Gender is frequently used in society to instate positions of power and hierarchy into society and culture. Other identity tools, such as race and sexuality, are used hand in hand to create societal rules that are expected to he followed. In western cultures, this is usually favored towards cissexual white men. In a society such as this where there is the power to hold, one cannot historically have that power without having or following the “correct” gender and sexuality constructs. According to Audre Lorde‘s Age, Race, Class, and Sex: Women Redeﬁning Difference by Audre Lorde, much of Western European history teaches us to see human differences as simple opposites of each other: strong versus weak, dominant versus subordinate, superior versus inferior. This idea infers that there will always be someone above another, and women and those who are, usually, not white cissexual men, will always be below.
She goes on to explain that while there are differences between things such as race, gender, and age among others, the differences aren‘t the ones to cause the power divide. It is the refusal to acknowledge the differences that distort views on these complex ideas of identity and create the positions of power that separate them. This is also seen, as she explains, in white women who fight for equality for women but ignore the differences in race, class, sexuality, and age that contribute greatly to the power diverge in Western culture. That these white feminists did not analyze the different problems that women of color and/or queer women experience in society today. She ends her article by explaining that the future of ending oppression in society depends on women removing those devices of oppression that have been internalized and use those differences to strengthen the feminist movement.
In Gayle Rubin‘s essay, The Traffic of Women, the theories of Karl Marx, Claude Levi-Strauss, and Sigmund Freud are used to explore the differences between gender in Western capitalism The analysis of the Marxist theory of class oppression shows that gender identity plays a big role in the amount of power that can be accessed in a capitalist society Women, as stated in the article, have their oppression exploited, seen as “back-up” labor and their lower wages seen as more money for the corporation. Thus, the idea that in Capitalism people can be capital is directly applied to women’s oppression in the workforce that extra money from lower wages and unpaid labor becomes capital that affects the corporation positively, but the women negatively. The women affected become capital, their unfair labor conditions become goods. So ifwomen then become capital, and capital is exchanged for labor, then it can be derived that women are the center of capitalism; a never-ending circle of lost wages and unfair labor that directly contributes to the power that oppresses them.
Further in the reading, Marx is said to determine those things that keep labor going by strengthening workers: food, clothing, housing, and fuel. And the things that are required to keep workers going and labor continuing needs additional labor for consumption. Gender roles come into play here, where women are expected to fulfill these roles without getting a wage. Their household labor, which directly contributes to workers, which directly contributes to their labor, which directly contributes to the capital produced, is gone unpaid, which then, again, causes a surplus value. It is then explained that women in nonecapitalist societies are also oppressed, men in power positions going as far as to sexually assault women to assert their power and dominance. Women’s gender roles negatively affect women not just in western cultures and societies, but in societies around the world. The power divide is seen to be universal, with men being in high positions of power while women oppressed. This reinstates the dominant versus subordinate idea In the Engels section ofthe essay, it is described that gender identity and sex are a social construct.
The sex/gender system is described as a “mode of reproduction“ or the “patriarchy.” But Rubin argues that sex/gender cannot be categorized economically Rubin mentions that any society will have ways to deal with sex and gender in the population, but that it isn‘t usually equal with the necessity to create a sexual world. The subordination of women is often used for production, and Rubin suggests to imitate Engels‘ method instead of his abandoned results. Rubin then goes on to explore the concept of kinship. Usually in the form of marriage, societal norms usually dictate a strict set of guidelines to determine how this kinship works, usually favoring the power, the generally male, or in the sense of sameesex marriage, the one that gets labeled as the male. LevieStrauss explains that marriage is a gift exchange, and the woman is the most coveted gift.
This objectification of women results in the woman not being a partner in the kinship, but a thing that can be exchanged and the man is the one with the ownership. Rubin touches into Freud’s theories of psychoanalysis. Freud‘s usually male, leaned theories gained a lot of backlash from feminist theorists. His psychoanalyses of female development often revolved around his idea that young girls were struggling with femininity and feel inferior to their male fathers or family members. That sex fit into two categories: castrated and not castrated, which is an unequal description, enforcing that superior versus inferior ideas. In The Declaration of Sentiments from the Seneca Falls Conference in 1848, women‘s rights issues were addressed for the first time at a conference.
This declaration defines the ways that men have usurped equal power from women, such as controlling divorce laws and property ownership. It is said that men have created moral rules that men and women must follow that are not equal, and that exclude women from society and do not hold men accountable. It also, like Rubin on the Marx theory, mentions the wage inequality and men‘s access to women’s money. It explains how women become more subordinate to fit the views of the men who create the power structure and hierarchy in society. That they did these things to ensure that the hierarchy stays in place, that those who are not, in our society, cissexual white men, are at the bottom and stay at the bottom without any hope of moving up on the power structures.
Their arguments are furthering men‘s ideas of strong versus weak, that the strong must end up on top and the weak should serve the strong. In society, the inequalities that are placed by those who hold the power are the ones that make sure the same people stay in power: The idea that one gender is superior to another is a social construct set by those who are in that controlling position, to stay in power. Things that go hand in hand with gender, such as sexuality, race, and age, will further that oppression even more so when some of the progressive society will acknowledge one injustice but not the other. That superior versus inferior, strong versus weak, and dominant versus subordinate mindset is used to enforce gender roles and institute a hierarchy in society that continues on a cycle of oppression even in modern times‘.