Capitalism Hits Home: Revolution in the Home and Personal Life - Part 2

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Dr. Fraad continues her discussion of the counter revolution in US politics, the revolutions have taking place in the home and in the American personal/sexual life.

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Transcript has been edited for clarity.


Hello, this is Dr. Harriet Fraad on Capitalism Hits Home, an interpersonal update. This is a show about the intersection of capitalism, class, and our personal lives.

Even most recently, in 2017, Congress had the most female representation, overwhelmingly from the Democratic Party. A hundred and four women became congresspeople, congresswomen – a very important thing because women have been an important voice in making laws more just for women and in standing up to the erosion of women's rights, which has been huge and is enormous pressure.

The laws and changes influenced US ideology. So one of the things that's changed is the shame of divorce is lifted. The shame of having a child outside of marriage is lifted. In the United States, more than half of marriages end in separation or divorce. And that means half of first marriages, 60 percent of second marriages, 70 percent of third marriages. And that only counts the marriages that are ended legally. There are a lot of people who don't have property to fight over and who get along well enough to just divide what they want to and split, and not bring the legal system into their arrangement at all. So we are talking about a significant majority of people who get separated or divorced.

Also, since men can no longer count on supporting women, and women can no longer count on being supported, women have rebelled against traditional marriages that require them to then have two jobs: a shift at the workplace to make money, and a second shift at home to do the domestic labor, and childcare, and sexual labor, and emotional labor for the husband as well as the children. Eighty percent of divorces and separations are now initiated by women. And the majority of American women are single – and not because they've been jilted or anything, but they're single by choice. The old stereotype was that the woman is dragging the man, who is reluctant, she's dragging him to the altar. Now that's not the case. Neither men nor women are in a hurry to get married, because the mass of people – not the one percent, of course, but the mass of people – men can't support dependent wives and children, and women can't be supported in the home.

So the ideology has changed along with the economic conditions that have created this domestic revolution. For the first time in the whole of American history, the majority of people in what they call "prime fertility age," 18 to 35 years old, are not married, and don't necessarily intend to be married. That's why the majority of American women are unmarried for the first time in our history. And that's in spite of the ideology of marriage that is pushed by fundamentalist religions and the Catholic Church. And the proscription of sex outside of marriage is largely disregarded. Between the legalization of birth control for unmarried people in 1972, and the invention and proliferation of the pill in 1965, women can largely control our own fertility, and therefore can enjoy sex outside of marriage in a way that we couldn't before because we would get pregnant and needed protection.

Where you have a revolution in ideology, in practice, in personal life, in the economy, you also have a counterrevolution. And that's really what's happening politically, as people like Donald Trump have captured angry white men who are dethroned from their position of dominance in the household by laws against battery, by women not wanting to be married, by women initiating divorces. Even in the red states, where people are encouraged to get married early because of religion – Utah being the most theocratic and fundamentalist religion, the Mormon religion, has a huge number of divorces. The red states have many more divorces than the blue states. The one, the state, with the least divorces is Massachusetts, which has full abortion laws and also has no particular pressure to get married. The Catholic Church's prohibition against birth control for married people has disappeared. They don't even push it anymore because it's pointless; it's ignored.

And so sexually, there has been a revolution, because the ideology of the purity of a woman has changed. In 1965 less than 25 percent of children were born outside of a marriage. Now, between 40 and 42 percent of children are born outside of a marriage, because the shame of not being married and having a child has disappeared for most of America. In certain fundamentalist areas it's still shamed, but largely that ideology that went along with the class position of woman as domestic laborer, and sexual laborer, and emotional laborer, and social connector of men is gone.

Not only male, Trump-supporting, white men, but also many white women – not as many as the men – are angry, because they no longer can exist without working. They counted on the family wage, and a solid, or at least a long-lasting, marriage to keep them from having two jobs and being married. Now they don't have that luxury. And Trump is the counterrevolution. He started out even before he started office. He was on tape about how fun it is to grab women's genitals, and how you can get away with it. He has 19 active sexual-assault cases against him. He has tried to weaken the battered-women's rules, the violence-against-women rules; eroded, supported the erosion of abortion rights, the erosion of the right to birth control, the erosion of a right to federal appeal for wage discrimination, across the board. And what has changed now is, with Trump, you can see the counterrevolution against what was a real revolution in the household, where women were the underclass who had to please the people who supported them, and who basically couldn't exist with their children outside of a marriage, who are now able to be single – and the majority are – who now, although in an arrangement with men, women do most of the domestic labor and childcare.

