The Link Between Globalization and Violence Against Women

witches and witchhunting

Witches, Witch-hunting and Women

by Sylvia Federici

PM Press (2018)

Book Review

This book is a collection of essays that continue the theme feminist historian Sylvia Federici introduced in her 2004 book Caliban and the Witch: Women, The Body and Primitive Accumulation (see Witch Burning and Women’s Oppression). In addition to re-exploring historical links between witchcraft trials, enclosures, land privatization, and systematized oppression of women, Witches, Witch-hunting and Women extends her analysis to the present day. Federici sees strong links between increasing violence against women and “globalization,” a euphemism for an elitist campaign to dispossess third world peoples of their lands and livelihoods. This dispossession, in turn, has led to the largest mass refugee migration in history.

In tracing its historical origins, the book makes the case that capitalism was actually a “counterrevolution” against the widespread 14th century rebellions that improved both the working and living conditions of both peasants and early urban workers. In constant fear of new rebellions by landless peasants (expelled from common lands under enclosure laws), the landed and merchant classes introduced a totally new form of production that imposed even harsher labor discipline than feudalism.

The witchcraft trials of the 16th and 17th century were essential to this transformation. They were primarily directed against women who resisted enclosure, widows, women who had children out of wedlock, landless women who were driven into the streets (either as market vendors or prostitutes), midwives and women who practiced folk healing.

At a time when thousands of women were killed for accusations of witchcraft, all women were banned from guild membership and prohibited from engaging in crafts other than brewing or spinning and bringing legal cases to court. Under capitalism, they were generally confined to the home to perform unpaid domestic labor in total submission to their husbands.

In looking at modern equivalents, Federici sees a direct link between the massive dispossession occurring under globalization and escalating violence against women. She points to a big increase in domestic violence and rape (especially “handbook” rape*), in sex traffcking, in unprosecuted murders of women (especially women of color), in witchcraft accusations against tribal women in Africa and India, and in dowry and honor killings in India and Pakistan.

She also sees strong links between the current mass incarceration of people of color and the 17th century Great Confinement, in which droves of peasants were incarcerated in prisons and workhouses after being driven off their land.


*”Handbook rape” rape by trained military and paramilitary forces is deliberately designed to terrorize targeted populations. Examples include inserting knives or guns into a woman’s vagina or slitting open her pregnant belly.

Fracking, Rape, Prostitution and Sex Trafficking

Sex and the Oil City: Sex, Crime and Drugs: The Dark Side of North Dakota’s Oil Boom

RT (2018)

Film Review

As its title suggests, this documentary mainly concerns the escalation in domestic violence, rape, prostitution and sex trafficking that have accompanied the explosive growth in North Dakota’s fracking industry.

The state’s western fracking towns have seen a massive influx of men working 12-16 hour shifts and earning six figure salaries. Tens of thousands of them, living in “man camps,” find they outnumber local women by 100 to 1. With nowhere to spend their money, narcotics abuse and alcoholism have become enormous issues – as has violence against women. Police call-outs in one town skyrocketed from 41 a year in 2006 to 7.414 in 2014.

The video’s main protagonist is Windie Lazenko, founder of the non-profit group 4Her North Dakota. This is an advocacy group providing outreach services for women and girls who are victims of local sex trafficking. Wendie herself was held captive by local sex traffickers and pimps from age 13-16.

There was  a significant decline in North Dakota’s fracking industry when the price of oil fell in 2014. With the oil price recovery that occurred in 2018, the boom is on again.

Capitalism: The Role of Violence Against Women

Sylvia Federici

Jan 9, 2019 talk

In this talk, Sylvia Federici, author of Caliban and the Witch (see Witch Burning and Women’s Oppression) discusses her two latest books Witches, Witch Hunting and Women and Re-Enchanting the World.

Witches, Witch Hunting and Women elaborates on two key premises: 1) that the extensive free labor women perform is fundamental to the success of capitalism and 2) that violence against women is never accidental. According to Federici, it’s “structural”, ie fundamental to the human exploitation necessary for capitalist accumulation.

Federici divides violence against women into three main categories: domestic, public and institutional. Domestic violence occurs in the context of a domestic relationship, public violence includes non-domestic rape, paramilitary violence and narco-trafficking, and institutional violence consists of police violence, female incarceration (which is increasing) and criminalization of pregnancy.

Federici is also concerned about the growing frequency of actual witchcraft accusations in Latin America, India and Africa. She blames this on what she refers to as “re-colonization,” aka globalization, whereby millions of poor peasants are being driven off their land and turned into refugees. The original witchcraft trials occurred during the 16th and 17th century enclosures, when people were being violently thrown off of communal land.

