Women are confronting outmoded patriarchy:
capitalist-imperialism and religious fundamentalism!
3 March 2014. A World to Win News Service. Following is a statement issued on 19 February by the 8 March Women Organisation (Iran-Afghanistan) (firstname.lastname@example.org).
The 8th of March, International Women’s Day, is coming, and we will continue our struggle to achieve the dream of emancipation. We are seeing the struggle of our sisters to join together with the countless hands of oppressed women all over the world to break the thousand-years old chains of oppression that bind us.
Women carry out 2/3 of the world’s labour, but obtain only 10 percent of its income and own less than 1 percent of its wealth. Seventy per cent of the world’s poor are women. We are the main makers of the world and carry its load on our shoulders, but what is our lot?
Our lot is ever-increasing organized state violence, alongside the domestic and social violence which a third of the world’s women experience on a daily basis. There is ever-increasing rape, murder, honour killings, prostitution, degradation, insults and threats and an unprecedented use of women’s bodies as commodities. Women’s “beauty” is presented as our only capital, and motherhood as the only source of our identity, with fighting over whether our bodies are to be controlled by being covered up or auctioned off by the state, religion, tradition and culture, by the demands of the market and even men’s personal tendencies, just as there is fighting over the right to control or terminate our own pregnancies. This is the context in which our bodies have become commodities and assigned a price day after day.
Our bodies are commodities that are mass advertised by a pornography industry that gives training in their use. They are used in human trafficking and are priced in the sex markets where they are traded for money. In marriage contracts, financial considerations are accepted as completely legitimate and are reinforced by law and public opinion. Ultimately this commodity is sometimes appropriated free of charge as women are raped either individually or by gangs.
As part of the basic way this patriarchal system functions, imperialist powers confront each other over the division of the world, and in the name of “freedom” and “democracy” they wage war to invade the third world – and again, women are the first victims.
Although women are the cheapest, most obedient and most profitable work force for turning the wheels of capital, they name us” housewives” and hide our super-exploitation. They justify our low wages and rob us of any possibility of organizing ourselves. In the third world they force us to leave our small plots of land in our villages and move to urban shanty towns in our millions, an “unofficial”work force in the service industry, forced labour, all while taking care of their children who have been abandoned by society and the authorities.
And when we join in struggle to change the existing order, backward Islamic regimes again become our lot, as we are once again the first victims.
Unfortunately, the repetition of our experience as women in Iran has clearly demonstrated that the ideological foundation, the outlook and specific feature of an Islamic regime is the inferior position of women, our enslavement and deprivation of rights – this is how the religious fundamentalists with their international partners have harvested the fruit of the people’s just struggle. Thirty-five years ago, when this backward and anti-woman regime posed as a possible replacement to the Shah as the people of Iran rose in revolutionary struggle, the religious fundamentalists tried to legitimise their rule and integrate Iran into the world capitalist system. Islamicizing the patriarchal system was their most important contribution to this effort. By utilising the full force of state power, the oppressive relations enchaining women were recast on the foundations of Sharia law. This was not some “eternal” culture of “Muslim women” being re-born, it was the culture and relations of Islamic patriarchy being given the full backing of state repression. The Islamic Republic thus codified the subjugation of women in law, and to enforce such laws established a set of courts and repressive forces.
The existence of these forces is directly related to the setbacks suffered by revolution in the world today. It is not a coincidence that one after another Islamic regime is being established either through the imperialist invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan or in the wake of the struggles of the people in the Middle East and North Africa. And at the centre of these transformations women are the first social force to be controlled and oppressed. In Afghanistan and Iraq the legalization of Sharia law against women; in Libya the legalisation of polygamy; in Egypt the unprecedented increase in female genital mutilation; in Syria the re-establishment of punishing women by stoning; the rise in the hijab (head covering), whether enforced or arbitrary – all these are undeniably a concentrated expression of Sharia law.
All these represent the real bloody wars of these two outmoded forces – capitalist-imperialism and religious fundamentalism – to subjugate, oppress and control women. These two forces are equally oppressive and act as brothers in preserving their common interests, as they establish militarized regimes against women through hate and extreme violence.
We women are at the centre of this war, which once again repeats the bitter tale of rape in the name of preserving and defending virginity. Once again the teeth and claws of patriarchy are shown so as to control and auction off women’s bodies. Once again we see the tragedy of women courageously taking part in their masses in the process of social change, but winding up in the end pushed back down, without change. Once again women are pushed to choose between the “lesser evil” of who would violate them.
This is the so-called democratic choice facing women: do you prefer to be covered by a hijab and stay untouched and “supported” by Sharia law and Sharia-raped by your male lords, or do you prefer to be displayed in shop windows wearing the latest designer fashions and adored while you’re priced and abused and molested? Do you prefer to be placed next to male rapists in Tahrir Square or under the boots of Western dependent armies claiming they support you?! Do you prefer to be an obedient wife and a “real” mother in your own country and single-handedly bear the heavy load of years of raising children without the presence of a father, or to be perched in the shopping windows of Europe or the private brothels (called harems) in the Gulf States?! Do you prefer to take part in the process of exploiting other people and oppressing other women for your own personal interests and advance and be protected by the laws of the world capitalist patriarchal system, or do you prefer to work and be exploited in some small or big factory or farm, or do you prefer to remain a “housewife” and expect god to protect you through his male representative in an effort to obtain and then safeguard your privileges in the “next world”? Do you want to take part in the population increase programme of the Islamic Republic on the basis of its Sharia law and thus bear more jihadists, or to be turned into a mere incubator by the churches and Christian fundamentalists?
All these options lie on the endless wheel of choice between these two poles that are outmoded and rotten. These two forces have no future for humanity. Indeed, the danger of collapse they both face push them not only to have a go at each other but also to support each other and hide their contradiction when they face the protesting masses.
The dynamics of this outmoded and backwards-turning wheel mean that struggle against one of them, in the absence of a clear stance against the other, invariably winds up pushing people into the other camp. Therefore, supporting one of these two poles, even if the intention is to fight and weaken the other, in practice actually strengthens the other pole. Everyone who is a victim of the existing order, all those who hate it and want to struggle to change it, ultimately have no other choice than to take a clear stance against and fight both of these poles. Women are at the heart of this contradictory situation and the struggle against these two poles. For both of these reactionary poles, women are an army of labour, foot soldiers of the system, a valuable commodity whose role is indispensable to the operation of this system of exploitation and oppression. And on the other hand, because of this strategic position, if women enter the arena of struggle with the aim of emancipating themselves and all humanity, they are capable of destroying all the rotten patriarchal barriers, which are facing historical collapse, and building a new world.
Because of all this, we as women can, through revolutionary internationalist struggle against these two outmoded and anti-women forces, succeed in lifting their blood-soaked, male and “holy” hands from the lives of millions of women who are being crushed in homes, factories, fields, streets and brothels violently, mercilessly and without precedent. Only through this kind of struggle can women chart the course of their emancipation and achieve a society without exploitation and oppression.
Without the fight and overthrow of these two outmoded forces, there is no other clear prospect for the emancipation of women and indeed of all humanity – which is impossible without the full participation of women.