We often underestimate that many women do in fact have some amount of resources of our own. Even though we may be ourselves privately owned by a man, father or pimp and most of our work and production are stolen by men, whether with forced domestic and child raising work in the home, by slaving for husbands or other males of the family to sustain their businesses, the constant extra burdens of unpaid chores required from women in paid jobs or when men steal and exploit the products of our intelligence, findings, inventions, genius and creativity at work – many of us still manage to earn something of our own, even if it may be minimal: we may have some income, and if we’re lucky enough, we may have just enough money to be able to pay a small rent and food for ourselves, or we have some property, furniture of our own, a flat, house, land, or we may have inherited of a bit of money from our grandparents, or have some daddy government benefits, etc. It might be barely just enough to live, or maybe not enough to live with but with a few arrangements over time can eventually made to be bearable. That is, we could potentially find ways to survive on our own, if our captor didn’t kill us after leaving him.
So despite women being the poorest and most destitute, pillaged people of the entire world (obviously, since men’s system of oppression is only directed against women), we are often not completely without any resources at all.
What I realised recently, is how misleading the male-centred view on labour exploitation is on explaining women’s primary source of impoverishment. Women’s first and foremost source of excruciating impoverishment is not, as reformists say, the 20 or 30% pay gap, the “double work shift” of paid job plus unpaid domestic work, the “glass ceiling” (man-ceiling) preventing women from accessing better-paid positions, etc. At best this perspective doesn’t explain anything and is dead circular logic. It takes a peripheral fact disconnected from its context by presenting a microscopic symptom of men’s accumulation of wealth (based on rape, theft and destruction) as a cause as well as consequence. Which is like saying the explosion is what caused the house to explode. The tautology is even worse than that actually, a more apt example would be: the presence of flying debris caused by the explosion is what caused the house to explode and this is at the same time a consequence and symptom of the explosion. Get that level of mindfuck and omission of agent? (where’s the terrorist who put the bomb in the house?)
Even if we adopt the more radical view that men’s global accumulation and monopoly of wealth is primarily achieved from trading women for rape and forced reproduction, and from pillage, genocide and destruction of the elements (one of men’s most lucrative businesses are prostitution, pornography, general trafficking/trade of women for rape and marriage, and derivative “cosmetic” businesses capitalising on the systemic torture and crippling of women), well that still doesn’t completely explain women’s excruciating poverty compared to men in places where women can work and have minimal income. Even these horrors alone aren’t enough to completely quash and disable all owned women economically, whatever their economic status.
That’s because the central cause of women’s impoverishment isn’t impersonal and institutional, but comes from men individually stealing from women in their individual homes. The owner, husband, master, stealing from the woman’s own pocket. I only realised how literal it was quite recently. This is the primary pattern of women’s crippling poverty. It became clear to me after hearing story after story of women being ransacked to the bone by their own husbands or boyfriends, it was typical of every abuse story I’ve heard of – these men systematically stealing their salary, signing credits, debts or mortgages in the woman’s name, binding women in suicidal financial situations or reckless business plans, stealing women’s property, flats or houses by signing it in their (the man’s) name, taking siege of the woman’s flat or house and refusing to move out, spending women’s income on drugs, cars, expensive restaurants, gambling, prostitution or whatever their pet fetish is, controlling access to their bank account, or systematically sabotaging their access to work, income or property in any form, by moving her far away from her work, wrecking her chances to find employment in any way possible, sabotaging her relationship with her employer, or finding ways to cut her benefits for childcare, preventing her from using the money she has for herself, etc, etc. The list is endless.
And what is peculiar about this theft is that men will do it regardless of their own status, income or actual financial needs, regardless of the woman’s status or income – they will steal her money or any potential to make money of her own, leaving her with barely enough to feed herself and the children and to pay for her daily necessities, and very often with not enough to feed herself and the children. The man can be rich and the woman earning a minimum wage, the woman may be earning a good salary and the man unemployed and without any resources of his own, or both having similar income – I have seen every possible combination, nothing stops them.
