(1) 19th century industrial capitalism drew in women and children into exploitative and cruel working conditions, which helped to shatter family life and undercut the wages and employment prospects of men;So, first of all, it is not at all clear that most women voluntarily prefer to pursue careers above marriage and family life. Just look at the stunning results of this survey here. Fundamentally, of the US women surveyed, 71% said motherhood is more important than having a career, and only 11% said a career is more important than being a mother. In France, 82% of women surveyed said motherhood is more important than a career. Only 6% thought a career was more important.
(2) 19th century and early 20th century trade unions, socialist movements and labour-based political parties fought to ban child labour and improve real wages for men so that men could be breadwinners for their wives and children, without throwing women and children onto the labour force. This largely succeeded by the mid-20th century;
(3) modern feminism emphasises the ideal of women being able to work and be independent (which in and of itself is fine, don’t get me wrong), but an actual major cause of women entering the labour force from the 1970s onwards has been the neoliberal assault on real wages and the need for women to contribute to real household income to maintain living standards (the trend can be seen here).
Even though 54% of American women said that they aspire to both being a mother and having a career, there is a big difference between people’s aspirations and reality, and the aspiration in question is probably unrealistic for most women. Above all, in badly-managed economies like ours with chronic unemployment problems and with more people forced into wretched low-paying part-time and causal work, how realistic is such an aspiration?
This intuitive insight is confirmed by empirical research like Catherine Hakim’s Feminist Myths and Magic Medicine: The Flawed Thinking behind Calls for Further Equality (Centre for Policy Studies, London, UK, (2011) (quick news summaries here and here). Most notably, this report also shatters many of the Third Wave Feminist gender pay gap myths.
If we go back to (3) above, what effect did (3) have on family life in the West and on children? (e.g., the consequences of separating young children from their mothers who return to work shortly after giving birth). Have modern feminists unwittingly aided neoliberalism?
In the Third World, from the 1970s onwards, multinational industrial capitalism has gone back to its old love of exploiting women and children in factories, with predictable and horrible consequences.