In some feminist circles, it is taboo to use the words “capitalism’” and “feminism” together in one sentence. Capitalism is so historically linked with Patriarchy that it is almost natural for a feminist to call for it to end. But what if we can use capitalism to create the change that we want?
In this episode, I get real about the power and influence of money and how women can use it to advance their advocacies. Women can work within the patriarchal system to smash patriarchy one small cause at a time. Listen in and learn how to create radical change in your community through capitalism.
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Capitalism, The Patriarchy, & Feminism
Capitalism is a dirty word in many feminist circles, even non-feminist circles. It’s tightly entwined with patriarchy. For a long time, I felt guilty about wanting to make money, liking money, and wanting to help others make money because I felt like I was feeding into that greedy capitalist mindset. Capitalism might be the thing that saves us. In this episode, we’re exploring capitalism and how we can use it to create radical change. Let’s get started.
I feel like I needed to start this episode with one of those distraction tactics. The meme that starts out talking about hair and makeup tips and then halfway through, it’s like, “We’ve got the men bored and they left. Ladies, it’s on.”
This episode feels almost subversive in a way that is a little bit scary and a lot exciting, so let’s jump right in.
If you don’t know already, I love definitions. We’re going to start the show with a couple of definitions so that we’re all on the same page. Let’s first define patriarchy. It’s a system of society or government in which men hold the power and women are largely excluded from it. It seems apt for our situation.
And to be clear, women can support the patriarchy as much as men can. This is not a man only issue. Misogyny is a real thing. That’s another topic for another day.
The definition of capitalism is an economic and political system in which a country’s trade and industry are controlled by private owners for profit rather than by the state.
A Brief History Of Capitalist Patriarchy
Here’s a little history of capitalism. I think it’s important here. We started to see the rise of capitalism in the early 1900s with the Industrial Revolution. It has always been a system that values money, profit, and productivity above all else. It birthed the obsession that we have in modern culture with hustle culture and productivity porn.
I’ve seen an obscene amount of productivity porn pop up since the pandemic began back in March of 2020, where you were supposed to take the quarantine time to write the next great American novel. It’s also this obsession of job creation over job quality.
For productivity porn and hustle culture, think about the time in a woman’s career outside the home when her career is most likely to stagnate. You tend to notice that it starts during the childbearing years. People assume that a woman’s productivity and availability will go down because they’ll be too distracted in raising children.
You have the focus on job creation. It’s like this laudable saint-like act without any focus on the quality of those jobs. We always hear about such and such company creating 10,000 jobs and that’s amazing. It’s a big thing to report on the number of jobs created in the economy in any given quarter or year as if that alone tells the whole story. Not all jobs are created equal.
Every conscious effort to create and sustain change in the world is a step in the right direction. Click To Tweet
Let’s use an example. If you’re in the United States and you made less than $100,000, then you got a stimulus check of $1,200. They arrived at this number of $1,200 by taking the federal minimum wage, which is $7.25 and multiplying that by 40 hours a week times four weeks. If you’re doing the math, that’s around $1,160, rounded up to $1,200. There’s your stimulus check.
If anyone, at this point, has noticed $1,200 a month is not enough to live on. $1,200 doesn’t even pay half of my rent and I live in a moderately-sized city in the United States. I couldn’t imagine how much that money is barely contributing to people who live in larger cities like New York, LA, or something like that.
Even if we double this number to $14.50 an hour, since most people are advocating around a $15 an hour minimum wage, that’s still $2,400. That will pay my rent, but it’s not going to pay for much else. A person, in most places in America, cannot live on $2,400 a month.
Let’s say then that a big business comes, builds a store in a rural community, and creates 10,000 jobs that pay $15 an hour. Capitalism in those job reports that everybody loves to look at say, “They created 10,000 jobs. They’re amazing. Let’s give them a tax break.” You can’t live on $15 an hour. Arguably, in many places in the United States, $15 an hour and 40 hours a week is still not going to sustain you. All they’ve done is created 10,000 instances of poverty or 10,000 instances of people who have to work more than 40 hours a week, two jobs, at least, in order to pay the bills.
