Students have evidenced unrest with sexual harassment and rapes, which until now were naturalized. They have forced us to speak about these issues. Besides the shirtless protests and how we should react before harassment. Many men will now consider these elements when “flirting” or directly harassing a woman. Students have taught us we cannot remain silent: we must fight to be heard and have our demands answered.
How do working women experience male chauvinistic violence?
All workers suffer from unstable employees, insufficient wages, extenuating work shifts, and are exploited by our employers. However, for working women, the situation is worse. We see male chauvinism when women have lower wages than men, in the same job, we have lower pensions, and we have a double-shift due to housework. Besides, we suffer violence from our own co-workers: sexual harassment. We are treated like baby-sisters, or there are more barbaric levels, like rape, physical violence or femicides.
Women: gender unites us, class divides us
The reality of working women is very far from that of rich and entrepreneur women. Male chauvinism affects all, but some women abuse, discriminate and exploit women, children and men. The fact they are women does not imply they are our allies. For example, Evelyn Matthei said she “supported” women’s struggle. However, she is a hypocrite because she fired around 70 teaches in Providencia. She was the chief of Education of the AFP Superintendence during the Pinochet dictatorship, profiting from men and women’s pensions, defending a dictatorial regime that killed and tortured men and women. The women of the Nueva Mayoría (New Majority) are not different: Bachelet pushed the labor reform that attacked the right to strike and the worker unions, her administration repressed Mapuche men and women, among many others.
Therefore, it is not true that the more women in office (presidents, representatives, etc.), the better conditions there will be for all women because the situation remains the same or worsens for working women and their children.
Who and what are the true responsible for perpetuating male chauvinism?
A set of the system’s institutions reproduce the idea of women as inferior beings or sexual objects: schools, university, church, laws, the parliament that applies and defends them, governments, etc. Male chauvinism will not end if we do not change these institutions because they reproduce oppression. For example, the Church continues to hold women as the husband’s property and gives her a secondary place in the family. Or, laws and courts still stand for women earning a lower wage.
We need laws, education, etc., in service of workers, against male chauvinism, exploitation and all discriminations. It is not enough to change the people leading the institutions; we must destroy them from their root, to set the bases for a complete cultural change.
But, why do not a few changes on these institutions suffice? For example, changes in laws and other things like those proposed by the Frente Amplio. Why do we need to destroy them? To answer this, we must name who reproduces male chauvinism, and who run and rule these institutions: entrepreneur men and women. The interests of entrepreneurs will always seek to increase their profit. For this, they cut expenses at all costs and control institutions that will guarantee their objective. The laws, courts, and parliament are all in their service. It is convenient for them to have a sector of the working class in disadvantage (oppressed), to lower their wages and labor conditions. Besides, through oppression, they increase their profits since they divide us as a class. We hold ourselves as male chauvinistic, xenophobic, racists, and we do not identify as a working class to be able to fight together.
Why must the working class take the fight against male chauvinism into their hands?
Male chauvinism affects working women the most, therefore we must be the front line in the battle.
Piñera in his “gender agenda” proposed insufficient measures, like facilitating procedures for women to remarry after sepparating, or the increase of nursery schools, but at the expense of the workers! Or direct attacks, by proposing to increase the contribution of the Isapres workers, to eliminate the gap of contribution between men and women. He also seeks to change the labor reform to stop further strikes stopping production. Attacks on men and women that must by faced by the working class.
To change the institutions and oust the entrepreneurs who profit from oppressions, we need much strength. Women’s struggle is not enough, we need working men to abandon their male chauvinistic privileges and fight by our side.
We must add to the fight against harassment and rapes, the fight for the end of wage gap between men and women, decent wages, and the end of the AFPs that steel from men and women. The state must take on domestic housework to free women from the double shift. And, we need an emergency budget to stop and to fight violence against women, which should be financed with the resources the entrepreneurs take from the state funds or the AFPs.
For this, we need:
- The first step is for trade unions to discuss these issues and add them to their demands in mobilizations.
- This should also take place in neighborhoods, in the neighbor associations.
- To push from these places effective solidarity with mobilized students. If the preparation of a great general strike advances that takes on these demands, the movement would have more influence and concrete support.
Today, students stand for the feminist struggle. Great conquests were achieved through feminist waves, which were processes of women struggle against male chauvinism. In the first wave, there was the struggle for the right to vote (by bourgeois feminist activism). The second wave (which gave birth to radical feminism) fought in favor of free day care, the right to abortion, and equal access to work and education. These struggles left important conquests and lessons.
However, the Russian Revolution (RR) was one of the processes with more achievements for women’s liberation, and for humanity as a whole. A process that began with textile working women in the lead. The RR did more for women in the first months of the worker government than capitalist countries ever did. The new constitution established that women had rights equal to men in all grounds of life.
In 1918, equal wages between men and women were instated; it was the first State to do so. In 1918, a new Family Code was adopted. It was the most advanced: it instated civil matrimony and simplified divorce. Free abortion was adopted. Prostitutes were not criminalized, but measures were adopted to solve the causes that led them to become prostitutes: they received free medical attention in hospitals, and their cultural level was improved, just as their job possibilities, with this prostitution disappeared. One of the main tasks pushed by the Worker State was the socialization of domestic housework: the State guaranteed day care, laundries and public canteens.
All this took place in the framework of a deeper change, where the society was in service of workers, not of entrepreneurs who exploit and profit at the expense of our rights. This setback due to the posterior government of the dictator Joseph Stalin, and with the defeat of the socialist revolution in other countries, until capitalism was restored in Russia.
The Russian Revolution was a very enriching experience because it showed that the struggle of the entire working class with a clear project was able to overthrow entrepreneur governments, and achieved deeper conquests than just women’s struggle. Therefore, the working class must take this struggle into their hands.