Socialist`s view of violence on women

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To understand why there is a growing trend of violence perpetrated on women`s lives, we need to comprehend the contradictions brought up by the economic system of the world, capitalism. We live in a society dominated by the needs of capital accumulation. Capitalism operates at one level to break down the family, especially by creating and demanding greater mobility of labour power. Working means major changes in the lives of most working-class families. This has had a major effect in breaking down the old family, often with heart rending results. Parents seeking for better livelihoods in the city have been separated from their dependants as they have to remain in their home country. These changes have fundamentally altered the supposed traditional values of a family set-up. As a result the family fails to live up to societal expectations; the majority of people no longer live in the conventional ‘nuclear’ family of two heterosexual parents and dependent children; most households consist of a single person; children living in a single-parent families is at rising record levels; divorce is becoming more commonplace.
For most people the family is a very poor place. The level of wages for most workers is such that it rarely covers the costs of reproduction of the whole family – poverty is a fact of life for most workers, at least for large parts of their lives. The gap between the rich and poor is widening. For single parents the situation is even worse. Single parents are obliged to spend more on food, more on clothing and footwear, more on services and household goods and more on transport than the married couples. Youth unemployment and the rising number of the school leaving age means that adolescents are dependent on the family for material support. Although many try to find alternatives to the family, there are few available: this is evidenced by the increasing numbers of petty enterprises as a means of trying to cope with the demands of life.
The market has also increasingly encroached on by the tasks traditionally performed by the family. This relationship with the market spreads into all areas of life, affecting every individual member of the family so much that the population no longer relies upon social organisation in the form of family, friends, neighbours, community, elders, children, but must go to market and only to market not only for food, clothing and shelter, but also for recreation, amusement, security, for the care of the young, the old, the sick, handicapped. Even the emotional patterns of life are channelled through the market. The sex act is regarded as a commodity and bought and sold on videos, in porn magazines, through prostitution. The social world – work, mass – produced leisure, education – all lie outside home.
The transformation of the family through the powerful urge in each family member toward an independent income has become one of the strongest feelings as the source of status is no longer the ability to make things but simply the ability to purchase them. So the family, as it loses its production functions, increasingly becomes a unit of consumption, every area of family comes onto the cash nexus. This is shown by the increased ideological importance of the family and the centrality of modern capitalism. Home ‘improvement’ is a major industry under the capitalist system of profit making. Warehouses on the edge of every town sell the basics for a ‘dream home’ and one of the most common features of leisure activity is shopping for commodities to fill the home. Advertisers paint a never – never world of spacious houses, massive kitchens filled with sparkling modern equipment such as dishwashers and tumble dryers, or new ‘family’ cars which cost the equivalent of a year`s wages for most workers. Happiness inside the family is constantly equated with material resources. The families of middle-class are painted in adverts as always healthy and good looking. Parents of such families with ever smiling faces are portrayed as never losing their tempers with ever smiling faces. The middle-class families are depicted to be fortified against violence, battering or debts.
Such circumstances have caused the family in increasing its ideological importance and led to atomisation and isolation for various members of the family. Both man and woman depend on the family for status; marriage and the family under capitalism are not about work, but about individual romantic love. Finding ‘Mr Right’ and having children are seen as the fulfilment of life. This rosy picture approximates to nothing real, it portrays a carefree, affluent middle class lifestyle which only exists for a tiny number of people. It is a million miles from the cramped physical conditions and the narrow emotional lives of most workers for in so far as workers do afford any of these things, they do so by putting themselves into debt which they can ill – afford to repay.
Despite all the attempts to portray the family as an oasis of calm, it is often the very centre of misery. Although the family is projected as a celebration of privacy and the resentment of any outside interference, tensions within the family increase, especially if it is not able to live up to its image. As the family is being turned into a domain of the private – supposedly of private love and happiness, it is all too often the sense of private pain, of violence, or of failed expectations. In essence, the outward appearance of the family and its reality are very different.
As the outside world encroaches more and more into family life, so the family becomes more of a hell and less of a haven. The nuclear family under capitalism is in stark contrast to all previous family forms. The development of commodity production has totally altered the nature of the family structure. Today the family has little obvious economic role in society. The narrowness of working class lives in particular destroys any social side to the family. Stuck in poor paying jobs, the working – class parents often do not value themselves. Although they want better for their children, they often do not get what they expected from their job salaries. Emotionally, the working class families tend to be repressed, sometimes they treat their children in a harsh and disciplinarian manner.
All these features have caused a nightmare for individual members of the working and middle class families. Unemployment, poor wages, credit commitments, sickness in these circumstances have become the trigger to gender violence. The incontrovertible fact remains that the capitalist system is central to gender violence. Despite the talk of freedom and choice, the history of capitalism has been one of inequality in personal and family life such that the freedom to decide the way to run one`s life is very illusive under capitalism .
It therefore suffices to conclude that women`s oppression should be challenged not in the behaviour of individual men, but in class society for the oppression of women is embedded in the class society. The key to women`s liberation lies in the process of social revolution, which alone can end class society. Revolutionary change is the only means of achieving women`s liberation. As Rosa Luxemburg put it, “revolutionaries are the best fighters for reforms precisely because their overall interest is in the fighting capability of the working class and the oppressed towards the revolutionary overthrow of capitalist class”.
Most certainly, more needs to be done to demolish the myth that male domination had always been the norm or that it was even typical of many societies. The fact is female domination is a social construct, not an eternal truth. History reveals that in early societies, there was no necessary stigma or inferiority in being a woman. Even the division of labour between the sexes was not based on one sort of labour being valued more highly in society than another. Therefore, there was no basis for women`s oppression.
Gaontebale Mokgosi
Real Alternative Party