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Women, Class, Gender and the Trump Agenda

Introduction

First I want to explain where I am coming from. I am coming from the theory of class in the household developed by me and Stephen Resnick, and Richard Wolff in the book Class Struggle on the Home Front, (Palgrave 2009) based on their recreation of Marxian theory. I will present the recent revolutionary class and gender transformations in the household and then discuss Trump’s class and gender agenda for today’s women.

I look at Trump through two lenses: one the lens of gender and the other the lens of class. Here is what I see.

The US is has experienced a radical class-gender transformation in the last 40 years. This radical transformation has remained outside of revolutionary discourse because it is a revolution in the household, family and male-female relationships. Trump is orchestrating a devolution to different class gender transformations.

Revolutionary Class and Gender Transformations in the Household

For 155 years from 1820 to 1975 American white men received a family wage, a wage sufficient to support a dependent wife and children. For most of that 175 years, reliable birth control was non- existent and abortions were illegal. Sex resulted in pregnancy. As the popular song of the time said “Love and marriage go together like a horse and carriage. This I tell you brother, you can’t have one without the other.” Pregnancy outside of marriage was a shame on the family of the pregnant girl coincidentally, not the impregnating boy. Under those circumstances, child birth. child rearing and domestic labor were the expected future for white women. During that long period from 1820 to about 1975, white men received 2 wage supplements: one for being white and another for being male. A tight labor market further restricted by our racist, sexist hiring practices enabled that double benefit for white males. Minority men never made a family wage, leaving minority women doing the two jobs that the overwhelming majority of US women now have. They did a full time job working in the home and a “second shift” outside of it. For most of US history our nation was a significantly white nation.

In the mid 1970s multinational sophisticated communications systems, and computers allowed US corporations to outsource tens of millions of what were well paid family waged jobs. US capitalists could hire Chinese, Indian, Pakistanis, Bangladeshis and other third world workers at bizarrely low wages.[1] They could operate in nations like India, China, Bangladesh and Pakistan. The nations to which corporate America outsources have weak, unenforced, or non-existent worker protections, labor benefits or ecological standards.[2] US workers cannot compete with low wages like the $38.00 a month paid to Bangladeshis. The costs of multinational communication’s systems and pollution inducing transport are nothing in comparison the profits from mechanization, computerization, and outsourcing, since profit is the capitalist goal, outsourcing is a “no brainer” for US capitalists.

The traditional family could not be sustained without the family wage to support it. Thus, the traditional US family wage collapsed. It is at an all-time low (http://fathersworkandfamily.com/2013/06/03/the-pew-research-report-breadwinner-moms-misleading-headlines-and-the-challenges-of-dual-income-households/)

What Kind of Family Household Is the Traditional US Family Household

The traditional family is in Marxian terms a classically “feudal” family. Like the feudal serf of medieval Europe who worked in a castle owned by the Lord of the Manor, the traditional wife works in a household owned or rented by her husband.[3] In the home, the wife produces use values, services and goods that are just for use, not for sale. They are produced for the husband and his children. Most wives still provide services. Some of them are cooking, serving, creating order and cleanliness, emotional services, sexual services, social services for the husband, children and their families and friends, caring for the ill or elderly parents or in laws, and child care. One portion of the use values the traditional, feudal wife produces are for herself, they allow her to survive according to the cultural economic standard for survival[4], the rest is for the family. In parallel fashion, the feudal serfs retained a portion of the use values they produced for the Lord. That is the portion on which they survived and produced more serfs. The rest of the goods and services they produced they rendered to the Lord. Those services were all those things from growing food to harvesting, preserving and serving food, for the Lord and his retinue and performing all of the menial labor of maintaining the Lords estate.

The feudal system was reinforced by Catholic ideology that justified the feudal class arrangement as the work of the supreme Lord God. In parallel fashion all current fundamentalist religions reinforce feudal gender ideology whether they are Christian fundamentalist, Jewish Orthodox, or strict Muslim. They justify women’s subordination and housewifely labors as God’s will. In the words of the Southern Baptist Convention on Men and Women, “The marriage relationship models the way God relates to his people. A husband is to love his wife as Christ loved the church. He has the God-given responsibility to provide for, to protect, and to lead his family. A wife is to submit herself graciously to the servant leadership of her husband even as the church willingly submits to the headship of Christ. She, being in the image of God as is her husband and thus equal to him, has the God-given responsibility to respect her husband and to serve as his helper in managing the household and nurturing the next generation.”

