In Christine Delphy’s “Rethinking Sex and Gender,” gender is introduced as a social dichotomy that is determined by the natural dichotomy that is sex (pg 60). This binary of male vs. female led to the creation of a social hierarchy that places women at the bottom. Economically speaking, Shulamith Firestone supports this idea in “The Dialect of Sex,” by saying that “women were the slave class that maintained the species in order to free the other half for the business of the world” (pg 232). Clearly, the world tends to favor a binary system in which the most powerful takes advantage of the weaker link in society. What is interesting about this issue is that although most feminist literature explains this binary in terms of the conflict between men and women, I believe there is an additional system of binaries among women that is usually ignored.
In “Global Woman,” Barbara Ehrenreich and Arlie Russell Hochschild explain this binary among women as a “global relationship that arises and that in some ways mirrors the traditional relationship between the sexes” (pg 450). In other words, there exists a hierarchy among women globally, which places First World women over women in developing countries. For example, sweatshops in the developing world are composed 85-90% by women producing most of the garments that are sold to women everyday in the First World.
In order for women’s voices to be heard and break the gender/sex binary, there should be a stronger union among women globally as it hypocritical for women in the First World to argue for gender rights when they are doing the same thing that is being done to them to other women in a weaker economic position.
Video of a 9-year-old machine operator whose dream is to be a sewing operator and gain $45 a month.
Firestone, Shulamith. “The Dialect of Sex.” William Morrow and Company, Inc. New York: 1970.
Delphy, Christine. “Rethinking Sex and Gender.” In Feminist Theory Reader: Local and Global Perspectives, by Carole R. McCann and Seung-Kyung Kim, 57-67. New York: Routledge, 2003, 62.
Ehrenreich, Barbara and Arlie Russell. “Global Woman: Nannies, Maids, and Sex Workers.” Estelle Disch. New York: McGraw Hill, 2006.