Originally published in French in 1974, radical feminist Françoise d’Eaubonne surveyed women’s status around the globe and argued that the stakes of feminist struggles were not about equality but about life and death—for humans and the planet.
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In marriage, man and woman are both losers, but the woman is both more alienated and more reassured; the economic advantages of freedom and of direct participation in production are neutralized for her, in single life, by the affective and sexual desert that she fears by tradition and, above all, by the perpetual questioning of lifestyle according to the temporary companion who helps her flee this desert, not counting the dangers of possible pregnancy in a society where abortion remains a crime.
The woman needs particularly advantageous economic conditions, or a taste for independence and a fearlessness in the face of all dangers, to confront such problems in place of the relative comfort offered by marriage: the little fortress-ghetto where one man alone protects you from all the aggressions, the violent acts, the contempt, the insults, the tricks, and the bad behavior of all the others. That is why she will accept almost universally this status of fille au pair who agrees to exhaust herself in nonproductive, free work in exchange for room and board alone, or who will nearly go crazy trying to maintain this work (and raising the children) while working outside in a position, underpaid in 90 percent of the cases.
Revolutionary feminists are demanding that study groups be formed for this problem “that would permit us to examine the ambiguous politics of capitalism and patriarchal/capitalist relations,” they say. Because the invisible work of the housewife is obtained by patriarchal ideology and oppression:
the push to motherhood;
the “nature” of the woman;
on which capitalist oppression attaches itself:
economic dependence on the husband;
barriers to paid work, underpayment;
or double workday.
The capital problem of this constraint rests in the sexual repression of the man and, consequently, more still of the woman. The question of household exploitation intersects thus the liberation of Eros.
If we follow one of these two vectors, either the problem of sexual relations that are situated in France between the prison of marriage vows or the monitored freedom of the single woman, or the second vector, the problem of specific economic exploitation of woman by unpaid work in the home, we will see that one inevitably overlaps the other. Sexual freedom, no longer under conditions, but total, would end all social obligations to marry, for man as well as for woman. At the same time, heterosexuality would disappear as the norm imposed and the structural base of the society, along with sexism and unpaid work in the home for women—it would be the end of the phallocratic patriarchy.
It would be, at the same time, the triumph of the feminine as a second drive incessantly repressed by the historical male development.
It would finally be the massive end to runaway population growth and to intensive productivity to satisfy false needs that distort true desires, hence the end of the massacre of nature, of apocalyptical pollution and the destruction of the environment, the care of which will be picked up again by the sole bearers of life’s sources, women.
The revolutionary spirit will be surpassed by the number-one requirement of the modern world: mutation. Such is the goal of our long march.
-- an excerpt from Feminism or Death by Françoise d’Eaubonne.