"The oppression of women is useful to the capitalist system."
from How Patriarchy and Capitalism Combine to Aggravate the Oppression of Women
by Denise Comanne
Feminism has often made a strong connection between patriarchy and capitalism, with the underlying message being that capitalism is an enemy of feminism.
We would argue that this approach of 'Feminism versus Capitalism' has been counter productive to the women's movement and goal of gender equality.
In today's world, business is a key to personal empowerment. A female entrepreneur is a boss and the master of her own destiny. Unfortunately women are still very under-represented as business entrepreneurs and even less so as social or activist entrepreneurs.
The field of feminism has long associated capitalism with patriarchy and adopted a victim-based approach to the myriad of problems facing women across the planet.
When you read the writers of 'second wave feminism' such as Susan Brownmiller, Gloria Steinhem, Catharine Mackinnon and Andrea Dworkin you see a pattern. Women have often been depicted as victims of the patriarchal and capitalist system. Their bodies are 'objectified' as commodities to be sold. Sadly traditional feminists have tended not to reach out to or include men except to blame them as the source of their disenfranchisement.
There are challenges to anti-capitalist feminism. In her book Lean In, Sheryl Sandberg talks about some of the challenges women face as leaders. Her book focuses on female entrepreneurs and leaders that shows how female leaders face resistance even from other women and society in general and how women can overcome these barriers.
When someone becomes an ecofeminist entrepreneur they demonstrate that business can be one of the greatest tools to promote female equality and emancipation.
In times of high unemployment and low opportunities, what could be better than helping to create products and services that promote female equality, while also giving yourself a job in the process?
Capitalism is not the enemy. As we show in our EcoFeminist Entrepreneur Case History Blog, ethical activist and feminist companies can be at the forefront of lobbying and change.
In a Western market democracy, business and politics work well together. In the US, Big Oil, Big Pharma, Big Banks work intimately (and often corruptly) in the political system to lobby for the changes they want to become laws.
To change a law takes a long time. It also takes money and perseverance. For many large corporations, the process of changing laws that are beneficial to them is just another cost of doing business.
This is not the same for many progressive causes. Because they have to continually raise money to fund their activism, every year is a challenge to keep going.
Big corporations do not have this problem. While there are some progressive companies that lobby for change, most feminists, environmentalists, human rights activists and so on remain suspicious of capitalism as a tool for change and instead choose the 'nobler' method of non-profits.