Study Guide

The Communist Manifesto Women and Femininity

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Women and Femininity

The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles. (Section1.1)

How might economic class struggle be experienced differently by women rather than men? Marx seems to view the world only through the lens of class, and at times he seems to completely discount women's experiences.

The bourgeoisie has torn away from the family its sentimental veil, and has reduced the family relation to a mere money relation. (Section 1.16)

In our society, women tend to be associated with care-work: childrearing, taking care of the elderly and the sick, etc. This labor tends to be underpaid or not paid at all. Women often take care of their own families for free—does this intensify their experience of class struggle, and if so, how?

The less the skill and exertion of strength implied in manual labor, in other words, the more modern industry becomes developed, the more is the labour of men superseded by that of women. Differences of age and sex have no longer any distinctive social validity for the working class. All are instruments of labour, more or less expensive to use, according to their age and sex. (Section1.33)

The bourgeoisie is always going to be looking for cheaper labor. Marx is assuming that women will be cheaper to hire than men, and that continues to be true today. In the United States in 2015, women on average earn 70 cents relative to each dollar men earn.

The bourgeois sees in his wife a mere instrument of production. (Section2.46)

Marx would say children are seen as a source of capital by the bourgeoisie, as labor to be exploited. So women are seen as the source of that production.

[The bourgeois] has not even a suspicion that the real point aimed at is to do away with the status of women as mere instruments of production. (Section2.47)

Karl seems to be suggesting that women can only be fully free to be people (instead of property) once they're liberated from the contradictions of class struggle.

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