Minerva at Midnight: better sex under (democratic) socialism
Today the Cato Institute tweeted itself as post-feminist by citing a 2018 commentary. “Compared to women in western European countries, U.S. women are more likely to work full‐time, the U.S. labor market is less segregated by sex, and women are more likely to work as professionals in the United States”.
There's so much wrong with this dated declaration by the conservative think tank, generalizing “western Europe” from Scandinavia, but the omission of “Eastern Europe” alone should compel us to give Kristen Ghodsee's 2018 book further examination beyond the provocative title of Why Women Have Better Sex Under Socialism and other arguments for economic independence, because democratic socialism has become even more attractive to Americans in the face of Trumpian anti-woke-ness and the rise of Bernie Sanders. The triumphalism of the Cato Institute peddling an old trope about Scandinavian social democracy will not mystify the obvious contradictions of libertarian discourse.
We ask how can Biden move leftward with the deeply engrained progressive support that want more than a diverse presidential cabinet. Seeing the post-Bernie / AOC “squad” discourse as the vanguard for coming democratic elections requires greater understanding of American life without the viciousness of capitalist healthcare insurance as only part of a more equitable future for all.
“a change in the structural conditions under which more orgasms might be possible”
“… for all the crushing repression under a political system like that of the former East Germany, women in those countries enjoyed certain freedoms, both material and existential, that were and remain largely unavailable, or even unimaginable, to women in liberal democracies.”
We need to look at the actual terms of living where States’ controlling intersectional difference by voting or medical care comes in the form of new and the same right-wing tropes supporting some familiar hegemonic formations for a white patriarchy. The Little Rock, Arkansas of desegregating education in the 1950s is no different than a 21st Century legislature criminalizing the medical confirmation of identity. The repression of intersectionality is no different even as voting rights have again become contestable.
The Cold War period’s culture war went beyond the consumer culture tropes of denim, jazz, and modern art. The threat of nuclear annihilation and suburbanism transcended the cold-war images of an iron curtain. The specter of post-soviet socialism devolved to a neoliberalism that metastasized the more destructive fractures among right-wing populist nationalisms.
In some socialist states, multiple sites of Foucaudian autonomy have become romanticized in areas like the espionage culture genre constructed upon military conflict and national liberation struggles. “Political, economic, and cultural ecosystems of capitalism and socialism can affect interpersonal and sex life.” Whole subgenres can be built on such structures.
The terms of counter-culture were only one element of structural change, and the collective, communal elements formed a potential critique of the fragmentation and alienation necessary for post-war capitalist markets.
The totalitarian foreclosure of the public sphere also created, however counter-hegemonically, alternative activities rather than market-based choices, but because of the collective good, there emerged gendered spaces of relative autonomy in the domestic sphere. That relative autonomy ensured libidinal economic production as it were, only because of the material constraints created by Cold War austerity.
The COVID pandemic has created similar spaces in public consciousness as it suggests a future image of equality with the crises confronting healthcare not as a service or industry. This is no different than the Cold War equity of socialist health care workers and physicians, equity of educational opportunity, even the accommodation of international obligations to non-aligned nations. The pandemic has made people more aware of the shifting definition of necessity beyond more people baking bread at home.
Democratic socialism promises not without struggle, “policies for public employment, high quality and subsidized childcare, parental leaves, mandatory quotas across all leadership, the ability to divorce easily, safe access to birth control and abortion, health care, reduced cost of college tuition.”.
Democratic socialism can ensure wealth redistribution and regulation to minimize inequality beyond reifying their administrative terms as taxes or theft. In that context, lived experience and everyday life crates opportunities for work/family and life/work space based on terms of respect, reputation, trust, and contingency that are constitutive and negotiable.
Capitalist justice criminalizes identity and basic human rights in order to build class wealth in the last instance no different than its other profiteering activity. The First-World North still rules. Gendered differentials in property, income, wages, among so many other built on labor, cannot be challenged as easily under capitalism. And then there’s race and class among so many other matters contestable.
The issues remain the same much like Fox News disinformation campaigns against Scandinavian models of social democracy. They’re still happier than the US, and sex as a female resource for social exchange in heterosexual interactions need not be foregrounded. and a post-capitalist society should liberate personal relations from economic calculations. Maybe we’d all be better with “friendship” as our primary script for interpersonal relationships rather than the “transactional ethos of sexual economics theory”.
(2018) Policies including public‐sector monopolies, punishing taxes, publicly funded child care and parental leave, and even ineffective gender quotas have held back Nordic women’s career trajectories. Sanandaji argues that, as a result, “the proportion of women managers, executives, and business owners is disappointingly low.”
Indeed, the United States surpasses the Nordic countries and other western European countries on a variety of metrics. OECD data shows that 14.6 percent of U.S. working women are managers, while in Norway, Sweden, Finland, and Denmark, just between 1 and 4.6 percent of working women are managers. Overall, women in the United States are about equally likely as men to be managers, while women are only half as likely as men to be managers in western OECD countries overall.
As Sanandaji stresses in his report, redistributive policies and high taxes in the Nordic countries push women to be “part‐time workers and part‐time housewives” partly because Nordic career women “find it harder to afford domestic help than their American equivalents” due to high taxes and perhaps partly because substantial redistribution including lengthy parental leave makes women more expensive to employ and leads to statistical discrimination at work. Working a part‐time schedule usually doesn’t qualify workers for promotions to management roles, which may explain some of the difference in managerial rates between men and women.
On the other hand, U.S. women are more likely to work full‐time, the U.S. labor market is less segregated by sex, and women are more likely to work as professionals in the United States as compared to other western European countries. In Behar’s feminist worldview, these characteristics should all constitute advantages of the U.S. model.