Not that we have to do it this way but let’s start with the idea that V – aka Eve Ensler – has managed to note the reality outside her window correctly. The effects of the coronavirus have been a huge imposition upon women. Nursing is everywhere a largely female occupation. Women tend to work in consumer facing occupations which have been hardest hit. The absence of childcare hits women harder than men.
And on and on. OK< so we agree with these observations then:
Covid has revealed the fact that we live with two incompatible ideas when it comes to women. The first is that women are essential to every aspect of life and our survival as a species. The second is that women can easily be violated, sacrificed and erased. This is the duality that patriarchy has slashed into the fabric of existence, and that Covid has laid bare. If we are to continue as a species, this contradiction needs to be healed and made whole.
Ensler then goes on to suggest that we need more birds on stage praising their genitals in order to change the system. I think I’ve got that part of her argument correct.
But we do need to bring in a bit of that gammony, patriarchal, logic here. For the complaint is that if that system of capitalistic, free market, globalisation gets interrupted then it’s women who suffer. Sure, OK, we can wonder whether this is just whining because there aren’t all that many men out there who have enjoyed the experience either. But run with the idea. The logical corollary of that is that capitalistic, free market, globalisation is a system which benefits women, isn’t it?
A lack of System A is bad for women. Therefore the presence of System A is good for women. Good simple logic, right? As has been noted elsewhere about the system over the centuries:
Then came the Industrial Revolution, first with the Spinning Jenny, which was followed by Crompton’s Mule and endless other derivatives. These machines progressively automated what was a horrendously time-consuming and nearly exclusively female domestic task for centuries. The economic historian Brad Delong has remarked that when women of any class are depicted in older literature, there is always reference to their spinning. By the time of Jane Austen’s novels in the late 18th and early 19th century A.D., spinning is never mentioned – it was all done in the factories by then.
We all have more leisure now than our forebears did. We have more time to do as we wish and fewer needs that force us to do as we must. But this wonderful outcome of human progress is obscured by the fact that, in large part, it is the household labor that has been automated away. Sure, the Roomba might not be a great leap forward, but it is just the latest iteration of a process that began a thousand years ago. And there is no sign of it ending.
At which point we do indeed have to conclude that capitalistic free market globalisation is good for women so let’s have more of it, right? We are all in favour of the economic liberation of our mothers, sisters and shags, after all.
We do though need to go the one step further. Why is this so? Because it is technological advance which frees people from drudgery. There is the specific in that a society which depends upon human and animal power only is always going to relegate the lighter physique common to women to the back burner – or to the domestic where that muscle power is less important. But it’s a more general point, drudgery happens to all humans where there aren’t the machines to do the work. And the one thing that we do know about that capitalism, those free markets and their global reach, is that they promote technological advance. Even Karl Marx was able to note that one.
Technological advance is also known as “getting richer”. Higher productivity, more output per hour of human labour. That’s definitional. That economic liberation of women comes from exactly the same place as the liberation of men from drudgery. It’s a luxury good, something we can only do when we’re rich.
At which point, something entirely against the current grain of intellectual fashion. Huzzah for global capitalist free marketry – the most pro-women, most feminist, socioeconomic system ever.
Not that we’ll ever get Eve Ensler – V – to agree to that but the rest of us might try using a bit of logic here and there.