] The current concept has its
roots in socialist and Marxist feminism; Rosemary Hennessy and Chrys Ingraham, editors
of Materialist Feminism: A Reader in Class, Difference, and Women's Lives, describe material
feminism as the "conjuncture of several discourseshistorical materialism, Marxist and radical
feminism, as well as postmodernist and psychoanalytic theories of meaning and subjectivity. [33] he
term materialist feminism emerged in the late 1970s and is associated with key thinkers, such
as Rosemary Hennessy, Stevi Jackson and Christine Delphy.[31] Rosemary Hennessy traces the
history of Materialist Feminism in the work of British and French feminists who preferred the term
materialist feminism to Marxist feminism.[34] In their view, Marxism had to be altered to be able to
explain the sexual division of labor. Marxism was inadequate to the task because of its class bias and
focus on production. Feminism was also problematic due to its essentialist and idealist concept of
woman. Material Feminism then emerged as a positive substitute to both Marxism and feminism.
Material Feminism partly originated from the work of French feminists, particularly Christine Delphy.
She argued that materialism is the only theory of history that views oppression as a basic reality of
women's lives. Christine Delphy states that this is why women and all oppressed groups need
materialism to investigate their situation. For Christine Delphy "to start from oppression defines a
materialist approach, oppression is a materialist concept." [35] She states that the domestic mode of
production was the site of patriarchal exploitation and the material basis of the oppression of women.
Christine Delphy further argued that marriage is a labor contract that gives men the right to exploit
women.[35] The Grand Domestic Revolution by Dolores Hayden is a reference. Hayden describes
Material feminism at that time as reconceptualizing the relationship between the private household
space and public space by presenting collective options to take the "burden" off women in regard
to housework, cooking, and other traditional female domestic jobs.[36]

Socialist feminist praxis[edit]

Holds the belief that to achieve women's liberation, women's liberation must be sought in conjunction
with the social and economic justice of all people. Socialist feminists see the fight to end male
supremacy as key to social justice, but not the only issue, rather one of many forms of oppression that
are mutually reinforcing.[37]

Chicago Women's Liberation Union[edit]

The Chicago Women's Liberation Union, known colloquially as CWLU, was formed in 1969 after a
founding conference in Palatine, Illinois. Naomi Weisstein, Vivian Rothstein, Heather Booth, and Ruth
Surgal were among the founders at this conference. The main goal of the organization was to end
gender inequality and sexism, which the CWLU defined asthe systematic keeping down of women for
the benefit of people in power. [38] The purpose statement of the organization expressed that
"Changing women's position in society isn't going to be easy. It's going to require changes in
expectations, jobs, child care, and education. It's going to change the distribution of power over the
rest of us to all people sharing power and sharing in the decisions that affect our lives." [38] The CWLU
spent almost a decade organizing to challenge both sexism and class oppression. The group is best
known for the 1972 pamphlet Socialist Feminism: A Strategy for the Women's Movement. Nationally
circulated, the publication is believed to be the first to use the term socialist feminism.

The CWLU was organized as an umbrella organization to unite a wide range of work groups and
discussion groups. A representative from each work group went to monthly meetings of the Steering
Committee to reach consensus on organizational policy and strategy. They addressed a myriad of
issues including women's health, reproductive rights, education, economic rights, visual arts and
music, sports, lesbian liberation, and much more.
Women's International Terrorist Conspiracy from Hell[edit]
Women's International Terrorist Conspiracy from Hell, shortened W.I.T.C.H., was the name of many
related but independent feminist groups formed in the United States during 1968 and 1969 and who
were important in the development of socialist feminism. The name W.I.T.C.H. was also sometimes
expanded as "Women Inspired to Tell their Collective History," "Women Interested in Toppling
Consumer Holidays," and many other variations.[39]

There was no centralized organization; each W.I.T.C.H. group was formed independently by women
inspired by the ideas and example of previous actions. Their activism mainly took the form of "zaps", a
form of guerrilla theater mixing street theatre and protest, where they used attention-catching and
humorous public actions to highlight political and economic complaints against companies and
government agencies, frequently involving the use of witch costumes and the chanting of hexes.
Witches often appeared as stock characters in feminist Left theatre, representing the
misogynist crone stereotype.