As I stated, for the overwhelming majority of Americans, the economic basis for this feudal household has disappeared. A look at the statistics brings it “home”, so to.speak In 1960, 12 % of women were in the labor force. They were primarily unmarried or minority women. By 2015, 60% of women were in the labor force including 70% of mothers. By now fully 40% of married women are not only working, but at work, they earn more money than their husbands (http://www.nytimes.com/2013/05/30/business/economy/women-as-family-breadwinner-on-the-rise-study-says.html).

Women, like serfs, were utterly economically dependent on the Lord of the Manor, and men for a living and sustenance for their children. They adopted gender roles to match their dependency and servitude: graciousness subservience, performance of household and emotional and social labor, sexual subservience, etc. Men, like feudal lords were supposed to protect their wives, (serfs) but wives, like feudal medieval serfs, had no protection from their husbands (Lords).[5] Revolutionary gender changes began when a militant women’s movement accompanied women’s greater financial freedom. Many African American women already had that freedom as a result of their economically forced labor outside of the home.

New Class Gender Forms in the Household

The feudal family is mostly gone along with its primary economic condition of existence, the family wage. Families and households have gone through revolutionary class and gender change. Two new forms have emerged.

One is the independent gender and class household. In the independent gender/class household, a person lives alone or alone with a dependent child. He/She perform s his/her domestic, emotional, and sexual labor. An aspect of the feminist ideology of independence from men provides ideological justification, thus the saying, “A woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle” as well as Annie Leonard and Aretha Franklin’s hit song “Sisters are Doing it for Themselves.” The American cult of the individual, provides additional gender and class ideological reinforcement. Americans increasingly live alone. Single person families are burgeoning as are families of single women and their children (Klinenberg 2012, Livingston 2015 [6]). These are “independent families” in which one adult or an adult with young children meets his/her own domestic emotional and sexual needs.

A second family form to emerge also represents a class transformation of domestic and emotional labor. It is the communal family. In the communal family, all labor is shared communally in the communal or communist class process. That includes the labor inside of the household as well as the proceeds of all labor in the marketplace. Decisions of how to proceed domestically and emotionally are shared. There is no hierarchy. This family class gender form is ideologically reinforced by the Left, couples and family therapies, and the feminist ideology of gender equality. Although the communal family form is far reaching, it has not been formally named. Thus far, statistics of its extent are unknown.

The feudal, independent and the communal households are human forms. No human phenomenon is rigidly and totally pure in its practice. A woman may live in a feudally arranged household owned by her husband for who she does all of the domestic labor. At the same time, she may have a small business of knitting homemade sweaters, which she controls completely using the proceeds entirely at her own discretion. [7] A woman may perform all the domestic labor in a feudal manner while sharing the emotional labor and sexual labor communally. She may enjoy a household of communal sharing while having a sexual relationship based exclusively on serving her man’s sexual needs. These terms are for clarification of what is happening in the class gender transformations of the household. The clear lines they represent are for the purposes of clarification only. Life is never neatly codified.

Each of these class transformations is accompanied by changed gender definitions of what it is to be a woman or a man. The Southern Baptist Convention on Men and Women discussed earlier captured the subservient supportive role the feudal woman plays to her husband the Lord who she serves in her duties of domestic labor, emotional service, and child care. She is to love, honor and serve him. That form is difficult to sustain when the overwhelming number of women work outside of the home and cannot and will not perform a second shift of domestic service without the family wages that supported them at home.[8] Feudal households are disappearing because they are untenable. In addition, the ideology of women’s equality and the women’s movement’s support for women’s sense of equality and independence makes it harder for women to accept feudal roles at home while being workers in a capitalist market place making our own wages. Men’s salaries have descended while women’s salaries have steadily risen[9] making women’s economic power in both the market place and at home a force that has resulted in the majority of US women for the first time in history choosing to be single through divorces they initiate or refusing marriage in the first place. Being single has given rise to the rapidly increasing independent class of single women or single women with children doing their own domestic labor and emotional labor.

