It’s increasingly popular to say feminism can never be capitalist; no exceptions. Capitalism, by its nature, supposedly exploits women. But if feminism cannot be capitalist, how does one explain Katharine McCormick, the woman who single-handedly financed the development of the pill?
McCormick was a committed feminist, a campaigner for women’s voting rights, and a signed-up member of the National American Woman Suffrage Association. In the 1950s, when the U.S. government would not invest in contraception research, McCormick used her own capital to advance the studies eventually leading to the pill.
Is this the kind of story that today’s feminists would sweep under the rug, in order to advocate for socialism above all else? It wasn’t the state, but private money that made possible one of the most important advancements in women’s rights for the past sixty years.
It is impossible to separate the advancements of women from the advancements of capitalism if we put aside the ugly path contemporary feminism has followed. Feminism’s roots lie in the right to vote, to speak our minds, to earn money, to spend money, and to do with our bodies what we deem fit
McCormick is just one, albeit spectacular, example where capitalism and feminism intersect. Over a billion people have risen out of absolute poverty in the past thirty years thanks to the power of market forces, forces that have simultaneously empowered women.
Thanks to the wealth accumulated in liberal countries, funding for medicine means pregnancy and giving birth are no longer death sentences. And women have been given new choices that include where to work, what to buy and who to trade with. As living standards rise all over the world, women rise up too.
It is not a perfect world for women, of course.