How can Marxism be applied to gender stratification?

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Marxist Feminism, or Materialist Feminism, is a theoretical framework which analyzes gender stratification through Marxist theory. Traditionally, Karl Marx's body of work, and later Marxist texts, have applied to socioeconomic stratification in terms of the relationship between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat. Marxist Feminism proposes that women are similarly exploited...

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Marxist Feminism, or Materialist Feminism, is a theoretical framework which analyzes gender stratification through Marxist theory. Traditionally, Karl Marx's body of work, and later Marxist texts, have applied to socioeconomic stratification in terms of the relationship between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat. Marxist Feminism proposes that women are similarly exploited by men in the way that the proletariat are exploited by the bourgeoisie. This theoretical framework largely applies to capitalist society but there are applications for other socioeconomic structures. 

I find that a helpful way of understanding how women's work may be exploited, or different forms of labor may be gendered is to consider stereotypical beliefs held about what kind of work is appropriate. Think for a moment about the "traditional" or "1950's" family model, where a mother works in the home and a father works outside of the home. Here, women are expected to fill many roles under the umbrella of "homemaker-" tutor, nurse, personal chef, housekeeper, laundress, administrator, and hostess. All the while, they receive no pay aside from the salary their husbands are expected to bring home. Men have traditionally not had the same obligations in parenting or homemaking as their wifely counterparts.

Consider the ways women are systemically kept from achieving to the same degree as their male peers. Women are often discouraged from seeking higher education or may not be taken seriously in their profession, especially in STEM fields. Further, in the United States, the wage gap persists at an average of 75%. This means that for men and women who perform the same work, women earn an average of just 75% of what a man earns. The gap is even larger for women of color, with women of Latin or Hispanic descent earning only 55% of what a man earns for doing the same kinds of work. Such a large pay gap systemically prevents women from achieving the same kind of economic security, health status, and personal agency their male peers attain. In a Marxist Feminist framework, this wage gap is not just chocked up to women not performing up to standard or differences in gendered behavior- it is exploitation of women, especially women of color, to maintain positions of power for men.

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