¿Qué esperamos las mujeres de la globalización?

Dra. Norma Vasallo Barrueta
Universidad de La Habana

translation by Sara Fasy

Neoliberal and patriarchal capitalism are two faces of the same coin and are the essential variables that explain the actual system of domination and inequality in the beginning of the twenty-first century. — Gema Jimenez Toston

Globalization is not just economics

A look at gender in the economics of transnational markets is needed to see that the inequality of gender is closely linked with that of class and race. The ideological processes that emerge and at the same time sustain economic changes in the international labor market reproduce the hierarchical relationship of class and race in its conception about women’s work and their participation in the salaried labor market (Gregorio, C. 2002).

Without doubt the theme of globalization is highly topical; essays and publications about it proliferate, and with them, the resulting definitions. We will look at just two of them as an example.

For Castell, globalization is:

“The production, the consumption and the circulation, as well its components (capital, labor, source material, management, information, technology, markets), are organized on a global scale, directly, by means of a network of links between those economic agents. It is informational and global because, in the new historic conditions, productivity generates, and competition is driven by, the means of a global network of interaction. And it has emerged in the last quarter of the twentieth century because the revolution of information technology provides the indispensable base material for this economy.” (1)

Maria de Jesus Izquierdo, considers that:

“…(globalization) is above all an economic phenomenon. It is inseparably linked to the free market, imposing the abolition of commercial protectionist policies, the elimination of administrative bonds on importation, and the suppression of trade barriers. In summary, imagine the formation of a market of only goods and capital, with the guarantee of the impermeability of borders in relation to the movement of personnel, therefore for the construction of local job markets. This way, the global and the local are two faces of the same coin: the capital is global and the labor is local.” (2)

As we can see, there is a tendency to refer to Globalization more from an economic perspective, or that of the new information technology; nevertheless, globalization as a process that emerges in a historical transformation is a phenomenon that includes the whole society with special emphasis in the economy and the culture, with its resulting expression in the ordinary daily life of its people.

We recognize earlier stages in its development since world colonization by European powers, passing through the stage of the rise of the most important international economic entities like the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund, after World War II, until the present with the development of the new information technologies, without which the rise of new forms of economic organization would not have been possible.

For Lamarca (3), globalization is no more than the extension of capitalism on a global scale. We can say also that it is andocentric because it promotes values like competition, individualism, and egoism.

Regrettably, the social and cultural dimensions of globalization have been made invisible in our contemporary discourse, where economic dimension appears as a higher priority; nevertheless, this new economic system is not only an economic trend. It shapes the politics of countries and involves not only the integration of markets, but also the intention to culturally homogenize the people, whose daily lives are most affected, the field where macroeconomic changes are expressed with the most force.

Some consequences of Globalization

The way in which the economic context might be essentially Mercantile/Global, a financial capitalism, virtual and immaterial where what is operating is the flow of information and communication, financial and international, that extends beyond the legal barrier of countries (Alonso, L.E.:1997), creating the emergence of the idea of a supranational economy, or, globalization.

This fact affects the autonomy of nations, who then begin to emphasize in directed actions to guarantee efficient market situations, putting aside those directed to the right of the well being of its citizens; then showing incapacity to generate a “culture of security and guarantee of work” (4). It goes on producing the privatization of the public empires to make way for the network empires, more centered in profits than those of public service or the creation of employment.

The changes in the direction of the operation of the states, transforming them from the States of Wellbeing (those that were), based on Public Policy, to being centered in Politics of Profitability and productivity; began to produce consequences for the citizens, above all in those that find themselves in a vulnerable situation. The demands that financial markets have carried to public policy are fundamentally monetary, subordinate and remedial, offering social welfare assistence only to those who find themselves in extreme and susceptible situations in the presence of any contingency.

The preceding imposes social effects that are not equalizing; instead they create and increase social inequality and with that a fragmented social structure that marginalizes important sectors of the working and middle class, to maintain them in a stable unemployment, depending on social assistance with its consequent contributions to “pathological” social processes, inside of which violence at all levels is the most evident result.

The financial and speculative economy has created a new specialized and highly paid employment and with it, a new socio-economic layer, individualistic in that money and power are the most important values, and ostentatious consumption its external expression. At the same time it creates a new social level, it integrates others into the fringes of poverty. For example, the introduction of electronics in the production process has permitted a more specialized production that adapts itself to the demands of each market. It shortens the productive processes, augmenting the unemployment of developed countries, because the big chains of production have moved themselves to outlying areas where the workforce is cheaper, and production is therefore more efficient.

All these changes have created a larger fragmentation of the social structure of western societies that has carried with it an increase of the social sector most impoverished, and a lessening of the middle class fringe. The riches concentrate each time in fewer hands, and the dispossessed increase.

Society cannot provide the basic needs of its residents because globalized capitalism only interests itself in the benefit of a small part of those residents. With globalization, inequalities deepen, including those of gender.

