Angela Davis Blog
About a year ago, in a crowded auditorium at the University of Southern California, Angela Davis spoke about university diversity and its growing implications for the success of students of color. In a response to a question about her views about this, she said, “Diversity is not a synonym for justice”. Her point that night was to highlight the surface level responses to macro level issues that have continually marginalized underrepresented students in American higher education. She described a blanket — of which was race discussion in the U.S. — as a colorblind instrument that shields the effect from its real cause. From this dialogue, I gathered one clear and evident reality: race has served as a tool of inequality. In this same way, gender roles, traditions, and labor for women, has served as a tool for capitalist inequality and American patriarchy.
In her piece, “Women, Race and Class: The Approaching Obsolescence of Housework: A Working-Class Perspective”, Angela Davis discusses a transformation in the role and status of women, especially black women, in the 21st century. Her argument can be summarized as this: the industrialization and mass production of previously “household” commodities, led to a revalued and devalued position for women who engaged in domestic work that was previously essential to the American household. Eventually, “sexism emerged as a source of outrageous super-profits for the capitalists.” With the onset of industrialism, the denouncement and demotion of women meant that they entered the economy at the same or worse level as the working class.
One of the most interesting aspects of this article is that Angela highlights a significant and overlooked contribution by women, which is childrearing. Women do “the work of giving birth to, raising, disciplining, and servicing the worker for production”. Just consider the physical and emotional strains that childrearing creates among women. For nine months, women must dedicate their time and adjust their day-to-day activities to care for their prenatal bodies. They are subject to risk of illness, accidents, and ultimately limited for a long time. The result of which is a vital aspect of the economy. Drawing on Marx’s “essential duties” of the capitalist, their responsibility (that is, the employers of society) is to ensure that workers are able to reproduce the next generation of workers. Under this account alone, the subjugation and devaluation of women’s status, despite their fruitful contributions presents clear and much needed discussions around patriarchy in the United States. Even worse, the current system of capitalism creates conditions where ethnical, gender-neutral, and equitable hiring is nearly impossible. In 2014, Angela shared some her main concerns facing the U.S. in this article, which covers her thoughts on communist ideologies.
Discussions around ‘housework’ and the changing roles of both men and women today is a critical issue. Angela argues and brings up an important issue: wages and employment opportunities for women. Although I disagree that housework should be financed by the government, as this is a natural duty that all households have within themselves, I do believe the real problem lies in white male patriarchy. The issue is that those in positions of authority (currently predominately white males) have continually restricted important positions across various sectors of employment, especially in STEM fields, to women and people of color. The end result is that women and underrepresented minorities work at lower tier areas of large corporations and institutions, with limited opportunity for mobility to high status positions that could be used to further increase diversity.
If we are to ‘move the needle’ so to speak, improvements must be made in hiring of women in important positions of authority. Despite women completing college at higher rates than males, their representation in many leadership positions is stark. The fact is that capitalism in the U.S. coincides with racial patriarchy, limiting mobility among those who make the largest contributions. For Angela Davis to call for “universal and subsidized child care” is ideal and necessary, but our current profit driven economy calls for continued low-status and low-waged workers.