Rosemarie Tong, Feminist Thought: A More Comprehensive Introduction

Marxist Feminism, Part I: Labor, Class and Women

Frank Strong

The first half of Rosemarie Tong’s chapter on Marxist Feminism lays out the basics of Marxist theory in general. She then goes on to draw connections between Marxist ideology and feminist thought.

Marxist theory attempts to explain the structure of modern industrial society with special emphasis on class and labor. According to Marx, society is broken up into two classes containing those who own the means of production (factories, tools, capital) and the laborers who are exploited to produce the items demanded by the ruling classes (Tong, 96). This exploitation is extended to women with the addition of sexism and gender inequality. Marxist feminists are primarily concerned with the division of labor that keeps women in the domestic sphere and men in the workplace (Tong, 110). In addition to this, when women do enter the workforce, they are delegated to jobs that are deemed appropriate for their gender and are usually underpaid for their work.

Tong also brings up modern conflicts that Marxist feminists are attempting to resolve (Tong, 105). She begins with the idea of making domestic labor more public. According to this idea, meals could be prepared in large eating hall settings. This type of situation, according to the theory’s proponents, would show society the value of women’s work and encourage more equality (Tong, 107). Another issue was the wages-for-housework movement (Tong, 108). This idea suggests that women receive wages for domestic labor either from a husband’s income or from a tax intended to support women’s work.