“Women will only be free when we dismantle capitalism”

Maria Júlia Montero, of the World March of Women, talks about the mobilizations planned for March 8

March 04, 2020 by Brasil de Fato
Anti-capitalist feminism. Photo: Flickr/MMM

Amid a rise in violence against women and cases of femicide, aggravated by constant machista declarations by the Bolsonaro government, the World March of Women (WMW) is organizing a mobilization on March 8, International Day of Women’s Struggle. The day also marks 20 years since the creation of the feminist organization.

In an interview with Brasil de Fato, Maria Júlia Montero, militant of the WMW, explains that the organization will occupy the streets of Brazil next Sunday with the slogan “Get out Bolsonaro,” in defense of dignified work, democracy, and for justice for Marielle Franco, the councilwoman who was assassinated two years ago.

“A central theme of this March 8 is ‘Get Out Bolsonaro.’ It is not just against minister X or Y, ‘Get Out Guedes’ or ‘Get Out Damares.’ We want this whole government out, not one is redeemable. This whole government is a setback for women. We have already affirmed this and it becomes even more clear. It is a fascist government,” Montero analyzes.

According to the feminist militant, the conditions of work of women are becoming increasingly precarious, result of the structural machismo and the adoption of neoliberal policies in the last several years.

The precarization of women’s domestic work is also becoming worse. According to a recent report of Oxfam, women and girls across the world dedicate 12.5 billion hours, every day, to unpaid care work. If they were paid, this would mean a contribution, at least of US$10.8 trillion per year to the global economy, which is three-times the value generated by the technology industry, for example.

In the context of the 20 years of WMW, Maria Júlia highlights the important constribution of the organization and coordination of an anti-capitalist, international feminist movement, that fights for radical and total change of the society.

“We know that women will only be free when we dismantle the capitalist system, with patriarchy and racism. In our vision, these three systems act as one: Capitalism is patriarchal and racist. We will only be able to dismantle patriarchy and racism, if we dismantle capitalism. We will only be able to dismantle capitalism if we call for the destruction of patriarchy,” Montero defends.

On an international level, WMW has also highlighted the actions of the transnational capitalist companies and their negative impacts on the lives of women. The feminist organization is also preparing for its 5th International Action, which will be organized during the Week of Anti-Imperialist Struggle, with the slogan “We resist to live, we march to transform.”

Check out the full interview:

Brasil de Fato: What is the motto of the World March of Women for this March 8?

Maria Júlia Montero: We have an international motto that is the call for our 5th International Action: “We resist to live, we march to transform.” In this sense, we are pointing out what we are against, but we also talk about our alternatives, about our possibilities of transformation.

Here in Brazil, specifically, our slogan is Get Out Bolsonaro, demanding dignified work, liberty and democracy, in addition to the demand for justice for Marielle.

And on an international level, what is being organized?

Basically we have been dedicating a lot of work on the issue of violence against women. This year we have also brought forth the question of transnational companies. Considering that they are the direct agents of capital, and that they enter into alliances with the elites and end up controlling nation-states. They encroach on our land, increasing, even, violence against women. They accelerate the process of privatization of land, of the commercialization of nature, of women themselves who are in the territory and their bodies become commercialized.

The transnational companies are agents that are also behind the process of growth of the extreme right, because the transnational companies and elites have a vested interest in countries having extremely reactionary governments so that they can further exploit the working class and specifically women. This may be the exploitation of their labor force or even of the bodies of women, sexually, through prostitution, for example.

What are the most direct examples of the impact of the actions of transnational companies here in Brazil?

When capital affects the territories, we have the question of Indigenous women, of women that live in Quilombas. Women in the countryside in general, that often times do not have their work recognized or are more exploited as they participate in production.

Women are also in the first lines of defense of the land. When capital encroaches on the land, it is them who first suffer this violence, because they are responsible for taking care of the land.

The World March of Women acts in defense of women in diverse countries. Photo Elaine Campos/Flickr MMM

In a general way, as related to women, we have two processes. One is the considerable worsening of the quality of life of women, principally with regards to work. We have a process of precarization, of decrease of salary, that is closely linked to this ideological campaign of presenting women as merely just mothers, as if the only task of women was to be a mother and wait on men. This idea that “this is the primordial task of women,” and as such work outside the home is not a priority. As such it is not as valued. And it also means an increase of work within the home.

There is a process of taking away rights, privatization of public services, like daycares and childhood education in general, and the same with public healthcare policies. With the cuts in the space available in hospitals, with decreased investment, all of the care work ends up being thrown on the backs of women.

Only they will take care of their own families, of the kids, elderly, and sick, or they will work in a precarious way in the homes of other people, also doing care work. And in this case, we are speaking principally about black women and domestic workers.

Here there is an accumulation of functions. They can work as domestic workers, caretakers, all of this in one person. It is work that is extremely precarious and tends to increase, whether it’s in the house of other people or in their home itself, taking into account the care work they do in their own homes. It is work that is not recognized as work.