On Halloween 1968, women from W.I.T.C.H. staged a "hex" of Wall Street at a branch of Chase
Manhattan Bank, wearing rags and fright makeup; Robin Morgan stated that the Dow Jones Industrial
Average declined sharply the next day.[39] The DJIA did not decline sharply, and experienced a rise
over the next several days and weeks.[40] In December 1968 W.I.T.C.H targeted both the House Un-
American Activities Committee and the Chicago Eight, saying that they conspired to treat only men as
"leaders" of the antiwar movement. In 1969, W.I.T.C.H. held a protest at a "Bridal Fair" at Madison
Square Garden. Members wore black veils. They handed out pamphlets titled "Confront the
Whoremakers", chanted "Here come the slaves/Off to their graves", and had a mock "unwedding"
ceremony. The protests also involved turning loose several white mice at the event, which Fair
attendees began scooping up off the ground. The event resulted in negative media coverage for
W.I.T.C.H., and some dissention among members over goals and tactics. [41] In February 1970, the
Washington coven (W.I.T.C.H. chapters were called "covens") held a protest during a Senate hearing
on population control. They interrupted Texas Senator Ralph Yarborough's testimony by chanting and
throwing pills at panel members and people in the audience galleries. [41] Spin-off "covens" were
founded in Chicago, Illinois and Washington, D.C.,[39] and W.I.T.C.H. zaps continued until roughly the
beginning of 1970. The "zap" protests used by W.I.T.C.H. may have helped inspire the zap
action protest tactics adopted shortly afterwards by LGBT activists, and still in use.

Big Flame[edit]
Big Flame was "a revolutionary socialist feminist organisation with a working-class orientation" [42][43] in
the United Kingdom. Founded in Liverpool in 1970, the group initially grew rapidly, with branches
appearing in some other cities. Its publications emphasised that "a revolutionary party is necessary
but Big Flame is not that party, nor is it the embryo of that party". The group was influenced by the
Italian Lotta Continua group.[44]

The group published a magazine, Big Flame, and a journal, Revolutionary Socialism.[45]Members were
active at the Ford plants at Halewood and Dagenham.[citation needed] and devoted a great deal of time to
self-analysis and considering their relationship with the larger Trotskyist groups. In time, they came to
describe their politics as "libertarian Marxist". In 1978 they joined the Socialist Unity electoral coalition,
led by the Trotskyist International Marxist Group. In 1980, the anarchists of the Libertarian Communist
Group joined Big Flame. The Revolutionary Marxist Current also joined at about this time. However,
as more members of the group defected to the Labour Party, the journal ceased to appear in 1982,
and the group was wound up in about 1984. Ex-members of the group were involved in the launch
of the mass-market tabloid newspaper the News on Sunday in 1987, which folded the same year.
The name of the group was taken from a television play, The Big Flame (1969), written by Jim

Allen and directed by Ken Loach for the BBC's Wednesday Play season. It dealt with a fictional strike
and work-in at the Liverpool Docks.[47]

Motherhood and the private sphere[edit]

Socialist feminists highlight how motherhood and the gendered division of labor many assert grows
"naturally" from women's role as mothers is the source of women's exclusion from the public sphere
and creates women's economic dependence on men. They assert that there is nothing natural about
the gendered division of labor and show that the expectation that women perform all or most
reproductive labor, i.e., labor associated with birthing and raising children but also the cleaning,
cooking, and other tasks necessary to support human life, deny women the capacity to participate
fully in economic activity outside the home. In order to free themselves from the conditions of work as
a mother and housekeeper, socialist feminists such as Charlotte Perkins Gilman saw the
professionalization of housework as key. This would be done by hiring professional nannies and
housekeepers to take the load of domestic work away from the woman in the house. [48] Perkins Gilman
also recommended the redesign of homes in ways that would maximize their potential for creativity
and leisure for women as well as men, i.e., emphasizing the need for rooms like studios and studies
and eliminating kitchens and dining rooms. These changes would necessitate the communalization of
meal preparation and consumption outside the home and free women from their burden of providing
meals on a house-by-house scale.


Johanna Brenner

Barbara Ehrenreich

Clara Fraser

Charlotte Perkins Gilman

Emma Goldman

Silvia Federici

Donna Haraway

Leopoldina Fortunati

Heidi I. Hartmann

Selma James

Sheila Rowbotham

Sylvia Walby

Nellie Wong
Socialist Feminism Groups[edit]

Chicago Women's Liberation Union

Bread and Roses of Boston

Radical Women