The woman question today Ruthless Criticism

The lives of most women are full of sacrifice and deprivation – is the oppression of women the purpose of this society?

The woman question today:
recognition of “women’s problems” rather than criticism of their reasons

1. Woman – a bourgeois status with recognized special problems

The need to be all woman, and free therein, is in. In the middle of capitalism, it may be brought forward at any time and on any occasion as an argument. This argument announces the same thing in all affairs of bourgeois life, namely a special concern of women, in order to derive a special right to consideration from this. This has nothing to do with “emancipation,” with a real change in the situation of women. It only demands respect for the dignity of women in what they perform in and for capitalist business. And this respect shows progress when the women’s point of view is represented and finds a hearing. If today women hold official positions in political parties, executive boardrooms and the university, if they may study mathematics or become bombardiers in the Air Force, then this must count as steps in the right direction, as signs of a successful women’s policy. The foreign domination of the opposite sex is shaken off if and because women are also now found all over the place in accordance with their ratio of the population.

Political emancipation – by which women learn that they too may become representatives in the centers of power, that they no longer must only obey but may also command – counts as the fulfillment of their concern, and is the compensation for it. The real evils are not eliminated, but recognized as problems worthy of representation. In this sense, the women’s movement has been quite successful in the last 20 years: women’s problems matter and are cared for. In every city council, union and university, a women’s representative is appointed – obviously a woman, only she enjoys the confidence of her gender comrades. She takes care of the special problems and recognized difficulties of women – which continue to exist. Everywhere there are state-funded women’s shelters; domestic violence and abuse are just as little eliminated as the ruinous double burden of raising children and working. Tougher sentencing for rape does not lead to the end of rape. And if an employer pays women less, then he only must not mention sex as the reason in court.

2. The emancipation of women: from equal rights to positive gender racism

Since its beginning, the women’s movement responded to the role which women must play in capitalism with a call for equality. Assigned to marriage and raising children, obligated to conjugal services to a husband and dependent on his income; worse off in the competition for work and wages and particularly exposed to the ups and downs of the business cycle – all this appeared to women’s liberation as a fundamental injustice against them specifically; a relatively worse position compared to men. Where wages are costs and the employer wants to see as much service for as little money as possible, he selects his tersely calculated service providers according to extremely petty standards; child bearing (even with state maternity protection) signifies to an employer a competitive disadvantage against an applicant, and the real or merely potential limit slams the door on those who are available. Just as little did the women’s movement’s criticism of the institution of the family consider it a state duty to fidelity and provision; nor was her burden in gender relations the cost and sacrifice of national reproduction. The criticism was of an unequal distribution of sacrifice between men and women and wanted to demand from the differently obligated man an analogous degree of sacrifice.

The call for equal rights has been heard: there has been progress in the legal status of women. However, the alignment of their legal status to that of men has not improved the lot of the great majority of women: legal equalization accompanied rather predominantly integration of women into capitalistic working life. “Liberation” from the confines of the family led only to the general custom of the two wage earner family – so much so that today no one measures the proletarian wage of a man or woman any more by being able to support a family with it. Thus they remain wives and mothers not only because of the lifelong illusion of family happiness, but depend on an arrangement with a husband out of sheer necessity. It is not because of the law that these rights do not bring freedom to the average woman, but the average income which does not support two households. At the same time, with the expansion of universities and education, the competition for the higher positions in the occupational hierarchy was opened to women. Here women made differences in career opportunities and incomes out to be unwarranted relics from another time and their elimination as their right. Here is the contemporary self-confidence of the modern woman who no longer puts a professional career only alongside or before marriage, but as an independent life purpose next to (or before) family duties.

The special narrow-mindedness of the women’s movement is to always see in all these highly different living situations and non-distinctions women affected as women. That all the legal equalization has changed nothing in the situation of most women, the representatives of inequality criticism from the better circles have not taken as a reason to doubt the old demands for legal equality. They stick to the call for equal rights and hold the situation of women to be the expression of the refusal of existing rights. This means discrimination and a very positive stance towards the legal order of the state power: it would promise equality, but for different reasons this equality of women in the practical life of the society is denied. The women’s movement sees that more lies behind it than bad or unfair laws; but not possibly state or economic concerns, but a quite basically wrong attitude of men towards women. Now they fight against the spirit of the abolished old laws as a male morality. They are just not ready to really esteem and recognize women.

So from the women’s movement to feminism, the discovery of the denial of women’s rights becomes universal. Only this idea makes a leering look from a man the same thing as rape, and singular indefinite pronouns an insult to the female sex. Only this viewpoint unites the career woman with the “oppressed woman” in whose name she criticizes in solidarity and finds herself no less afflicted. Women not only earn less in factories, they also can’t become head physicians of large hospitals as easily as men, and both are equally reprehensible because both are expressions of an ideal disregard for women which makes their condition dreadful anywhere in society. From this idealist standpoint of accusation on behalf of a refused dignity, feminists become radical: they proceed to bestow the denied recognition on themselves, and reciprocally ensure the dignity of women as women. They avow themselves to themselves and are proud of exactly what the haters disdain. Thus, gender – a biological coincidence of little distinction – becomes the central issue: one sees oneself as a woman – and upholds femininity. If one previously demanded equal opportunities and access to business, education and public life, now its racial segregation: women’s cafes, women’s dance clubs and women’s groups in the university. Women are different, have a women’s tradition and women’s ideology. The content refers to pride in the difference of women from all the macho racism about female inferiority; now clearly seen as positively revalued qualities, as a self-realization and natural classification of women: feeling instead of thinking, holistic instead of analytical, miracles of life instead of technology, maternal sacrifice as maternal happiness.

3. So the women’s movement arrives where it stands today

Where it is only about respect and recognition, women are easy to please. Their mention in all affairs, from big policies in the military to jokes about parking, performs excellent services. The inclusion of women in the sales strategy of politicians and their promotion to business articles of a free press are suitable answers to the stupidity of a movement which by now adds up to empowering itself for a sexual species protection. On the other hand, the advocates of the dignity of women hardly come to the conclusion of their pleadings. The extensive circulation of their point of view is precisely the only progress in the women’s question; and from their point of view of things, there are still plenty of macho men whose creeds and quotas it is necessary to deal with.