By Savanah Mandeville

I’m sick to death of capitalism and I know I’m not the only one.

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Since I and every single person I’ve ever known are members of the 99%, I have seen firsthand how capitalism has stolen opportunities and devastated the middle class. I recently read “Feminism for the 99%: A Manifesto” by Cinzia Arruzza, Tithi Bhattacharya, and Nancy Fraser which calls for feminism to take on a new form, one that seeks to dismantle the current system in favor of one that benefits all people and not just the privileged few.  

“Feminism for the 99%” rejects the “lean in” dogma of the Sheryl Sandbergs of the world, characterizing  pro-capitalist, neoliberal feminism as “equal opportunity domination” and “warmongers in skirts.”

It’s a feminism “that asks ordinary people, in the name of feminism, to be grateful that it’s a woman, not a man, who busts their union, orders a drone to kill their parent, or locks their child in a cage at the border.”

In a series of theses, “Feminism for the 99%” points out why and how capitalism is the major culprit behind wage inequality, weakened labor rights, gender violence, racism, colonialism and imperialism, the climate crisis, and the fraying of democracy. Further, it discusses how these issues disproportionately affect women around the globe, and how it is women who are leading the fight against capitalism’s abuses of power and begs the question: will feminists be at the forefront of the anti-capitalist revolution? 

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In Thesis 11, the authors call on all radical movements to join together in a common anti-capitalist insurgency:

“Feminists for 99% do not operate alone. We stand with other movements to end capitalism without which there can be no end to gender and sexual oppression. We must join with anti-racist, anti-imperialist, environmentalist, and LGBTQ+ movements and labor unions. We must ally, above all, with left wing, anti-capitalist currents of those movements that also champion the 99%.” 

The movement seeks to break away from neoliberalism and “lean in” feminism, meritocratic anti-racists, and corporate shills who have hijacked the concerns of the LGBTQ+ community and environmentalists and wrapped their causes in a capital-friendly bow.

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An important point going forward is that of “social reproduction.” The authors claim throughout the manifesto that capitalism is exploitative of “social reproduction” and until the current capitalist regime comes to a grinding halt, true equality will never be possible. 

Social reproduction refers to the making, raising, and socializing of people. Because the organization of social reproduction relies on gender roles and therefore entrenches gender oppression, social reproduction is a feminist issue. The book discusses how capitalism decides what is “work” and who is a “worker” and, with profit being the end all be all, it relegates any person or institution in the business of social reproduction to the lower rungs. 

“Not only does ‘people making’ create and sustain life in the biological sense, but it also sustains our ability to work, or what Marx called our ‘labor power.’ That means fashioning people with the right attitudes, dispositions, competencies, and skills. Without it, neither life nor labor power could exist — we call this ‘social reproduction.’ This is disguised and disavowed.”

This doesn’t refer only to the unpaid work of stay-at-home moms but to the choking of resources necessary to raise healthy, high-functioning human beings — things like maternity leave, education, health care, nutritious food, clean drinking water, clean air, public transportation, and safe, affordable housing. Check out my article about how people in social service professions are systemically undervalued and underpaid here

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“Such conflicts have always been central to capitalist society, which relies on reproductive labor while disavowing its value, but societal reproduction struggles are especially explosive today. As neoliberalism demands more hours of waged work per household and less state support for social welfare, it squeezes families, communities, and above all, women, to the breaking point.”

This is just one of the many ways that capitalism shoots itself in the foot — companies will drill for oil now to the detriment of their own future profits; slash wages until no one can afford to buy their products; issue subprime loans until the housing market collapses; and squeeze education spending until the workforce is unable to fulfill 21st century job requirements.

This is just the beginning. 

Some of the major claims made in “Feminism for the 99%” are:

  • Capitalism is destroying the Earth
  • Capitalism was born from and perpetuates racist and colonial violence 
  • Gender violence takes many forms, all of them entangled with capitalist social relations
  • Capitalism tries to regulate sexuality
  • Capitalism is incompatible with real democracy and peace

There’s a lot to unpack, so over the next several months, I plan to write about each of these topics in depth.

I’ll end with a passage that serves as a good overall description of what Anti-Capitalism Feminism is and what its goals are:

“We need an anti-capitalist feminism, a feminism for the 99%. The feminism we have in mind recognizes that it must respond to a crisis of epical proportions: plummeting living standards and looming ecological disaster, rampaging wars and intensified dispossession, mass migrations met with barbed wire, emboldened racism and xenophobia, and the reversal of hard won rights, both social and political. We aspire to meet these challenges. Eschewing half measures, the feminism we envision aims to tackle the capitalist roots of metastasizing barbarism. Refusing to sacrifice the wellbeing of the many in order to protect the freedom of the few, it champions the needs and rights of the many and the poor and working class women, of racialized and migrant women, of queer, trans, and disabled women. Of women encouraged to see themselves as middle class even as capital exploits them. But that is not all. This feminism does not limit itself to women’s issues as they are traditionally defined. Standing for all who are exploited, dominated, and oppressed, it aims to become a source of hope for the whole of humanity. That is why we call it feminism for the 99%.”

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