Re-Enchanting the World, the second book she describes, depicts how this violent dispossession also destroys the community ties and solidarity working people rely on to resist capitalist violence. It strikes a positive note in describing how Latin American women who are forced to urbanize (after losing their land) are starting to collectivize to meet their survival needs. Examples include organizing to fight for access to water and power and to build schools and clinics.

That F Word: Growing Up Feminist in Aotearoa

That F Word: Growing Up Feminist in Aotearoa*

By Lizzie Marvelly

Book Review

The goal of That F Word is to dispel common confusion about the meaning of the word “feminist.” To singer journalist Lizzie Marvelly, the word simply refers to someone who advocates for full women’s equality. She illustrates by demonstrating all the ways in which women aren’t fully equal to men in New Zealand (or the rest of the industrial world).

If women were fully equal, they would enjoy equal pay for equal work, decriminalization of abortion* and equal representation in government, the boardroom and the media and entertainment industry. Domestic violence and rape culture would end because sexual abuse, sexual harassment and domestic violence would be prosecuted to the full extent of the law, as would the routine exposure of 14-year-old boys to misogynist Internet pornography; the widespread use of soft porn to sell commercial products; the continual media pressure on women to hate their appearance; and the constant verbal abuse and rape and death threats against women who openly express opinions in the public arena.

Marvelly views the advent of social media as a two-edged sword for women. Despite the ubiquitous use of social media by insecure men to verbally abuse, degrade and threaten women, it also offers women a unique opportunity to openly share personal experiences of abusive treatment by men. Even more importantly, social media has brought into the open the extreme level of misogyny women experience in contemporary society.

Presented as an expanded memoir, That F Word is a remarkable achievement for a 29-year-old author. In my view, it should be required reading for all men with a genuine desire to understand the condition of women in the 21st century.


*Aotearoa is the original Maori name for New Zealand

**In New Zealand, abortion is still a crime under the Crimes Act – unless a woman obtains independent certification from two health professionals that proceeding with the pregnancy will seriously endanger her mental health.

Bill Cosby: Fall of an American Icon

Bill Cosby: Fall of an American Icon

BBC (2018)

Film Review

This BBC documentary is about the multiple rape charges against Bill Cosby that have surfaced in the last 14 years. It begins with a brief summary of Cosby’s stellar career and his former importance as an African Americans role model. The film highlights his unrelenting philanthropy and promotion of African American education, via millions in donations to Black colleges. In 2004, after the Cosby Show ended, he embarked on a series of nationwide tours in which he railed against black mothers for not getting jobs and not caring for their kids properly.

2004: First Rape Allegation

According to people who worked with him closely, Cosby was known for “cheating,” ie engaging in a series of affairs with women he mentored as proteges. However it wasn’t until 2004 that a woman made a serious rape allegation to Philadelphia police. When Philadelphia prosecutors declined to press charges (for lack of evidence), the victim filed a civil lawsuit. Cosby settled in 2006. The details of the settlement, as well as a four-hour deposition Cosby provided under oath were sealed.

As a consequence of the lawsuit, 13 other women approached the victim’s lawyer about their own experience with Cosby “drugging” and raping them. These new complaints received little media attention until BuzzFeed picked up a story about a Black standup comic named Hannibal Burris making rape jokes about Cosby. More women came forward, and women’s rights attorney Gloria Allred arranged a press conference for those willing to speak publicly about their experiences.

Court Unseals Cosby’s 2004 Deposition

This, in turn, led an AP reporter to apply for Cosby’s 2004 sworn deposition to be unsealed. Although Cosby’s lawyers maintained this violated his right to privacy, the judge ruled his years of public “moralizing” negated his right to privacy.

In the deposition, Cosby acknowledged having sex with women he was mentoring and sometimes giving them quaaludes. This, along with dozens of new complaints from women Cosby allegedly abused, gave prosecutors sufficient evidence to proceed with the 2004 rape case.

Cosby’s first trial ended in a hung jury in June 2017. At his re-trial in August 2017, a jury found him guilty of drugging and sexually assaulting his accuser. Cosby is appealing the charge.

YouTube has taken the video down but it can be viewed for free here:

Bill Cosby: Fall of an American Icon

Patriarchy: An Anthropological Study

 

The Underside of History: A View of Women Through Time

by Elise Boulding

Westview Press (1976)

Book Review

Published at the height of the women’s movement, this is a remarkable read. The first book of its kind, it employs extensive anthropological and historical evidence to trace the contribution of women to the rise of civilization. In most historical accounts, the role of women in development has been largely invisible

Beginning with the appearance of our hominid ancestors in Africa two million years ago, Boulding traces their migration to the Middle East, Europe, Asia and North and South America – highlighting the early civilizations that developed in each of these regions. She concludes with the current role of women in each of these geographical areas.

