Why Women Have Better Sex Under Socialism
One of the most positive features of state socialism, Ghodsee argues, is that it gave women economic independence from men. In the former Soviet countries, women may not have been able to take part in free elections or find a diversity of consumer goods, but they were guaranteed public education, jobs, housing, health care, maternity leave, child allowances, child care, and more. Not only did this arrangement liberate women and men alike from the anxieties and pressures of sink-or-swim capitalism; it also meant that women were much less likely to rely on male partners for the fulfillment of basic needs. This in turn meant that heterosexual women’s romantic relationships with men were more optional, less constrained by economic considerations, and often more egalitarian. As Ghodsee writes in her book:
When women enjoy their own sources of income, and the state guarantees social security in old age, illness, and disability, women have no economic reason to stay in abusive, unfulfilling, or otherwise unhealthy relationships. In countries such as Poland, Hungary Czechoslovakia, Bulgaria, Yugoslavia, and East Germany, women’s economic independence translated into a culture in which personal relationships could be freed from market influences. Women didn’t have to marry for money.
Alexandra [Kollontai] wanted to create public canteens where people could eat. She wanted to create public laundries. She also wanted to create mending cooperatives, because back then mending was a huge task that women had to do at home and she thought it would be more efficient if done collectively, reducing the burden on individual women.
What we see is that when women have economic independence from men — in the sense that they can support children out of wedlock, they have jobs, they have pensions, they have access to housing and their basic needs like utilities and food are subsidized — they don’t stick around in relationships that are unsatisfying. When they can leave, they don’t stay with men who don’t treat them well.
So if a man is heterosexual and he wants to be in a relationship with a woman, it’s not that easy to get a woman by providing her economic security she doesn’t have, or buying her something that she needs. He has to be kind, thoughtful, attractive in other ways. And it turns out that when men have to be “interesting” in order to attract women, they are. They actually end up being better men. It’s not that difficult a concept. I don’t know why people are so shocked by this.
I think that in a culture where women have more economic opportunities, men self-civilize in a way because they realize that if they want to be in relationships with women they can’t be abusive, they can’t take women for granted.
There were brilliant socialist feminists in the seventies, people like Silvia Federici and others, who were making the case that large structural changes would reorganize relationships between men and women. What happened is that, as Nancy Fraser has written about, feminism was largely co-opted by neoliberal capitalism. So we ended up getting a kind of Sheryl Sandberg-style “lean in” feminism, which is all about individual success and creating conditions for a handful of women to be as filthy rich as a handful of men are.
The idea of socialist feminism evaporated with the general global backlash against Marxism and the rise of neoliberalism. We’re still surviving that now.
Because I’m an ethnographer who’s been doing field work in Eastern Europe for twenty years, I know many people who will tell you that life was much more nuanced and complex, and not as overwhelmingly negative as Westerners imagine. Certainly not everybody was marching around in Mao suits with shaved heads, or starving in the streets and begging for a pair of jeans.
Young people who are coming to socialist ideas today, they get automatically whacked over the head with the cudgel of twentieth-century socialist crimes in Eastern Europe. If you say anything about state-funded health care, people start screaming about the purges and the gulags. We have to be able to have a nuanced, thoughtful, enriching conversation about the past. The anti-communist knee-jerk reaction you get in the United States makes it difficult to have that conversation. I hope my book makes it a little easier.
Ça me fait penser au truc que j’ai posté sur les régimes autoritaires, Trump, Duterte, etc. qui tapaient sur les femmes.