It is also not recognized that women carry out the work of the State when it is absent. They take care of education, the caretaking of the elderly and sick, filling the gap of State services. When someone has money, they can look for private care, private schools. It is the women of the working-class that have this considerable increase in workload. Whether it’s in their own homes or in the homes of others.

This March 8 also marks twenty years since the creation of the World March of Women. What is the legacy of this movement?

In the feminist movement there is a debate, like in any movement, of being a movement more related to liberal ideas, captured by the institutions, or of being a more militant movement, in the streets. I think that the principal contribution of WMW is being able to organize, along with other sectors, a truly militant feminism. A feminism that brings the batucada (drum group) to the streets, that makes demands. A feminism that does not only think about gaining rights within the system, but a feminism that demands a change of the system.

Maria Julia Monteiro, militant of the World March of Women in Brazil.

Of course we defend our rights, but we want this change. We know that women will only be truly free if we dismantle the capitalist system, with patriarchy and racism. In our vision, these three systems act as one: Capitalism is patriarchal and racist. We will only be able to dismantle patriarchy and racism, if we dismantle capitalism. We will only be able to dismantle capitalism if we call for the destruction of patriarchy.

The central contribution of WMW is militant feminism, of not being institutional, a feminism that takes to the streets, is autonomous, built by women from the grassroots. A feminism that fights for a radical and total change of society. We want rights, but we know that we will only have full rights when we radically change this system.

The rate of violence against women increases everyday in Brazil. What is the importance of bringing this anti-capitalist feminism on March 8, in this context?

The increase in violence is a way to control women. What is violence against women? It is possible to draw a parallel, when we look at the violence against the Black population. A woman that suffers violence does not need to have done anything, it is enough just to be a woman. In the same way that it is enough to be a Black youth in order to have an enormous increase in the chances of being harassed or assassinated by the police.

Precisely because this type of violence has the objective of maintaining control over determined subjects so that they do not think about freeing themselves. If we have a context of an increase in misogyny and precarity, work is not worth anything and the women only serves to have her body exploited, whether it be within the house, with husbands and boyfriends, or in the streets through prostitution.

There is a stronger construction of the inferiority of women and this, inevitably, results in violence. It is thought that a woman is a lesser being, whose work is worth less, and as such she is a being that can suffer violence. There is a process of objectification which justifies the violence.

It is important to bring this idea to March 8 relating it to these anti-system ideas and broader combat to this government. It is a goverment that has put in practice neoliberal economic policies that have a direct impact on the work of women, on the violence against women, and that are related to this misogynist ideological campaign against women.

We do not see the violence as something separate from capitalist and patriarchal exploitation in general. This is the importance of why we debate how this violence is linked to this broader issue of the transformation of society. Violence is an arm of the patriarchy to control us.

And if capitalism and patriarchy seek to control us, they can do what they want with us. They can use our bodies to give pleasure to men. They can use our work in the way that they need to. Violence is related to all of this. We cannot debate it separately. If we do this, we are unable to think about what the reasons are behind this violence and why this violence is exercised against women.

Like, for example, this campaign of sexual abstinence of Damares and her positions in general, that present women as submissive. All of this justifies violence. If women have to be submissive, whether it be to their husbands or their bosses, they can suffer violence to make sure they continue being submissive.

What do the Bolsonaro government and his ministers represent for women?

It is a complete setback. When we think about the setbacks in educational policies, we are thinking about the women that will be left out of the university, for example, in the Lula and Dilma governments, we saw an increase of working-class women, principally Black women, in universities. In relation to education, this would be the first impact.

There have been cuts to childhood education, there is an increase of women’s work who do not have anywhere to leave their kids in order to go to work. In the issue of the environment, there are encroachments on the land that women care for and where they are responsible for agro-ecological production. When we talk about organic goods, the grand majority who are producing are women.

It is not the impact of one minister or the other, it is of the entire government. We have Damares whose task is more closely related, as the Minister of Women, more focused on the objective of imposing the idea that women must be submissive, calm, and that they cannot have pleasure, they cannot get to know their own bodies. So much so that they cannot say no to a sexual encounter, nor say yes.

The entire government attacks women. When we have a Social Security reform or labor reform, or whatever attack on workers’ rights, it is women who first feel these attacks.

In general, this government and its ministers represent a set back for women, they attack their rights. That is why for us, from WMW, a central topic on our agenda this March 8 is ‘Get Out Bolsonaro.’ It is not just against minister X or Y, ‘Get Out Guedes’ or ‘Get Out Damares.’ We want this whole government out, not one is redeemable. This whole government is a setback for women. We have already affirmed this and it becomes even more clear. It is a fascist government. Its declarations are fascist, the declarations about women could also be recognized as fascist.

The World March of Women will take to the streets of Brazil on March 8 with the slogan: ‘Get Out Bolsonaro’