The Woman Question Today and the Deepening Crisis of Monopoly Capitalism
by the Congress of Teachers and Educators for Nationalism and Democracy (CONTEND)
on International Day of Women March 8, 2012
During the International Women’s Day in 1920, Lenin proclaimed, “Capitalism combines formal equality with economic and, consequently, social inequality…And one of the most flagrant manifestations of this inconsistency is the inferior position of woman compared with man.” Today such astute words of Lenin have never been superseded by the advancement of capitalism. So as the world celebrates the International Women’s Day, women of different colors, nationalities, and races together with their allies, remember the arduous struggles they had to wage in order to emasculate themselves against the twin evils of capitalism and patriarchy. Through their struggles women were able to win suffrage, increase wages, assert free universal education, and equal treatment in all sphere of society. In the Philippines, women have been successful in organizing themselves against demolitions, defending themselves against human rights abuses, and joining other sectors to promote genuine land reform and to advance the struggle for national democracy. Today however women have to wage struggle against new forms of oppression under neoliberal capitalism. The woman’s question is far from over.
The unprecedented neoliberal capitalist-inspired assault of the state against social welfare has devastated the lives of the poor especially women. Neoliberal capitalism’s trinitarian idols, namely, deregulation, liberalization, and privatization have combined to roll back whatever women had struggled for years. The state abandonment of basic social services especially health has left many young women and mothers bereft of any health support for pregnancy. The current maternal mortality rate in our country is 162, which translates to about twelve women dying each day while giving birth (DOH, 2010). Such inhuman misery afflict women who are poor; with an average 5.2 children compared to an average 1.9 children for a woman in the highest wealth quintile (2008 National Demographic and Health Survey, NDHS). Women’s problems are compounded by the shrinking government budget allotted for education. As a result, more and more women are dropping out of schools and do not have information about heath and sexuality. Poor unemployed mothers, rather than being provided with stable job opportunities, are forced to rely on the charitable dole outs given by the state through conditional cash transfer.
Abandoned by the state and forced to defend themselves against the ferocity of the market, women become prey to different forms of violence. From January to August 2011 alone, three women are being raped every day, while five suffer from physical abuse, and one child and woman is subjected to violence every hour. If as Marx once said, “The change in a historical epoch can always be determined by the progress of women toward freedom,” then, given the worsening situation of women in our nation and around the world, we are witnessing the growing barbaric attitude of global capitalism against women.
Hence today more than ever women around the world should organize themselves and join other mass movements in the world to advance the abolition of female oppression based on the reduction of women to property. With capitalism ruthlessly bulldozing the world in order to extract superprofits and integrate the less developed nations for better exploitation, women have been both the victims and the conduits for capital accumulation. Through women’s bodies sequestered in factories and export processing zones in third world countries, monopoly capitalism has found ways to dampen wage and outsource labor by exploiting women’s labor.
The imperialists-led global wars of aggression are destroying local communities and families. On the other hand, the imperialist-sponsored counterinsurgency in the less developed countries is forcing millions of people, especially women and children to flee the conflicts. Caught in these conflicts, young women and mothers have become the victims not only of atrocities of imperialist wars, but of various human rights violations.
According to Tangol Bayi, an association of women human rights defender, during the Arroyo presidency, there were a total of 1,206 victims of extrajudicial execution in the Philippines. Of the total number, 153 are women and 476 are human rights defenders. There were 206 victims of enforced or involuntary disappearance 31 of whom are women and 68 are human rights defenders. Victims of illegal arrest and detention number 2,059 victims. Arroyo’s counterinsurgency policy Oplan Bantay Laya, a US-inspired and promoted program, served as the blueprint for these rights violations, as human rights defenders were branded as “enemies of the state.” With the new counterinsurgency policy Oplan Bayanihan, Aquino’s state security forces have claimed the lives of 56 victims of extrajudicial killings, four of them are women.
Among them is Marlina Sumera, a journalist and an urban poor leader, who was gunned down this year after leading her community’s struggle for land and decent housing. Sunshine Jabinez, a seven-year-old child, was shot dead in a militarized rural community in Mindanao. As of 31 October 2011, there are 356 political prisoners, 77 of them were arrested under the Aquino regime. Of this number, there are 35 women political prisoners, including 21-year-old Maricon Montajes (Batangas Provincial Jail), the youngest among political detainees, who was a student filmmaker from the University of the Philippines Film Institute, arrested in June 2010 during an immersion program with peasants in Batangas (from Press Statement, JUSTICE FOR ALL WOMEN HUMAN RIGHTS DEFENDERS, FREE ALL WOMEN POLITICAL PRISONERS! Tangol Bayi).
Even to this day, the abduction and disappearance of Karen Empeno and Sherilyn Kadapan, two young freedom-fighters of the University of the Philippines, has not been resolved by the Aquino government, as their fascist abductors are still at large. Countless other women have also become victims of military violence and harassment.
Meanwhile the “new” feminists in the institutions of higher learning have abandoned the struggle of working class women to abolish capitalism for multiculturalist pluralism. Today, some feminist scholars, envious of bourgeois abstract notion of rights, champion the freedom of choice without questioning the economic conditions under which such freedom can be genuinely exercised. Such petty bourgeois sectarian tendency, reduces women’s emancipation to the right to enjoy one’s body. Such outlook separates contradiction in the division of labor by sex from primary contradictions arising from the division of labor based on ownerships of the means of production. While such feminism is not completely reactionary, nevertheless, woman’s question must be framed within the shared and larger goal of women’s movement and other progressive sectors of society, i.e., the abolition of all forms of oppressions and exploitation. While the abolition of capitalism that commodify the bodies of women does not guarantee the automatic emancipation of women, nevertheless there can never be genuine emancipation of women without at the same time destroying the system that consign millions of women to slavery of alienated labor.
Therefore In celebration of International Women’s Day, CONTEND-UP resolutely expresses its solidarity with women’s struggle to end their oppression, and call on all progressive movements to unite with women to advance the struggle for national democracy.
Down with the world of Property and the Power of Capital! Away with Inequality, Lack of Rights and the Oppression of Women – The Legacy of the Bourgeois World! Forward To the International Unity of Working Women and Male Workers in the Struggle for Global Equality and National Democracy – The Goals of Proletariat of Both Sexes!