The Fascist Feudal Class Gender Household and Family

Donald Trump’s agenda for women opens the possibility of another class and gender transformation in the household. It is proselytized and reinforced by forces that blame the collapse of the feudal household on homosexuals, minorities, feminists and the immigrants who somehow stole white men’s jobs. It is the family of Trump’s allies, the religious right. I call this class and gender family household the fascist feudal family. So, named, because of its similarity to the family of the Third Reich. In the family of the Third Reich, women were to preoccupy themselves with kirche, kuche and kinde, kitchen church and children. They were denied control over their own bodies through laws forbidding the use of birth control and abortion. Der Fuhrer was the leader of the man and the man was the leader of the woman.[10] Women were to remain as subordinate as they are within the Southern Baptist Convention on men and women in which God is the leader of men who ordains males to lead females. Women are in charge of hearth and home as they are in Catholic ideology.[11]

In the Third Reich women worked up to 60 hours a week in munitions factories. However, they earned low wages, ostensibly because factory work was not their “true life’s vocation”. Taking care of men and children was their gender vocation practiced regardless of their long hours in paid labor. Labor outside of the home was not their true mission and therefore could be poorly paid. Trump opposes women’s labor outside of the home as dangerous to marriage because it interferes with services to the husband.[12] He opposes abortion rights. He, like other Republicans and Evangelicals, celebrates the traditional family while undermining all family assistance, in health care, family leave, maternity leaves, the Pregnant Women’s, Infant’s, and Children’s Nutrition program (WIC) as well as subsidized school lunches.) [13] This leads to difficult pregnancies deformed births due to inadequate nutrition, sick or troubled hungry children and women further hobbled by sick children’s care. This, and his promised cuts to battered women’s shelters and the Violence Against Women Act[14] are indirect ways of fulfilling a fascist feudal class gender mandate to keep women homebound or require the double shifts that economically hurt women and keep them and their children in economically dependent, sometimes abusive, relationships. It also fulfills a different feudal mandate of creating a hobbled underclass. It is the opposite of the “family values” the Trump Right publically espouses. Denying adequate birth control and abortion rights continues the fascist feudal class and gender agenda. That agenda is once again reinforced by cuts to public education.

Trump’s education secretary, Betsy De Vos, endorses private schools especially private Christian schools. She donated millions to both subsidize charter schools and elect politicians who will vote to give public money to private charter schools. Scholarly studies uniformly show that public schools outperform charters. [15] The fascist feudal family presents both a gender and a class transformation because it returns to a different version of the feudal family in which the woman, destined by her birth as female, is a household serf producing domestic, sexual and emotional labor for her man and his children. However, as befitting Trump’s, like Hitler’s fascist/capitalist mandate, most wives must simultaneously work in the marketplace. This family form’s ideology is endorsed by fundamentalist churches and temples as well as Right Wing media, Fox news, Breitbart, etc.

Conclusion

Donald Trump is endorsing and enabling a new class gender devolution in the family and the household. He is trying to replace the more progressive revolution of the independent gender family household and the progressive communal egalitarian gender family household. He is creating a cultural and legal basis for the fascist feudal family. The mass response of the March for Women’s Lives may be a, yet inchoate, mobilization. Americans may well intuit the threat of a class gender devolution to fascist feudalism.

 

Notes

[1] In Bangladesh, daily wages are $2.17 a day. In Pakistan they are an average of $3.47 a day, in India an average of $3.33 a day and in China, the highest wages in the region, they are $8.48 a day http://www.nwpc.dole.gov.ph/pages/statistics/stat_comparative.html,avhttp://www.nwpc.dole.gov.ph/pages/statistics/stat_comparative.html. https://www.quora.com/What-is-the-average-annual-salary-in-India

[2] In one example, on May 10, 2013 a Bangladeshi factory collapsed. The death toll passed 1,000. 2500 were injured. http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-22476774.

150 Western clothing brands like Wal mart, H &M, Beneton and Zara produced clothing in that in that factory and others with similar nonexistent safety measures (http://www.ibtimes.com.au/bangladesh-factory-collapse-zara-hm-western-clothing-retailers-awaken-sign-factory-safety-upgrade, http://www.ibtimes.com.au/bangladesh-factory-collapse-zara-hm-western-clothing-retailers-awaken-sign-factory-safety-upgrade

[3] We need to remember that it is only in recent history, in 1974, that the Equal Credit Opportunity Act became law, and then it took time for that legislation to translate into common practice and for women to obtain credit to buy homes set up businesses etc. (//www.directlendingsolutions.com/women_and_credit.html).

[4] Standards for “survival” differ with income and position. A supported wife of the 1% “needs” brand name clothing, servants and a large household budget from her feudal husband while a wife of a blue-collar worker requires far less. In her book, Primates of Park Avenue, (2015. New York: Simon and Schuster), Wednesday Martin describes the life of a feudal wife of Park Ave. In class terms, she is more of a feudal manager of her servants’ labor than she is a worker. She has a large allowance for wardrobe and for entertainments, befitting her family’s economic and social position. She may even get yearly bonuses for her labor in bed and in the family home. However, her position is, in class terms, feudal. She is a feudal manager of servants.

