Salient. Victoria University Student Newspaper. Volume 39, Number 24, September 27, 1976.
Women's Liberation Debate Continues
Women's Liberation Debate Continues
The last two Salient's have contained arguments for a middle-class women's movement from Lynne McGimpaey and Mark Buckley. Their arguments do a severe disservice to those genuinely committed to women's liberation and their points need to be refuted.
Lynne's article denies that the differentiation of women into classes should have any effect upon the policies of the women's movement. Thus, she does not feel it wrong that the spontaneous demands of middle class women on abortion are made the most important aspect of the women's movement. This middle class political hegemony as expressed in groups such as WONAAC has led to a movement almost exclusively populated by middle-class women.
If Lynne McGimpaey had indulged in rational thought rather than trying to defend Trotskyite politics she would have noticed that the major concerns of middle class and working class women are fundamentally different. Working class women tend to see economic issues, a woman's right to work, equal pay, rising prices etc as most important. The only socialist women's group primarily working with working class women. Working Women's Alliance, has found this to be the case. Middle class women tend to see questions of political and ideological relevance as important: sexism in the media, women's right to tertiary education, abortion etc. So when Lynne McGimpaey asks socialists to "unconditionally support" the middle class women's movement she is asking them to put middle interests above those of the working class - but such are Trotskyite politics.
The question of political sexism which Lynne argues affects all women equally in fact, hits the working class women hardest. As any progressive Malaysian and Vietnamese (whom Lynne McGimpsey "supports") could tell her sexism like racism is a political weapon in the hands of the bourgeoisie in its efforts to breed distrust and disunity among its opponents primarily the working class.
It is in the interests of working class men and women to unite together against it. Men to renounce priviledge and women to combat male supremacy. The blame for the real injustices purpetrated in our sexist society should be laid with those responsible - the bourgeoisie. Once again one cannot expect this of a middle class led and dominated movement.
Maria Buckley's article asserts tha twomen have been relegated to their oppressed position "by virtue of their anatomy". She fails to support this nonsense with any facts - mainly because there are none. As another feminist, Juliet Mitchell, pointed out when visiting New Zealand a while ago, the difference between women and men physiologically is extremely small and that the primary question is the social treatment of those differences. Just as in South Africa, where there is no basic physiological difference between white and none white there is a massive social differentiation of the two ostensibly based upon this physiological difference.
Given this one would have expected Marie to explain how this social difference had been built up. The only time she does comment upon how this social difference is sustained she points to capitalism as the cause. Yet she denies a connection between the women's movement and the working class movement to destroy capitalism. And she too opposes the leadership of working class women of the movement.
Both writers appear to put the abortion movement at the head of the women's movement calling it 'revolutionary'. Again we just get the unsustained assertion that the right to abortion will result in women gaining control over their bodies. This is true in only a narrow sense. The right to abortion can give women the right to plan their pregnancies and family sizes to fit in with their personal needs - it does not and cannot stop women having babies and it does not and cannot stop women being tied to child-rearing for a large part of their adult lives. The control over the body it gives is very limited. Also it is no way liberates those women who work from the vagaries of the labour market here the capitalists have won the right to control women's bodies. Having left unsolved the oppression of women by the capitalists and male supremacists how is the right to abortion revolutionary?
Also because abortion is seen as so important attacks upon the Catholic Church are considered vital to the women's movement. Many working class women are Catholics and many are being turned away from women's liberation by the primacy of the abortion struggle within it. Let me add here that I am not calling for an end to the abortion movement - it is a right women mutt gain but that socialists should work for a working class and not a middle class women's movement.