The part of the book I found most surprising describes the role women played in inventing tools from pebbles, bones and skulls to use in food preparation. They also invented ceramic pots and bags made of animal skins to store it and built huts to provide a protected space for child rearing.

During the hunter gather period, men and women played an equal role in production activities and decision making. After they learned to grow their own crops (following a decline in large game animals), women tended to be dominant because hunting was precarious and men relied on women for food. Women also had charge of the first domesticated animals (goats, sheep and pigs) and passed control of their land and livestock in a matrinlineal pattern.

Better access to food increase population density, which in turn necessitated an increase in food production. This led to the discovery of the plow and the domestication of cattle, which shifted basic control of food production to men. They, in turn, assigned women secondary tasks, such as weeding and collecting firewood and water.

The discovery of mining and metal working technology occurred around the same time, which would lead to the rise of trading economies and armies to protect settlers against raiding hunter gatherers. With the rise of cities and militarization, societies were “stratified” for the first time. “Stratification” and the rise of an idle ruling elite (kings and priests) would lead to the development of a social hierarchy that tended excluded women from public spaces and confined them to domestic labor at home.

According to Boulding, women still played a number of public leadership roles during antiquity and the Middle Ages – a privilege they lost during the Industrial Revolution.

 

Has Democracy Failed Women?

 

Has Democracy Failed Women?

by Drude Dahlerup (2018)

Book Review

This book challenges conventional wisdom that Greece was the birthplace of democracy, as it totally excluded women from participation in the political process.

Has Democracy Failed Women? starts with a brief review of women’s long difficult battle for the right to vote. New Zealand was the first to grant women a vote in national elections in 1893. Other English-speaking countries, including Britain, enacted women’s suffrage following World War I. Catholic countries, including France, Italy, Chile and Argentina waited till World War II ended. It was 1971 before women could vote in national elections in Switzerland.

It’s well established that democratic assemblies with inadequate female representation, are incapable of addressing the continuing oppression women experience under capitalism.* Yet more the 100 years after first receiving the right to vote, women (who comprise 52% of the population) are still denied full representation in the institutions of power. In the West, only two parliaments have granted women full parity (40-60% representation). In the global South, only Rwanda and Bolivia have as many women as men in their assemblies.

Dallerup blames the “secret garden of politics,” the failure of most political parties to select candidates in a transparent or democratic process, for women’s failure to receive fair representation in government. In most places, party officials limit their candidate pools to well-established old boy networks.

In general, only countries with Proportional Representation (see The Case for Proportional Representation) are likely to achieve more than 25% female representation in their national governing bodies. Countries (like the US, UK and Canada) employing a Plurality/Majority (winner- takes-all) voting system based on geographic districts have the most difficulty achieving adequate female representation. In these countries, a woman usually has to defeat a male incumbent to win a seat.

I was very surprised to learn that 57% percent of countries have achieved better female representation by imposing gender quotas. Pakistan was the first in 1956 (though they have subsequently rescinded the quota), Bangladesh in 1972 and Egypt in 1979. Scandinavian countries took a big step towards gender parity via voluntary party quotas

As of 2015, only three countries had no women at all in government: Bosnia-Herzegovina, Hungary, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia. Trump has only two female cabinet members, the lowest since the 1970s.

In an era in which the power of elected assemblies is being systematically eroded by multinational corporations, Dallerup feels it’s also really important to ensure strong female representation on corporate boards and the regional and international bodies they control. Spain, Iceland, Belgium, France, Germany, India and Norway all have laws requiring a minimum of 40% representation on corporate boards (a move consistently linked with higher profits.


*Interventions Dallerup views as essential to ending women’s inequality and oppression include

  • redistribution of money and resources, eg to single mothers for maternity care and maternity leave
  • actions against the feminization of poverty
  • public services: care for children, the elderly and disabled
  • housing and public transportation
  • an independent judiciary without with gender biases; intervention against domestic violence; anti-discrimination regulations, ie on equal pay and equal treatment; and affirmation action (ie gender quotas)
  • support for men’s role as caregivers, eg paternity leave
  • protection from sexual violence and harassment in peace and war and the inclusion of women in peace negotiations and post-conflict reconciliation

Also published in Dissident Voice