How do you work two jobs if one job is only paying you $2,400 a month? That’s gross. That’s before taxes come out of that paycheck and everything. How do you live to survive on that?
This focus within capitalism on job creation over job quality has certainly widened the socioeconomic divide between the top earners in the United States and everyone else. A billionaire being praised for creating 10,000 jobs that put people into poverty is a problem. It’s capitalism in a nutshell. If we’re not straight up praising them, we’re paying them to come here into a community and create jobs.
Look at Amazon building its HQ2 headquarters in Arlington, Virginia. Virginia voted to give Amazon something like $750 million in tax subsidies over a period of roughly fifteen or so years. These HQ2 are not paying $15 an hour. They are higher-wage jobs. They’re all salaried, which is going to bring about a whole other mass of changes in the area. It’s going to raise housing prices and stuff like, higher than they already are.
The argument for giving them this $750 million was that it would ultimately pay for itself in taxes, like income taxes or sales taxes, for more people living in the area. Basically, if you get hired to work at Amazon’s HQ2, Amazon is already making a cut of your labor, but you’re also literally paying them for giving you a job. You’re paying taxes into a state that’s giving subsidies and stuff back to Amazon.
This doesn’t shed capitalism in a great light but this is how capitalism has set itself up to be the redheaded stepchild because they put profits over people. Because they put profits over people, you have many instances where you can look back and advocate for the fact that capitalism is a fucked-up system. We need to get rid of it. The most glaring one that always stands out to me that I feel like we do not talk about often enough when it comes to capitalism, worker’s rights, and worker safety are the Radium Girls from the early 1920s.
You can take patriarchy down by operating inside the current framework of capitalism. Click To Tweet
The Radium Girls were hand painting watch dials to be glow in the dark. They were instructed to suck the tip of the brush to bring it to a fine point so that they could more easily paint the dials because the brushes would get misshapen or whatever after painting a couple of watch faces. The brushes would need to be manipulated to come back to a fine point.
They didn’t want them to wipe the brushes on a damp cloth or something like that because it wasted too much time and product. They were told to swirl the brush against their lips or tongue to bring it back to a fine point. Glow in the dark paint in 1920 was made out of radium. They were ingesting lethal amounts of radium and got sick.
Not only did the company who was paying them to paint the watch dials tell them that radium was safe, but they also went so far as lying to the workers and telling them that everything was fine. No big deal. They had reports and whatever telling them that this was not safe and it was killing people.
They said radium is good for you in small doses. The women were painting their nails, teeth, and lips because it was cool and you glowed in the dark. Not only were they telling them that radium was safe, which was a lie, but they were fabricating health exam results. Women started to get sick. They were getting cancer. Their bones were becoming brittle. They were developing anemia. They were fabricating health exam results to hide the fact that they were knowingly killing these women.
Eventually, the women took their employers and the company to court. They sued and won something like the modern equivalent of $150,000 each plus $9,000 per month for life and all medical and legal expenses paid in full. By doing this, they impacted the labor rights movement by influencing the creation of new laws that allowed workers to sue their employers over unsafe working conditions.
If you need another example of a big name something like this, I highly recommend the movie, Dark Waters with Mark Ruffalo and Anne Hathaway about DuPont and Teflon. It’s based on a true story. It’s chilling. It made me never want to use Teflon ever again.
The Power To Create Change
These are extreme examples of the worst of the worst that capitalism has to offer for sure. I’m not saying that every fight to change the system or whatever will be like this, people dying, long legal battles in court, and things like that. We have the power to create change however big or small if we start by gaming the capitalist system to make more money and use that money to fund whatever cause creates the change you want to create.
I hear women in feminist circles all the time, I know I have this conversation with my friends often, “We need to eradicate capitalism. Capitalism is gross. It keeps people down.” I think there are aspects of capitalism that are incredibly fucked up.
