Male supremacy is not just womens problem

The oppression of women and the male supremacist ideology that justifies it arose from and has been a part of all class-divided societies. Today it is bound up with capitalist exploitation and the drive for maximum corporate profits.

Capitalism and the capitalist ruling class are the source of male supremacist ideology, not the working class and working-class men. But just like racism, the capitalist class daily injects this destructive ideology into working-class life and culture, in a variety of ways both open and subtle.

It is insidious and influences both men and women. Even the most progressive-minded men, including class-conscious men, are not immune from male supremacy and often exhibit a blind spot when it comes to women’s equality.

As with racism, if we are not fighting male supremacy and constantly strengthening our defenses against it, we are likely being influenced by it.

Unity of the working class is fundamental for economic, social and political advancement, for defeating the ultra-right and corporate exploitation and for winning socialism. Men must fight against male supremacy and for women’s equality because it is morally and humanly right and because it is essential for building working-class unity to win. It is in the self-interest of working-class men.

The role of male supremacy is akin to that of racism. It is destructive of working-class unity and diverts attention from the corporate exploiters. Some men may be fooled into thinking they are benefiting from women’s inequality, but in fact their rights and economic status are being undermined.

Male supremacy is used to justify the gap between men and women in wages, benefits and working and living conditions. If women are paid 71 cents for every dollar a man makes doing the same job, immense extra profits flow to the corporations. Additional profits are gained because men’s wages and benefits are pulled down as well. Equal pay for equal work is fundamental in creating equality for women, and in improving everyone’s living standards.

In the current stage of capitalist globalization, the economic status of women is being eroded. Outsourcing and technological displacement has a special impact on women. The jobs being created are either low-wage unskilled and part-time jobs or highly skilled technical jobs. There are large numbers of women, including racially oppressed and immigrant women, in part-time, nonunion, low-wage service sector jobs. So, winning struggles for union representation, against outsourcing, for well paying jobs, health care, secure retirement — all these require special attention to fighting for the rights and needs of women, on the job and off. An attack on women’s rights can only mean that the entire class will be affected, including men.

It is vital to fight to preserve and expand affirmative action in hiring and promotion, access to the trades and opening the doors fully to scientific and technological training for women. Affirmative action strengthens unity of the whole class.

Male supremacy dehumanizes women in the eyes of men and therefore demobilizes both from fighting for women’s equality and the working class generally. For example, male supremacy is used effectively by the ultra-right to attack women’s reproductive rights. Along with other “wedge issues,” the attack on reproductive rights has been used to divide working-class voters, allowing the ultra-right to advance its overall agenda. The intrusion of the state into women’s reproductive decisions affects men as well as women. While obviously it is a special question for women, it is not just a women’s issue.

If individual rights are undermined for women, they are undermined for men. This drive will not stop with outlawing the right of women to make individual reproductive choices. It is part of a general attack on democracy and the Constitution. The ultra-right wants women to be “barefoot and pregnant.” But they also have dreams of unrestrained corporate rule and unbridled racism that will turn life back for us all. The fight for reproductive rights is a front line issue in the defense of democracy.

Part of the fight against male supremacy is combating misogyny — women-hating, treating women as objects — in culture. Dehumanization of women justifies super-exploitation, and it dehumanizes men too, spurring violence against women. Thankfully, many young artists, including male artists, are speaking out against it.

In the political sphere the fight is for increasing the number of women elected officials and fighting for women’s leadership in trade unions and other mass organizations and coalitions. A diverse leadership fully reflecting the working class is essential for unity.

Women are one of the core constituencies of the all-people’s front against the corporate ultra-right, along with labor and racially and nationally oppressed peoples. Women hold up half the world and half the struggle.

The fight against male supremacy is a fight of the whole working class. Men have a special responsibility to give leadership to the fight, to help men understand its source and purpose and to help expose all its ugly expressions.

Working-class men have the responsibility to lead by personal and moral example in a way that effectively influences other men. We want to collectively reject it from our consciousness as alien to men, the working class and humanity.

The defeat of the ultra-right in November, and the rejection of male supremacist wedge issues, will have a big effect on the atmosphere in our country. It will help to blunt the attack on women and our working class generally. A strong united working-class movement conscious of women’s equality is essential.

John Bachtell (jbachtell@cpusa.org) is district organizer of the Communist Party of Illinois.

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