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The Status of Women in America

By Andy Barns

The status of women is one of the prime indicators of how advanced a society is. Despite improvements in the legal status of women over recent decades, we must still ask if sexual consent, a cornerstone of women’s status, of women’s autonomy, is respected in the US? Is this yet a country where survivors of sexual assault will be believed?All too frequently, the answer is still no. Thankfully, millions of Americans have demonstrated through public debate and, more important, public demonstrations, that survivors will be believed even when those in power refuse to do so. Survivors can and should feel safe to speak. We must all struggle to make this universal.While many working people and even some political high-rollers want justice for survivors, the machinery of state power demonstrates time and again its incapacity to deliver justice on the issue of sexual assault. The sitting president has nineteen credible allegations of sexual assault against him and in private has bragged about sexual assault, in fact recommended it. He has not only mocked women publicly and in unvarnished sexual terms, especially those who oppose him, but publicly ridiculed the eminently credible Dr. Christine Blasey Ford in front of cheering crowds. Now, a petulant, privileged, and plainly dishonest man who has a credible allegation of sexual assault against him has the power to make the law.

Other men, and some women, in power have openly supported the practice of sexual assault by supporting such individuals as Trump and Kavanaugh despite widespread public outrage, all for the ultimate goal, no doubt, of pushing a forced birth “pro-life” agenda, to say nothing of other planned attacks on the working class such as crippling unions and ruling in favor of corporations.

But the state has another weapon at its disposal to defend against calls for equality: frightened men who risk losing their status as conquerors of women. The struggle for equality and common dignity in all walks of life has been impeded, historically and in the present, by an instinctual fear of the loss of power by the powerful. It could be the loss of an estate or a title, or the elevated status of a particular race or creed. It could be the loss of power on the factory floor or the streets.

Now, with the traditional power of men over women’s sexuality and reproduction still in question, we can be certain this fear runs strong through the minds of those who occupy positions of power. It has been successfully weaponized among portions of the working class despite the fact that the likelihood of a false allegation of rape is minuscule compared to the likelihood that a credible report of rape will go uninvestigated and unpunished.

This illustrates two things about the status of women in America:

First, that state power left to its own devices will not promote security and autonomy for women, to say nothing of working people generally. Indeed, as long as those clearly guilty of sexual assault (never mind their apologists) can hold the levers of state power, security and autonomy for women is impossible. The Democratic “opposition” is willfully ineffectual. There must arise a force outside state power and adjacent to it which will promote the freedom of women. To be decisive, this force can only come from the working class, the vast majority who produce everything by their labor. Institutions twisted within state power, the political duopoly that serves only capital, cannot be this force. They are incapable of enshrining justice for women. In capitalist reality, their function is to make dehumanization into policy.

Second, that the successes of women’s liberation have collided with the insecurity of men, their fear of losing of their power, their fear of replacement. Many men have been manipulated into fear by huge propaganda networks serving capital’s interest in stopping women’s equality. The tangle of fear and falsehood spread by these networks against the #MeToo movement and against women’s autonomy in general is a reaction to the success (and possibilities) of that movement.

The hope, as always, remains with the working class to struggle for a better world, as we believe it ultimately will. It must be reiterated that the working class has struggled for and won advances in the dignity and rights of women, often (and inevitably) with women workers at the head of the movement.
Times are dark, but we believe justice, actual justice, will eventually reign supreme, and we will have a world where sexual assault does not cast a shadow over women’s lives through either law or culture.

Down with the sexist government!
No office for rapists!
Full freedom for women over their bodies!