And yet, here I am. I am a feminist and I am a capitalist. I am a feminist because I believe in expanding the choice set for women everywhere. I am a feminist because I work to challenge systematic oppressions. I am a feminist because my life's work is women, and I have never felt satisfied doing anything else. And yet, I am a capitalist. I am a capitalist because I believe in making the pie bigger, and then trying to divide it as equitably as possible. I am a capitalist because I am an economist, and I believe that markets tend to offer more efficient solutions to problems (and in fact, often more equitable) than governments, although I also believe that sometimes they don't. I am a capitalist for reasons that have nothing to do with ideology, because my ideology is that none of us have any moral claim to the endowments of our birth, and thus a good life is one that serves others. I am a capitalist because I think it works.
I am not a capitalist because I think the interests of business should come before the interests of women. Far from it. I have seen big government oppress women, and business and free markets help them. I believe systematic oppression is every bit as entrenched in government forces as it is in market ones, and that both can be tools to either rectify or reinforce the hierarchies of the past. I believe there is a role for government in correcting inequalities, but I also believe that government helped to put them there in the first place, both in the US and the world over. In places where governments continue to oppress, I have seen the remarkable effect of freedom, both market and personal, in improving the quality of life for people in need. I believe that women's right to vote in this country, a fundamental accomplishment of feminism, is also integrally tied to immigrant and otherwise under-privileged women's participation in the labor force, even under sub-human conditions--sheer, brutal, ugly capitalism.
But because my capitalism is not a philosophy or ideology, but rather, shall we say, a method, a tool, I also have no problem with government intervention or labor activism when that's a more effective way to achieve my ultimate end goal--prosperity, equality, hope. While Republicans often use economics to defend 100% anti-regulation positions with the fervor of religion, economists have no religion. Their only god is math. They calculate the welfare gain and the deadweight loss from a given policy, and use this to determine whether it's pareto improving (meaning it makes some people better off without making anyone worse off), average welfare improving, or only a change in distribution. Economics can't tell us which policies are moral or good, that takes our own judgment, but it can tell us which create wealth and which destroy it. I am a capitalist because I believe that if we can create wealth while preserving dignity and freedom, that's the route we should take. Within that framework, there's plenty of room for social justice and redistribution. But first, you have to have something to distribute. I am a capitalist, but a humanist first.
But this isn't enough for Nona, who thinks that because of feminism's historical ties, those who don't subscribe to its associated political leanings should be kicked out of the club today.
Feminism isn’t only about equality; it’s about believing that you can alter the status quo, and feminism has deep historical connections with socialism/Marxism/anarchism. In a (very small) nutshell: the two opposing forces here are big government and the free market. A pro-business stance is pretty much always part of a Republican platform, undisputed. The Tea Party’s bread and butter is appealing to people who have lower-taxes, less-government, let-the-poor-fend-for-themselves mentalities. And so if you push for more corporate power, and less government spending, you’ll inevitably be cutting social programs and widening the pay gap. And the people who will be hurting the most is women and their families, and poor people and minorities and the disabled and pretty much everyone who’s not white, male and rich.Unless you think that the regulations and constraints on free enterprise made by people in power, who are mostly male, white and rich, mostly serve to benefit the male, white, and rich. Unless your realize that many things "big government" does are to protect its interests abroad, which very often means hurting the economic interests of poor people outside the US. Unless you think the very worst thing that can happen is war, and that a government equipped to protect women and minorities from social injustice is also a government equipped to persecute them abroad in wars under dubious auspices. Unless you think, as I do, that the same healthcare bill that helped under-privileged groups receive care also gave the government an unprecedented role in deciding what is and what is not appropriate care, something that they decided in a direction that was very damaging to women. There are many reasons to favor restrictions on rather than expansions of government, and many of them are very feminist indeed.
You may not agree with my political leanings, my economic analysis of the situation, but I will not let you stand there and tell me I'm not a feminist. I refuse. Because to me, being a feminist is about opening up options to women who have few. It's about supporting women's choices and their right and ability to make them. You may do that by working for social services and regulation, I do that by working on issues of gender equality and female empowerment abroad. Have I done less to uplift women than you? How would you know?
But to Nona, my views are easily put in an anti-woman box:
Let’s call these positions what they are: a pure, religious devotion to corporations. An unwillingness to re-imagine capitalism.
I’m not an economist. This isn’t meant to be an entire structural analysis of how class and gender intersect. It just disturbs me how capitalism has become untouchable in our political environment, that the only thing getting debated feminist-wise by mainstream pundits is whether or not someone supports abortion, gay rights or other social issues. It pisses me of that socially moderate, fiscally conservative politicians like Olympia Snowe or Jean Schodorf get a (tentative) feminist pass just because they don’t want to overturn Roe v. Wade.She is not an economist, but I am. And I am also a feminist. I'm a feminist who believes that if a woman supports women's rights to make choices free from oppression, she is on my side. I am a feminist who is more interested in creating allies among people with different perspectives and modes of operating than encouraging division. Nona's worried about this, too, but not enough to let fiscally conservative women join the team:
Republicans often complain that liberals are tolerant of everyone except conservatives. The same complaint goes for feminists—that they’re constantly critiquing who can be in the club and who can’t. I’ve always been opposed to framing feminism as some sort of club, with a laundry list of rules and regulations. Not only does that ignore the fact that traditionally marginalized women feel excluded from the movement (as we learned last week on this blog), it also creates a dynamic of “You’re either with us or against us.” It blocks discussion. It leaves no room for complexity.
But after Sunday, I realized voting for a socially moderate Republican does no good–ever. It may protect some civil and reproductive rights we have now from being bludgeoned, but it does nothing to break down more structural inequities. No matter what, it gives the cold shoulder to economic policies that, as Ann puts it, “have, for far too long, been lost in the woods.”This post is a big part of the reason I started a blog. I wanted to have a blog for women who were pro-women, but who didn't necessarily call themselves feminists or immerse themselves in feminist theory. I wanted a blog for women to be treated as whole people, deserving of engagement in matters political, religious, social, and the like. I wanted a blog where women could be themselves, without fear of being told they didn't know enough or weren't like-minded enough to join the conversation. Most of the writers of this blog are not fiscally conservative, but I happen to be, and we somehow manage to work together to make the world a better place for women all the same.
If you're a fiscally conservative feminist, or a fiscally conservative person who works on behalf of women, you are welcome here, and we won't tell you what you are and what you aren't. If you use your voice and your actions to make the world a better place for people who are less privileged than you, that's good enough for me. Have a seat and join the conversation.