On Nov. 15, Leslie Feinberg, a feminist activist defined by her radical intersectional work regarding racism, transgenderism, lesbianism and working-class ideologies, passed away in Syracuse, New York. Her last words, “Remember me as a revolutionary communist,” further hammered the nail into the anti-capitalist coffin that seems to have been left for dead by the modern feminist community.
Capitalism is a political “Pretty Woman,” dressing up economic inequalities, prostituting them into faux liberation and justice. With economic power comes individual liberation, or at least that’s what the weekly Cosmopolitan magazine says about dismantling the patriarchy with Walmart lipstick.
This is the beauty of capitalistic feminism. Under this ideology, individual choice trumps class analysis. Feminism is sold like sex rather than a political movement. A political movement with the primary goal of dismantling is incompatible with capitalist advertising. Somehow corporate interests managed to merge these divergent ideologies and reshape feminist thought. Commercialism successfully waters down women’s liberation into a diluted narrative of individual liberation instead of a class analysis. Altering its main priorities from politics of redistribution to identity politics, modern feminism fails to stab capitalism where its heart lies.
The restructuring of feminist ideology to ignore economic disenfranchisement is especially unfortunate because patriarchy and capitalism are inextricably linked. Structural sexism is molded comfortably into the foundation of our capitalistic economy. The commodification of women’s labor is unequal because of the power hierarchy between men and women. Since capitalism and patriarchy are linked at the core, a battle between fiscal conservatism and feminism is predestined. Class analysis is necessary to understand the oppressive nature of capitalism. Modern feminism seems to allow individualism to trump discussions of classism. Such rhetoric teaches individuals to believe that if certain forms of oppression don’t apply to them, they do not affect anyone.
The exacerbation of sexism and oppression in capitalism is not just a coincidence; it’s a side effect. The system of capitalism inevitably operates against underrepresented minorities. This results in a structurally disadvantaged system plagued by white male elites. Government policies that advocate for corporate power and less government spending cut social programs and widen the pay gap. Yet, the existence of big government also harms the welfare of single-parent families, minorities, the disabled and the poor, which are predominately composed of women.
Under the scope of capitalism, feminism has been molded into a watered-down catchphrase and sexualized marketing tool to lure women into buying cheap faux liberation. The economic pressures imposed by capitalism are not questioned by feminist thought. Women are continually harmed by economic oppression through forced labor, low wages, unequal opportunities and discrimination. Despite these disadvantages, feminist rhetoric fails to emphasize these underlying structural problems. Feminists can no longer allow corporate interests to shape the conversation. Capitalistic corporations do not care to deconstruct the foundation upon which they are built; they wish only to reinforce it.