Joanna Sees Red

“To equalize labor and wages between the sexes in the industrialized countries alone would mean a reduction in men’s average wages of more than one-third and an addition to their average workload of two eight-hour days a week.

To do so for the entire world, if United Nations calculations are correct, would require that men’s wages be cut by two-fifths and their workload increased by one-third.

In the face of such appalling figures–and they are appalling–I find it impossible to believe that patriarchy is “caused” solely by the use of language, or by schooling, or by the social construction of sexuality, even by socialization in general, let alone by people’s infantile fear of their mothers or men’s natural talent for violence. Patriarchy exists because men (like women) have motives. Patriarchy benefits men. However restricted people’s options may be, however incomplete their knowledge of what options are open to them and what the consequences of their acts will be, people do know (by and large) what they like and have some notion of how to get it. Societies would not exist if this were not the case. As Christine Delphy says, first comes the fact of exploitation; then come various kinds of oppression to keep the exploited weak, miserable (and busy), and hence exploitable. Then (both logically and chronologically) comes the ideology that justifies the oppression and the exploitation in order to pacify the consciences of the exploiters and to muddle the common sense of the exploited, thus mystifying the situation of exploitation and oppression so that the exploited will accept it as natural, God-given, nobody’s fault, morally correct, and inevitable.

As Delphy puts it, ‘There is no mystery; we [women] are oppressed because we are exploited. What we go through makes life easier for others.‘”

From “Seeing Red: My Life is Harder Because Yours Is Easier” in What Are We Fighting For? Sex, Race, Class, and the Future of Feminism by Joanna Russ (St. Martin’s Press, 1998)


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