This is what “Domestic violence” training programs would call “economic violence” (yes lots of quotes here). What they mean euphemistically by “economic violence” is control of the woman’s resources by the “abuser”. This is actually inaccurate because they don’t just control her resources, they literally take it away from her. We call this theft, plain and simple. It’s the systematic pillaging of woman’s personal resources, and her complete financial crippling. The element of control is added to the theft when he demands his victim to justify her slightest spending and has to provide receipts to him for everything she buys. Well, that reminds me of something doesn’t it, isn’t that what the father state requires of women’s organisations, to justify every penny spent on the pocket money he gave them?
This sheds further light on the complete reversal and lie which is the idea that men maintain women financially so that women have to depend economically on them, explaining why they don’t leave. Well, the reality is worse, and men are far more parasitic than I even thought. The reality is that most women are most poor when living with a man, regardless of how rich or poor he may be, or regardless how rich or poor she was before she met him – he will rob her. I’ll always remember the example of Virginia Woolf who was well-off thanks to the success of her writing, yet her husband made her poor by taking away all her money: “By April 1938, the year she published Three Guineas, she was existing only on the pocket money Leonard allowed her– out of her own earnings.” (Cherryblossomlife, “The Life and Death of Virginia Woolf”)
Women can survive economically without men, and most would actually fare better without men from an economic point of view, contrary to what reformist stats say: stats generally state that after a separation or divorce, men’s net income increases, while women’s net income decreases: what it fails to look at is in who’s hands were the resources of the woman during marriage. Despite all the horrors committed to women at work, the fact women are globally impoverished by men in every way, the underpayment, the theft of our labour and creativity, the fact we have to raise kids in terrible conditions with no help at all (etc.), well despite all this, women are far better off economically on their own than with a man, because they avoid the worst kind of theft – of being financially drained by her own husband. Men don’t marry women to support us economically, they marry women to suck the life out of us, to own us, rape and forcibly impregnate us, and this requires plundering everything and anything we may have for ourselves – even our souls.
The reason why the reformist perspective is so misleading, above being a mindfuck, is that whenever we look at men’s oppression of women in male-centred terms, that is in terms of collective exploitation, slavery or institutional oppression, we miss the centre of men’s oppression of women which is the oppression and ownership of one individual man on one individual woman, whether by a husband, father or pimp. It is essentially a one-to-one oppression, of one man against one woman, and the wider institutions are only there to aggressively uphold this one-to-one appropriation. The reason it is configured this way is of course because this is how each man gets to control reproduction and force reproduction on women – in order to have this reproductive control, it is biologically necessary for men to keep raping a woman over time. And to prevent her from escaping she has to be locked in his home, deprived of any autonomy. This is what marriage is all about.
When we see it in these terms, it becomes obvious that the primary source of all women’s horrendous misery and poverty comes from being owned by a man and not from remote, impersonal pay gaps or lack of political representation. Women will always be safer by staying away from the men closest to us; always.
What this led me to think about is what it meant for women to free ourselves individually from each of our own primary oppressor (husband, father, boyfriend, pimp). That is, if we survived the hardest part, which is getting away from him without being maimed or killed by him in retaliation and managed to disappear from his reach after our flight, then I think the hardest part of liberation has been overcome. The rest is decolonising progressively from embedded maleness, and surviving in a hostile, male-driven, genocidal world. Surviving on our own in a male economy and confronting our pain and wounds might be harsh and even excruciating but it’s nothing in comparison to living under the constant reign of terror of a husband, father or pimp. It’s nothing in comparison to being imprisoned by our torturer 24/7. The biggest threat that we face in our lives is of being owned by a man or pimp, and being raped and killed by him or any male occupants. If we manage to escape this fate, anything else is violence of a lesser degree. It left me wondering what would really happen if all women started to leave men at the same time. What would men do? Would they start an open war against all women? Or would they target individually each woman that left them? Would everything collapse? Is the leap easier than we think it is, given that many women are persuaded that they’re better off with men despite all evidence of the contrary?