Older men and younger women

John Edmundson JWE21 at SPAMstudent.canterbury.ac.nz
Wed Nov 8 18:43:24 MST 2000

I said:
> > >To return to the point I made at the start of this post, we can't
> > >begin to understand these issues if we lump together the
> > >experience of all women, whether in advanced capitalist countries
> > >or in villages still primarily governed by pre-capitalist
> > >religious practice.

To which Mine replied:
> From a Marxist point of view, this is not quite correct. Linking the
> oppression of women to religion is to imply that women's oppression is
> rooted in religion and  therefore capitalism, unlike religion,
> liberates women.

Not at all. In precapitalist societies, all kinds of non-economic
factors had greater sway than they can have in a capitalist society.
In those countries which are underdeveloped by capitalism (due as
you so rightly observe, to imperialism), these things do still have
sway. It isn't capitalism that made my mother in law marry a 48
year old at age 14, although if she hadn't lived in an imperialised
country, the religious traditions that allowed and encouraged it
might more quickly have changed. This is a far cry from claiming,
as you suggest I do, that all women are liberated by capitalism. It
is patently obvious that many people in third world countries, men
and women, are immeasurably poorer and less free now due to the
impact of capitalism.

>  The fact of the matter is that capitalism liberates
> (advances) only certain classes of women, whereas it continues to take
> advantage of women at the bottom of the hierarchy-- that are, poor
> women, working class women, third world women, etc.


> So experiences of
> women are not the same, TRUE, but this is not because of religion;
> this is because of capitalism . Moreover, capitalism transforms
> traditional practices too. It is no surprising that, in many Islamic
> countries, women *do* actually engage in prostitution. Please, don't
> tell me that the women who are forced to prostitution in Afghanistan
> and are trafficked from Kabul to Pakistan at extraordinarily high
> prices are governed by "pre-capitalist religious practices" or that
> they can't *consent* due to religion, o! r whatever. In Afghanistan,
> oppressiveness of traditional practices *combined* with economic
> sanctions imposed on the country by imperialist forces forced many
> women to choose prostitution, because their economic livelihoods were
> threatened. They were insecure.  In the third world, prostitution is
> part of the "international sex trade" that draws massive numbers of
> women into sex industry, due to increasing poverty and deteriorating
> circumstances caused by capitalism. Someone has to bear the costs of
> *global inequalities more than others, and it is generally the
> impoverished women of imperialized countries.  Yes, sisterhood is not
> global.

Of course you are absolutely right Mine that women trafficked from
Afghanistan are not governed by "pre-capitalist religious practices."
Obviously, as you, being Turkish, know well enough, sexual
promiscuity for women is completely counter to the teaching of
Islam so no one could claim the international sex trade had
anything to do with religious practice in Afghanistan. That was
precisely the point I was making when I differentiated the
oppression of these women from western women who chose to
marry rich old men for their inheritance. These particular western
women have far more control over their lives than Afghan sex slaves
or child brides (if there is even a difference here).

As you say above, "In Afghanistan, oppressiveness of traditional
practices *combined* with economic sanctions imposed on the
country by imperialist forces forced many women to choose
prostitution". You may argue with my use of the term "primarily" in
describing the dominant influences on some parts of the world. I
used this term deliberately as the influence I was discussing -
Islam - is the overt influence. It determines the "conscious"
decisions people make. Capitalism for them is an invisible. They
barely know of its existence, despite its being responsible for their
plight. Capitalism makes those Afghan women poor and hungry,
makes them work as prostitutes etc, tradition (religion) directly
determines  when and whom they marry etc. In other words, Pre-
capitalist "traditional practices" linger on all over the world, many of
these impact badly on women, and in order to properly understand
what's going on in the world today, we have to acknowledge the
role of these forces, rather than one dimensionally crying
"capitalism". This is not the same as denying the overarching role
of capitalism in shaping the misery of the vast majority of the
world's people.
John Edmundson

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