In fact, even in households that try to be egalitarian, the studies indicate that women do twice as much domestic labor as men, partly because we're still brought up in a gendered universe in which this is our responsibility. The United States is very backward in that it does not try to fight gender stereotyping. In a country like Sweden, and throughout the Scandinavian countries, they emphasize that girls shouldn’t play with traditionally labeled girls' toys, and boys shouldn’t play with conditionally labeled boys' toys. Sweden has a marvelous preschool program. In their early childhood classes they don't use "he" and "she;" they use people's names. They get off, they get out of gender labeling altogether, which of course, the United States is far from that. Even though, you know, there's now a rugged Barbie who has feet that actually touch the ground – they're not dependent on high heels – but the pressure is still there. Toys are clearly differentiated as girls' toys and boys' toys, even though stores are under pressure to mix them.

We're in a change from, to adjust to, what has been an economic (excuse me), an economic and class transformation of women's position and the ideology that goes with women's subordination, and also the self-concept that goes with needing the protection of a man in order to survive. And the general discussion of who we are as people, or women – these things have all changed. The biggest demonstration seen in the United States in the last 50 years was the million march against discrimination against women that happened just as Trump was being elected, showing both sides of the issue. But we are in an interesting time, a time of adjusting to an economic and social revolution involving women working outside of the home, but with pressure to become gendered. An indication of this conflict is a study that shows that even in the 39 percent of households with men and women where women earn more than men, women do more of the housework, in order to compensate men for their lower salaries.

So these conflicts are very active. And what we have here is an unacknowledged revolution and a powerful counterrevolution against those revolutionary changes. And one of the things that happened is that the capitalist class wanted to export, robotize, mechanize, and computerize what were male jobs and yet not acknowledge the transformation of the household and what it would mean to women's subordinate position as workers within a household that a man owned. That's nowhere more clearly indicated than in the red states, which, I said before, have many more divorces than the blue states, even though their ideology of dominant fundamentalism opposes divorce. But women elect there, as in the other states, the blue states, it is women, 80 percent, that initiate 80 percent of the divorces in the United States.

So what we have here is a revolution and a counterrevolution. The revolution is in the household and personal life. And I didn't mention this before – that also goes to dating. It used to be you met somebody, you liked each other, you went on dates, you got married. No more. Now, you meet each other, you go on, you hang out together, you may go on dates, you might even live with somebody. But the majority will not get married if they're between 18 and 35.

And the biggest development of married couples is married couples with no children, because that means added labor for women. In our backward country, where we don't have universal quality childcare, like they have in France and all over Scandinavia, or generous maternity and paternity leaves, where they have throughout all the other developed countries, people just elect not to have children. People have the lowest fertility rate (excuse me) in the United States that has been seen since the Depression, where people couldn't afford to have children.

And so what you have is, if you look at the struggles, the struggles between the Republicans and Trump, and the progressive Democrats, like Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, you see a struggle between what are the conditions of existence of a new family where there is wage equality, where there's childcare, and after-school care, and subsidized health care, versus how do you try to keep alive the economic conditions of a feudal type of family where women are home with children, even though they don't have the economic wherewithal to be supported. And that's why, at present, according to the government's own statistics, 85 percent of children in day care are in inadequate day care, which means that in their crucial years of brain formation – zero to two most crucial, and then two to four – they're often packed in inadequate quarters, without exercise possibilities, and sitting in front of televisions in wet diapers. Disaster.

This is, this is the country we live in right now. This is Trump and his followers, who think they could go back to the male-dominated universe determined by well-paid male jobs, and the people who realize that's gone, that train has left the station. Women are about half the workforce; we have to adjust to that. We have to change the legislation. We have to protect women. In Scandinavia, in Sweden actually, and Norway, and Denmark, and Finland, and Iceland, single women get subsidized housing. That's why they get 98 percent of men's salaries. They have child allowances, subsidized housing, everyone has after-school and summer care, free health care, free elder care – a different universe. And so the struggle is for what are the conditions of existence for the new family form that has been created in the revolution, the only revolution that has happened in the United States. And that is the hardly noticed revolution in personal lives. It's noticed that things have changed, but it's not noticed as a class transformation, and a revolutionary change with powerful ideological and political ramifications.

Thank you for listening. This episode has been brought to you by Democracy at Work. Please support our work. Visit our website at democracyatwork.info.


Transcript by Marilou Baughman
The original content of this program is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License. Please attribute legal copies of this work to democracyatwork.info. Some of the work(s) that this program incorporates, however, may be separately licensed. For further information or additional permissions, contact us.

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