The ideology behind women’s oppression

Issue section: 

Jan Nielsen’s article (“How austerity hurts women”, February SR) very usefully showed the disproportionate impact of government cuts on the lives of women. There is also an ideological element to this.

The ruling class, via the media, government, education system, and so on, perpetuates the idea that women are naturally suited to certain roles. Those at the top of society need women to be defined by the services that they provide, and the products they consume.

Most working class women do paid work outside the home. But nevertheless there is an expectation that caring duties ought to be done more by women. This is at the root of women’s oppression, and it affects all women, whether or not they have children themselves.

There is a strong ideological connection between making benefit cuts, paying women less, attacks on reproductive rights — and sexual harassment or abuse.

The idea that women should be primarily defined as service providers and passive consumers and not as individuals in their own right is the process by which the objectification of women is reproduced.

The ruling class, through its institutions, reinforces the view that women are less than men. It provides the justification for paying women lower wages, assuming women are more suited to certain jobs, restricting their bodily autonomy and asserting that their needs and desires are secondary to men’s.

Working class women and working class men have a common material interest in united struggle for equal rights and pay. Building solidarity means challenging reactionary ideas about gender roles, sex and the family as part of the fight against austerity. This is why the #MeToo movement is so welcome.

Julie Webster