Emma Goldman was an anarcho-communist feminist. Although she moved away from first-wave feminism she, in essence, still played an important role in the expanding rhetoric of feminism and more importantly, communism, atheism and the general idea of freedom in the late 19th to early 20th century. She was a well-rounded and tough Russian woman who basically shaped the way people thought about the hegemony they lived in.
Goldman was born in Imperial Russia, into a standard patriarchal family in which her own wishes were not important, but rather disregarded. She immigrated to the U.S just before she turned 20 where her career as a activist, and spokesman for the rights of women and men began. Interestingly she would be deported 40 years later for her talents in the arts of agitation.
Interestingly, Goldman combined her feminist and anarchist ideas into new forms of never seen before ideology. She was best known for her arguments that if women were to remain in the private sphere they should be paid for the domestic work they do. So according to Goldman mothers, wives or any women should get paid for the work they do in the house. Do you think this is feasible? I understand that Goldman was trying to promote the equality of women in the public sphere and try to pull them out of the house and into the world where they can contribute. Moreover, it is understandable that women must have the same rights as men in entirety. We all know this, no use on pondering on it so much.
In the time period where women were being subjugated inside the home and not allowed the franchise, it is understandable where all of this rhetoric came from. Also, it is not like Goldman is arguing the same thing as Kollontai. It is obvious she is suggesting that women of a particular family should be paid for her work in the house. By who? The husband? The state? Isn’t that a bit morally wrong? I mean Kollontai argued that while men and women worked together in the public sphere, other men and women would do the housecleaning for them for money. That seems feasible! Yet, Goldman is saying that women need to receive paychecks for the work they perform in their own home, for their own families.And no, this is not like welfare. Goldman was actually proposing wages by the week depending on the severity of the work. This is communalism gone rogue!
Let’s say you chose to stay home as a mother to take care of your children. many women chose to do this, rather then go to work. Which is perfectly fine. Yet, do you honestly want to get paid to take care of your own children and house? Forget the house, they are your children! You should not think about a paycheck when you are taking care of your children! It’s the same with men. They should concentrate all of their power towards raising their children. Both men and women should work equally in the public and private spheres to raise a family, so both the mother and father have jobs that brings in the income.
Thus, both of them should take care of the domestic work equally. I understand Goldman’s radicalism, and its rampant source in the late 19th century. But really? Instead of promoting such ideas, it would be better to educate men and women that their children are the most important things in this world. Goldman had no children. How could she possibly understand that taking care of your family is not something you should be paid for. The children should pay their mother and father for taking care of them.
But seriously, I respect Goldman and a lot of her work. She was a very important Marxist-Feminist and her work was not just about the equality of women, but both genders. She is one of the first to understand that when women and men are equal in a society, that very society will always be better. It seems a bit ludicrous. My own mother should send me and the state a bill for taking care of me and washing my socks for 18 years. Can you imagine what a child would think of such a system: My mother is getting paid to take care of me?
Published in The Art of Polemics, Issue 1, on June 18th, 2014.