You have that profit over people, productivity at all costs that leaves people stressed out, overworked, underpaid. Capitalism is fucked up in many ways and also deeply entwined with the patriarchy. If you take down the patriarchy, you inevitably change capitalism. You can take down the patriarchy by operating inside the framework of capitalism.
Men have been using capitalism to prop up the patriarchy for over a century. Surely, women can find a way to dismantle it in the same way. Click To Tweet
In capitalism, money talks. Money is power. That’s why you see this imbalance of billionaires versus everyday working Americans. The billionaires use their money to fund PACs to influence the government. If you have the money to influence the government, you can influence the government.
Monsanto spent billions of dollars, if not hundreds of millions of dollars, blocking GMO legislation so they wouldn’t have to label whatever they were putting in their food. Could you imagine a company spending billions of dollars so that they don’t have to tell you what you’re eating in their product? That is the influence that you can have when you have more money.
I like money. I like to make money. I like to buy shit with money. I like to help other women make money. I like to help women constructively funnel that money into places that will help create change.
What I’m proposing here, what this show and my business itself are about is that we make as much money as possible. We can then use that money to wield influence all the way from our local communities to the highest level of government.
This is one of those moments where the call is coming from inside the house. We can use the machinations of capitalism to create our own change. Men have been doing this for centuries. Why can’t women do the same thing?
Creating change doesn’t have to look like suing a billion-dollar corporation. It can be any as simple as funding a need-based scholarship at your alma mater so that someone who can’t afford college can get an education. It can be sitting on the board of a foundation that runs leadership programs for young girls. It can be starting your own foundation about the pro-choice movement, domestic violence, human trafficking, or whatever your cause may be. It can be donating to programs like Kiva, which funds women entrepreneurs globally, especially in communities where women entrepreneurs are often underserved or don’t have a safe way to borrow capital for their businesses.
I was having an interesting conversation with a friend once. Both of us were wondering where to start. If we want to unravel all the things in our society that are truly fucked up, where do we begin? This conversation had a lot between people who want to create change.
This conversation is built on the idea that we all have to show up collectively at the exact same time, doing the exact same thing in order to create change. I don’t necessarily know if that’s the case. I feel that every little bit, every conscious effort to create and sustain change in the world is a step in the right direction.
The little changes you make in your community grow into grassroots effort, which gains attention on a bigger stage. There’s more support. It all steamrolls itself from one place to another at some point as long as there’s a conscious effort to sustain the change that you want to make. If this is a change you want to see happen at the national level, you can start creating that change in your local community.
Build it up into some communities around you and then into your state. Talk to people in neighboring states. It’s something that you can start small, grow over time, and create change in that way. Maybe you don’t want to affect change at the national level but you want to see a change in your community. That’s perfect. Do that too.
If men have been using capitalism to prop up the patriarchy for over a century, then surely, we as women can find a way to dismantle the patriarchy in the same way. We’re in such a unique position as online business owners because the world of online business is largely self-sustaining.
If this pandemic has taught me anything, it’s that the world of women-owned online businesses—I would say that largely online business, in general—is this self-sustaining microcosm. We’re all buying from and supporting each other. I support women who are turning around—t’s all cyclical—we’re all paying each other and feeding into our own little microeconomy.
That gives us a perfect example of how we can use our own microeconomy to increase our financial influence. Online coaching and this business is a multi-billion-dollar industry. Collectively, we can put that money to damn good use. We can go out and use that money to wield influence in order to make a difference and show up and smash the patriarchy.
I know this conversation is nuanced, depending on what you do, who you work with, where you work. The idea that we’re able to work within the confines of the system in order to help create a new one rather than bound to the capitalism that had women sucking on radium-filled paintbrushes is so much more empowering to me. It won’t be the first time that women have played the game in order to rewrite the rules. I doubt that it will be the last. That’s it for this episode. If you want to share your thoughts with us on this or other episodes, you can email us at Podcast@FeministVisionaries.com.