The Marxist ideas about the origins of gender inequality are that it was caused by capitalism and production changes that restructured social control (Moore 222). Previous beliefs and assumptions about the roots of gender inequalities being physiological in nature need to be re-examined through a historical and conceptual lens pre-capitalism.
For example, early Native Americans were structured in a non-political and non-hierarchical fashion. Their social structure was egalitarian, and women’s places were equal to that of man regardless of strength. This changed when economies developed and land ownership commenced. It was a qualitative change the resulted from disruptions in the production process rather than physiological differences (Leacock 266). Originally, production, distribution, exchange and consumption were equally regarded. As capitalism strengthened, men became the valued money makers, and women were became the wards of men. Their work in the home was not considered essential, and domestic work was isolated as service work.
This fundamentally changed the value of women, who became commodities themselves. Marx claims that two events sparked gender equality. The first being loss of control over production through division of labor, which created hierarchical structures. Second was the dependency that occurred when women became homemakers that could not keep their homes without their husband’s efforts (Leacock 268). It is not suggested that these changes were purposefully calculated with the goal of gender inequality, and it is assumed that this was an accidental result. Looking back to primitive communist societies, it can be seen that women were part of egalitarian society where their work was valued as essential to community.
This can be seen in other areas such as Australia, the Amazon and Africa, but there are differences. For example, male dominance appears to be an adaptive trait in early Amazonians resulting from the need for strength (Leacock 274). Marxist thought on the subject of gender inequalities makes it clear that gender inequalities were not resultant from physiological traits but actually from capitalism.
- Leacock, Eleanor. “Interpreting the Origins of Gender Inequality: Conceptual and Historical Problems.” Dialectical Anthropology, vol. 7, no. 4, 1983, pp. 263-284, http://www.jstor.org/stable/29790079. Accessed 11 Feb 2018.
- Moore, Jerry. Visions of Culture. 3rd ed., AltaMira, 2009.