Growing up in the home of a Christian minister, I was often reminded that love of money is the root of all evil. While I have come to question and debate many of the lessons I learned in my youth, one I learned that is still applicable is that the root of all power is money. It is because of this truth that you cannot have a debate about politics without acknowledging the role money and economic systems play. Likewise, this is why you cannot have a complete discussion about violence against women, a crime built on the idea of power, without noting the role that money and capitalism play. Capitalism, built on monetary value of a piece of paper, is a system that has led to the creation and legitimization of many of the -isms that we find affecting us today. The power struggle that we find in the world of money that surrounds us has created a system in which we disadvantage others. Through the development of sexism leading to the laws that protect us, this struggle has created a world in which violence against those disadvantaged, particularly women here, is alright.
The way that capitalism works is through placing a price. This price comes based on the materials, machinery, and labor needed to create an object. However the way you turn this for a profit is by charging more for the final product than it actually costs. Still you cannot charge more than people are willing to pay for this product. So where do you make up this difference if you are charging buyers what the product is worth and yet making money? Through the cost of your employees labor by not charging them what their work is actually worth. An example of what this led to was racism by disadvantaging black laborers. This was done first through the obvious part of slave labor. It allowed capitalism to flourish when construction firms were able to underbid their competition because they didn’t have to pay for labor for example. It continued after slaves were freed because the jobs went to those willing to work for the smallest wage. Since people were used to no wages, low ones were an improvement and so they accepted these wages. This led to a monopolization of the wealth in the US with 10% holding 66% of the wealth and effectively killing the idea of the “American Dream”. Do note that this gap continues to widen and the working class has grown from 35% to 45% since 1964 and the middle class has fallen from 61% to 46%. (Johnson)
So how does all of this play into violence against women? Women have been devalued and put down for a long time through many different sources, ranging from a patriarchial society to advertisements to capitalism that perpetuates the cycle. With women being shown as objects rather than people, it allows women to be walked all over by their superiors. It also allows for the wage gap where women are told their work and effort is of lesser value than men’s. This leads to creating inequality exactly as it did in the previous example for racism. This gap continues to expand through the generations as we work to outdo our ancestors and make things even “better”. That is we work to make more money so our advertising campaigns take things even further, we pay for the cheapest labor, and we pay less people. On top of this we must also consider the fact that women have also traditionally taken the role of the nurturer, working to care for the upcoming generation. They serve to shop for households which creates the market for a number of products and they care for those developing young, often for free, creating the greatest imbalance of all. Telling women that all they are good for is raising the future but then not offering them any of the “power” for it shows those kids growing up that women are not valued and continues the cycle. (Johnson)
Now we must understand how all of this relates to violence against women. To have created such gaps and differences in the way we treat and look at women as opposed to their male counterparts in the field places a difference on the amount of power levered by each group. Power allows for violence because it places more importance in society on the men both for their work as well as on them as individuals. To go alongside this, the more power, the less one fears consequences. To have set women at such a disadvantage, we are telling them that we find men more important and as such are more willing to let men do as they wish than to protect women. The idea of protection comes from the law which is a form of power and as we discussed earlier, since money is power and all money flows through our economic system of capitalism, the power given to the law to protect comes from money. You can see this when you look at our laws and whom they tend to favor. You always pay the most for the best lawyer which is someone who can get you off, not necessarily prove your innocence or guilt. Looking at the history of our word justice, which can trace its roots to the ancient greek dike, meaning justice, particularly of vengeance or revenge for a wrong doing. When you view it this way, justice would historically mean vengeance or payback of a violent nature. This system does not give a strong argument in favor of women when the system is set up to protect those with power, not those with the truth. When you look at what it takes to convict for violence against women, the requirements for it as well as the penalties show the value we place on both the word of women and their safety. (Bishop & Phillips)
So what are we ultimately saying in this debate and development of our society? We are in a world that continues to devalue women based on how this money driven economy says. It tells us they are worth less than men and as such not deserving of money. Since money is power we are therefore telling women that they are not deserving of power in society and should be placed beneath men who deserve that power. This imbalance allows for the mistreatment of women and viewing them as second class citizens which legitimizes violence against them.
Phillips, John,Bishop, Ryan. Violence. Theory, Culture & Society, V. 23, 2006
- Johnson, Allan G. Privilege, Power, and Difference. Published: c2006.