Why Do Women Need Their Own Kapital?
I am appearing twice in Germany tomorrow, once at the Berlin Literary Festival (7:30 PM, German time) and also at the Family Business Program (9:45 AM, again, in Germany).
It wasn't my idea to rename my book "The Woman's Kapital." Its German publisher chose that title and they were passionate about making the change. They didn't get an argument from me: it was immediately obvious in my mind that their title was both more accurate and more telegraphic than The Double X Economy. I regretted that I did not think of it myself, but I also recognized that I probably wouldn't have had the nerve to compare my book to Marx's Kapital, despite the highly relevant reference, even if I had thought of it.
The German translation, Das Webliche Kapital, was released about the same time as the English versions, but its reception has always been somewhat different. I think the book appears more controversial and perhaps more weighty, in part because of the title and in part because of the very spare cover design. And, indeed, the book has benefited from controversy there.
I have tried to persuade publishers to use the title ever since, but, particularly in the English-speaking countries, the positioning is odious because it implies that I am arguing for socialism. Yet the book makes it very clear that I don't think socialism is relevant to women's position in the world economy today, nor has it ever been. And, I am at pains to point out how unresponsive and unfriendly socialist movements have historically been to feminism. That has been true since the time of Marx and it is still true today.
Indeed, Marx' philosophy has no room for gender or race or any other form of oppression besides class (for men), except by vague and reductive analogy. In real life, women have been told for 150+ years that they should shut up about their gendered economic issues and bow down to the "larger cause" (the cause of men, of course). So for women, socialism has been no better than capitalism. After the fall of the Soviet Union, the statistics on women's status made that very clear—in fact, the data showed that women were less well off in the former Soviet states than they were in the market democracies.
The core problem is that Marxism does not recognize the ancient historical source of women's oppression, one that is very much in the news right now because of its re-emergence in Afghanistan: for thousands of years, men controlled women by subjecting them to a marriage exchange with other men, never with the consent of the females, as if women were merely bags of goods fully owned by their male kin. This practice, in turn, evolved into a system of thorough-going, largely formal economic exclusions, the vestiges of which we can still see today, even in the Western nations. Because of the long list of exclusions that developed out of what was essentially a slave trade, women's relationship to capital has been dramatically different form that of working class men, but it is just as "important."
Both the grim reality in countries like Afghanistan and the remaining economic straitjacket holding women back in the developed countries require special, gender-based steps be taken if freedom is to be achieved. They are not the same steps that socialists advocate, which pisses them off. Women are supposed to wait their turn. Yeah, well, in history, their turn never came. And it never will, as long as socialists refuse to afford gender its place.
Furthermore, neither Marxism nor capitalism admit the heavy-duty gender power that third parties, like religion, have to hold women down economically—gender oppression is just "noise" in both philosophies. When the Polish version of Double X appeared under the title The Woman's Kapital (in Polish, Kapital Kobiet), it opened with a special, invited chapter on Poland. The women of that country are undergoing a horrific backlash right now, mostly at the hands of the Catholic Church, despite years of life under both capitalism and socialism.
(In my new online course with Chapter, I will be assigning the English version of the Polish introduction, specifically to illustrate just how precarious women's position is under the shadow of religion and other conservative forces. Similar forces are gathering against women in several other countries.)
By detailing this stuff—in all thirteen languages in which it is now appearing—The Double X Economy, like Kapital, presents a radically different approach to economics, as theory and as practice. I was gratified when Eoin Ó Broin showed that he "got it" in his review for the Irish Times:
Modern economic thought is dominated by antagonisms. The individual vs the state. The proletariat vs the bourgeoisie. The colonies vs the metropole. The planet vs the humans. Linda Scott’s powerful book inserts the last remaining division, namely gender, into the dismal science. And we are all the better for it.
Many astute reviewers have written about my book, but Ó Broin captured the heart of it in just a few sentences. Gender must have a central place in the way we look at and deal with economics and it should not be subordinated to concerns about class, race, or anything else on the claim that "it's not important." Gender economics is a weighty, controversial, and consequential question. We are, after all, talking about half the species.
Oh, and if you think I am too hard on Marxism, you should read my rants on capitalism.