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The masculine grab

The masculine grab

One day in 1998 I was walking down the street at Kantipath when a man came straight at me with his elbow extended, and poked me in the breast. This sort of street harassment was fairly common back in the day, and may still be—it has eased off somewhat in my late 40s. The explosion of adrenaline that followed in my body is something I won’t forget. I remember lifting my knee, and smashing into his crotch with my DocMartens boots. (An aside: Men, if you are thinking of poking a woman on the breast, always make sure she’s not wearing DocMarten boots.) A group quickly gathered. An enraged female with adrenaline coming out of her ears surely has good cause, and the harasser was soon dispatched by the kangaroo court.

I think back to this episode at times, because it reminds me how casually the man asserted his droit du seigneur, his masculine right, to invade my space and violate my body.

As I read about the feminization of poverty and the ways in which the gender pay gap will not close in a hundred years, of how even the women of the most gender-equal countries do more hours of housework than their male spouses, it occurs to me the masculine grab is also well and truly operational in the economic sphere. A recent report concluded that women in India were less likely to be employed than they were a decade or so ago. Coupled with demographic loss of women due to amniocentesis, rising gender violence, and entrapment in bonded servitude in both home and low skilled employment, this is a surefire way towards one gender enslaving the other—in perpetuity.

How has this become possible? One reason is of course the current economic system which favors men. Money is printed, through some inexplicable sleigh of hand that only rich countries know the laws of, in the US, the UK, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Switzerland, and Europe. These marvelous currencies of great value are then distributed through Old Boys Networks, creating stock value and unicorns. Through old, established channels, they make it outwards to the colonies, where they are so valuable they pick up the tea, coffee, sugar, bananas, coconuts, and anything else edible grown in the “poor” countries. They also buy up the lithium, the gold, the diamonds, and any other material needed for the production of our current luxuries, including electronic goods and technological devices.

Where does this system which looks remarkably like colonialism of olden days leave the approximate 3.5 billion women of the world? If they’re not part of the elites of these rich countries, then it’s a $2/day existence, struggling for basic food, water and shelter. The fantastic capitalist system working so wonderfully for the rich never makes it down to the poor, not even with the generous crumbs handed out by the international banks like the World Bank and the IMF.

In other words, the slavery we thought we’d eradicated is still very much alive and working in invisible ways—through the billions of women who do unpaid household and care labor so their husbands may go abroad to the Gulf to work in semi-slavery conditions to pump up petrol, or mine minerals, or clean toilets for the uber-wealthy of the rich nations.

Women make up half the world but they are completely cut out of the current patriarchal system of Old Boys Networks and the networks of capital which flow in the West, crushing the autonomy and dignity of 99 percent of the world’s citizens.

Under the guise of the Enlightenment civilization, democracy and human rights, the West has effectively managed to garner the unpaid labor of billions of women in the Third World for its own utility. What we have now is slavery on a mass global scale involving billions of people, something not seen even in the days of the Atlantic slave trade.

The only way out of this morass is to take off the blinders and create an alternate financial system, one in which women globally get fair compensation for the work they do to keep the rich nations afloat. A Global Women’s Bank, which prints currency used only by women, and which can be used for food, water, education, shelter, clothes and health care, must be set up asap. This bank must also give out loans so women can access capital to start businesses. This bank must disburse a universal income to all women worldwide.

To imagine the current system, where men have grabbed all wealth and resources, time and money, opportunities and panel spaces, will bring about social change is to delude ourselves to the increasing degradation of human dignity. The current gendered state of have and have-nots is insupportable. Of course, men benefit when women are empowered: the more excluded the women from the economy, the poorer the community becomes.

As late capitalism has become more intense, so has poverty. Only for Bill Gates, Steven Pinker and their ilk is the global growth story a rosy one. For everyone else, it’s a struggle into a vaster and vaster quicksand of indentured slavery. The only way out is to create a completely separate system of finance, rather in the way women have their own toilets. Nobody objects to women having their own toilets—why should they object if they have their own currency?