Feminism for the 99% is a manifesto published in 2009 by the editions Verso and written by three authors: the Italian Cinzia Arruzza, the American Nancy Fraser and the Indian Tithi Bhattacharya. All three are professors at American universities and their research focuses on feminism, philosophy, socialism and marxism.
Their book Feminism for the 99% is intended to be an international manifesto, following the model of the Manifesto of the Communist Party By Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, for a feminist that is anti-capitalist and truly at the benefit of the majority and not a privileged elite.
“Rejecting the zero-sum framework capitalism constructs for us, feminism for the 99 percent aims to unite existing and future movements into a broad-based global insurgency. Armed with a vision that is at once feminist, anti-racist, and anticapitalist, we pledge to play a major role in shaping our future.” (p. 57)
A criticism of liberal/corporate feminism
The authors are very critical of liberal feminism, that feminism of the elites and of the system, that, far from being intersectional, is only emphasizing access to the job market in order to liberate women. This purely economic vision certainly omits many other factors (social, political…) necessary to gender equality, but more importantly, it does not fight for all women. On the contrary, this liberal feminism focuses on a handful of women already privileged in terms of social class, national origin and race, among others.
Corporate feminism is particularly aimed at women managers, who indeed benefit from neoliberalism, at the expense of the majority of other women, especially the ones who are poor, immigrants and racialized. The latter have to work in poor conditions, for example to educate the children and do the housework of the same women managers who delegate this care work to them.
Thus, liberal feminism reproduces inequalities by agreeing with the dominant ideology, even though it is harmful for so many women. According to the authors of the manifesto, corporate feminism basically advocates for an “equal opportunity domination” (p. 2), that is to say that this kind of feminism wants women to be able to dominate their poor employees and become wealthier at the expense of the rest of the population, just as male managers do. It is a good thing to ask for equal pay with men, but even if it was achieved, poor women workers would remain as precarious as poor men workers.
“We have no interest in breaking the glass ceiling while leaving the majority to clean up the shards.” (p. 13)
Who are the 99%?
The title of the book refers to the slogan “We are the 99%” from the 2011 “Occupy Wall Street” protests against capitalist, that highlighted the strong inequalities between the elite (the 1%) and the rest of the population (the 99%). The 1% stands for the richest women who benefit from liberal feminism, at the expense of the majority of women, the 99%, for whom the authors’ feminism is fighting. They show particular solidarity with women are also oppressed by other power systems apart from the gender one: racialized women, poor women, lesbian women, transgender women, Indigenous women, disabled women, migrant women, etc. Therefore, the manifesto clearly calls for the convergence of struggles.
Feminism for the 99% is fighting against injustices and inequalities intrinsic to the neoliberal economic system. It argues that feminism should be in solidarity with other struggles, especially anti-capitalist, anti-racist and ecological ones.
“Determined to break up liberal feminism’s cozy alliance with finance capital, we proposed another feminism, a feminism for the 99 percent.” (p. 62)
For an anti-capitalist feminism
The authors argue in favor of a common enemy to women and other marginalized people: capitalism. This one is deeply inegalitarian in its very essence, which enslaves women. Capitalism is the cause of all evils: the increase in inequalities, the exploitation of natural resources, the appropriation of the workers’ works, etc.
The authors support the use of strikes as a means of action, referring in particular to the international women’s strike of March 8 and other various transnational feminist movements like the ones from Latin America.
A feminism for the 99% must radically address the roots of inequality, and to do so, the whole system – not only patriarchy but also capitalism – must be challenged. A feminism for the 99% has to be anti-capitalist and anti-neoliberalism, as our current economic system is only reinforcing oppressions and gender inequalities. To counter liberal feminism, which only serves the dominants, it is of utmost importance to develop an anti-capitalist gender justice and an intersectional feminism.
LORRIAUX, A. (2019). “Féminisme pour les 99%”, le manifeste qui veut un féminisme pour toutes. Slate. [online] 10 May. Available at : http://www.slate.fr/story/176061/manifeste-feminisme-99-liberalisme-capitalisme-egalite [Accessed 05 Dec. 2020].
LORRIAUX, A., EL MOADDEM, N. & KIRSCHEN, M. (2019). Le deuxième texte : “Féminisme pour les 99%”, de Cinzia Arruzza, Tithia Bhattacharya et Nancy Fraser [Podcast]. 6 May.