According to Alonso, “Globalization is the creation of new social differences with unified cultural economics by thefamous and unique thought of fundamental neoliberalism- converted into a holy and moral sign of the times- a system that is closer to a network of diverse zones than a simple globalization.” (Alonso, L.E. 197 pp20)

Globalization for Women

The inequality of women is a very old fact, resulting in the Sexual Division of Labor; but it is with capitalism that is has come to be part of the structure of the economic and social system, leaving a clear demarcation in two spheres: the public and the private. The public is that of the marketplace, behind which, say some economists, society organizes itself in an efficient manner, and the private is where basic human needs are channeled, like communication, affection and care. (Del Rio, S. 2002)

Everything that happens in the private sector, where the protagonists are women, depends in large measure on their sacrifice, altruism, and generosity; they behave essentially in function to others, as the patriarchal culture in which they have been socialized demands of them. The same thing does not occur in the public sector, with its masculine majority, where individualism, competence and aggressiveness are valued as qualities necessary for efficiency.

The contribution of women is not only affective, but also economic, even though this remains much more invisible. Women insure the production and reproduction of the labor force, the base of the public sphere. We are in the presence then not only of “market logic”, but also a “logic of care”, both necessary for economic and social development.

In the present day stage of globalization, the public-private dichotomy legitimized by liberalism has full validity. The neoliberal policies of labor flexibility

and reduction of social costs, demand an increase of unpaid labor (logic of care) in the private sector to cushion its effects. (5) Women aren’t valued in these new conditions in a system that guarantees the care of children and old people in which they will continue to be the main person responsible for that activity.

On the other hand this familiar responsibility of women makes them more, as Todaro says (6), “vulnerable to the precariousness of employment so that often they accept poor quality work, with less labor and social security protection, in exchange for the flexibility of compatible domestic work and paid work.

Women make up a third of all the industrial labor force in developing nations; but, what kind of work do they have? In essence, it is a precarious and informal employment, or work with no security, subject to layoff. In the new conditions, Patriarchy and Globalization form a process that increases inequality of gender.

Globalization has effects for women, one of which is the increase of jobs for women in the paid workforce outside of agriculture. It follows that as part of the process of globalization, the idea exists that the economic resources should be used where they are most productive. Evidently in developing countries one can obtain cheaper labor, much more so with women, and as a consequence of Patriarchy they are the least favored in their education, employment, and social security. Because of that they make up the majority of the impoverished and needy fringe population, and more in need of any employment.

Women need employment, but as they do not have the qualifications, they receive low salaries, maintaining their dependence on men in the home and in the job with consequences that maintain and deepen their subordination, to greater vulnerability to sexual harrassment and all forms of violence.

The reduction of social cost in developing countries makes all domestic work related to the care and reproduction of the work force fall back onto women. Women in the favored socioeconomic levels are put above other women, the immigrants or indigenous with few resources, producing discrimination among women, erasing the solidarity of gender and carrying a transnationalization of reproduction as a consequence of global and patriarchal capitalism. (Jimenez 2003)

Another result has to do with the use of new information technology in the processes of production, with the required knowledge of its use, producing an unequal access to development because of the patriarchy that makes up the normal daily life of the majority of countries, and as we have already shown, women have less instruction and qualifications compared to men.

If we want to synthesize the significance of Globalization, above all the Neoliberal, for women, we must agree with Victoria Sendon when she tells us, “Globalization, neoliberal, therefore, is no more than a real phase of the Patriarchy, that is carrying to an extreme the principles of its own existence.” (7)

An analysis of the results of Globalization that we know, the neoliberal, concerning women, cannot be understood if we do not begin with the cultural context of the Patriarchy where it develops and which it represents.

Most of the work I have reviewed to write this lecture refers to the strictly economic consequences that globalization has for women. Nevertheless, the analysis by Sendon (8) seems interesting in this respect, as she points out the following consequences:

Degradation in the condition of females as a consequence of the opening of frontiers to foreign capital that has facilitated the entrance also of an international mafia, who take advantage of poverty in women to gain profit from their bodies by means of prostitution and other forms of sexual slavery.

Domestic exile , which refers to the need to move far from their homes and their children to look for employment in the big industries, or as a result of wars and armed conflict.

Slave work. The way to sum up the conditions in which many women perform their work for big corporations, with miserable salaries and often of a clandestine nature.

The sick body. Here we refer to the theme of the system of health care and the pathologizing of natural functions in women as a way to obtain economic benefits; for example, menstruation and menopause, or the stress of professional women submitting to the masculine style of management, or the increase of anorexia, which from my point of view, results from preoccupation with the feminine body image to get or keep work, among other reasons.

What do women want from globalization?

We want to globalize the solidarity between everyone, but especially between women. Social, economic and human relationships as the base of respect for others and equality of gender.

Change the competitive for cooperation, and promote inclusive values that help to eliminate the dichotomy of man/woman.

Also globalize the resistance and the fight against the power of money.

We want an economic model which permits the sustainable development and care and conservation of the planet.

Globalize the attention to the needs of people.

I would like to end with the words of the outstanding Costa Rican jurist Alda Facio when he proposes following Riera (9) to talk about planetarization “…when we are talking about carrying ideas and feminist practices to all women and men of all cultures, races, ages, colors, sexual preferences and abilities. We talk of planetarization of the feminist culture which implies interpretations of reality distinct to globalization, elaborating values, reformulating language and symbols, science, art, cinema, music and feminist literature. After all, the planetarization of the feminist culture is as real as globalization and owes nothing to it. I propose also that we talk about planetarization when we are talking of a movement that is the sum of an international movement against boundless capitalism.