[5] Until the 1970’s, the rape laws in every state in the union included an exception if the rapist and the victim were husband and wife. In 1993, all 50 states had finally eliminated the “marital rape exception.” But the effects of these archaic exceptions persist and interfere with spousal rape prosecutions in some states http://www.criminaldefenselawyer.com/resources/criminal-defense/crime-penalties/marital-rape.htm

The Family Violence Prevention and Services Act was passed as late as 1984. It was reauthorized in 2000, again in 2005 and then in 2013. In 2013, it was opposed by Republicans because it extended protection to same sex couples. The Violence Against Women act passed in 1994. It was a militant women’s movement that won the passage of these protections against marital rape and battery Trump is threatening both of these laws.

[6] Eric Klinenberg. 2012. Going Solo. New York: Basic Books. Gretchen Livingston.2015. “It’s no longer a ‘Leave It to Beaver” World for American Families-but It Wasn’t Back Then, Either.” Pew Research Center www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2015/12/30/its-no-longer-a-leave-it-to-beaver-world-for-american-families-but-it-wasnt-back-then-either.

[7] This was even true in the US during colonial times when legally the proceeds of any wife’s labor belonged to her husband with the exception of the butter and egg money that housewives could keep for themselves (Mary Drake Mcfeely. 2000. Amherst MA. Univ.of Mass press. 2

[8] That is reinforced by the fact that the red states have even more divorces than the blue states in spite of those state’s religious insistence on marriage. They have more divorces because women and men are pressured into marriages and then they divorce. (Red Families Blue Families, Naomi Cahn, June Carbone. 2010. New York: Oxford Univ. Press, Jennifer Glass. Jan. 16, 2014. “Red states, blue states, and divorce” Council on Contemporary Families (CCF). https://contemporaryfamilies.org/impact-of-conservative-protestantism-on-regional-divorce-rates/

[9] Valerie Wilson.Oct. 26, 2015. “Black workers’ wages have been harmed by both widening racial wage gaps and the widening productivity-pay gap. “Economic Policy Institute (EPI). http://www.epi.org/publication/black-workers-wages-have-been-harmed-by-both-widening-racial-wage-gaps-and-the-widening-productivity-pay-gap/.

[10] Claudia Koontz. 1987. Mothers in the Fatherland. New York: Saint Martins Press.

[11] Baptist Faith and Message. June 13-14, 2000. “Southern Baptist Convention on Men and Women.” Orlando, Florida.

The description of the work of married Catholics in The Catholic Family Magazine, (http://www.keepingitcatholic.org/headhome.html) does not even mention women’s work outside of home and children even though 70% of US wives work outside the home.

[12] Jordyn Phelps, June 1, 2016. “Donald Trump in 1994 ‘Putting a Wife to Work is a Very Dangerous Thing’, http://abcnews.go.com/Politics/donald-trump-1994-putting-wife-work-dangerous-thing/story?id=39537935

Cortney Drakeford. Nov.,15, 2016. “What Does Pro Life Rights Mean? Donald Trump Opposes Abortions and Planned Parenthood” http://www.ibtimes.com/what-does-pro-life-mean-donald-trump-opposes-abortion-rights-planned-parenthood-2445986.

[13] educationopportunitynetwork.org educationopportunitynetwork.org/republicans-in-congress-want-to-cut-free-lunches-for-poor-kids-dont-let-them/, thehill.com/blogs/floor-action/house/166653-republicans-looking-to-gut-wic-food-programs-in-amendment-debate, http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/how-republicans-are-taking-food-out-of-my-mouth-20150715

[14] http://govnews.us/id/17148158009/Womens-Shelters-Are-Terrified-Trump-Will-Cut-Their-Fundinghttp://www.refinery29.com/2017/01/137406/trump-violence-against-women-grants-cut http://www.slate.com/blogs/xx_factor/2017/01/19/trump_s_planned_elimination_of_violence_against_women_grants_is_pure_cruelty.html

[15] The most definitive and thorough study is The Public-School Advantage: Why Public Schools Outperform Private Schools 2014. Christopher and Sarah Lipinski. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Also see http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2017/01/betsy-devos-christian-schools-vouchers-charter-education-secretary, https://www.nytimes.com/2016/11/23/us/politics/betsy-devos-trumps-education-pick-has-steered-money-from-public-schools.html?_r=0d

 

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