Going on a Big Energy Diet: Will the Status of Women Be a Casualty?

Warning: this post is speculative, since no one yet seems to have thought much about the headline issue. But having come of age in the US at the time when women were making significant advances in the workplace, and benefiting greatly from that development, I’m conscious of how rapid the improvement of the status of women was in the 20th century. And those gains may not be durable. The coming energy crunch has the potential to erode the gains women have made, particularly in societies that face chaotic changes (flooding and destruction of critical infrastructure due to ocean level rises plus storms).

Although correlation is not causation, the big advances in women’s standing have come in times of prosperity: the Roaring Twenties. The post World War II boo
1960s. And to a fair degree, the dot com era. The 1920 boom was to a significant degree the result of electrification and the establishment of new consumer goods industries such as the radio. Mass production of automobiles was also becoming a leading growth engine (pun intended). The post war era saw even more labor-saving devices introduced to homes, from vacuum cleaners to washers and driers to blenders. Big consumer good companies were also increasing their work-cutting offering, ranging from cake mixes to prepared sauces to frozen dishes.

Women were also becoming better educated. From Wikipedia:

But the big shift in the 20th century was improved reproductive control, and control in the hands of women, notably the pill.

Now this is an obvious and superficial list, but frankly you don’t need much more than that to see that rising standards of living were fundamental to creating enough surplus so women did not have to be full time mothers and homemakers (and in the not-that-much earlier era of subsistence farming, sometimes fieldworkers).

Now expert can point to evidence that some hunter-gatherer and indigenous societies had not terribly unequal division of labor. But women can’t work much in late pregnancy and women would always be the main if not exclusive child-rearers, due if nothing else to breast-feeding. And it’s not as if that labor was well respected. European aristocrats regularly ignored their progeny and farmed their care out to the help. See Winston Churchill and Talleyrand as famous examples. Men on average are bigger, stronger, and faster than women, which means they can physically dominate them. And they don’t like dealing with a lot of bodily fluids, which is what caring for babies and toddlers includes.

Various agencies interested in promoting women’s advancement have set forth some of the preconditions. But they weirdly accept and perpetuate the degradation of women’s role in the household as lesser by seeing female advance as coming about by virtue of more women’s participation in the market, a historically male realm. But again, in societies where survival depends on labor, and it is male labor that in most cases provides food, plus men are usually stronger too, it’s not hard to see why role stereotyping is so deeply entrenched.1

Here’s a pretty typical list of what it takes to improve women’s lot. From the Urban Institute:

We found evidence that broad-based and gender-specific policies can enable women’s economic empowerment; that is, improving women’s ability to make decisions and affect outcomes important to themselves and their families. Here are six of those policies.

Broad-based policies

  • Promote economic growth: In countries experiencing rapid economic growth, increasing demand for labor and the availability of better-paying jobs ensures that women’s economic empowerment does not become a zero-sum game between men and women. When the economy demands more workers, women will not replace men if more women participate in the labor market.
  • Invest in public services, infrastructure, and women-friendly public spaces and transportation: The quality of and access to public services, including basic utilities such as water and sanitation, improves all-around well-being through greater economic productivity and growth, but may be especially beneficial for women. For example, because women do most household work, electricity and tap water can free up their time, enabling greater labor market participation. Access to speedy and reliable transportation can reduce safety concerns that discourage women from entering the labor force or limit them to working at home.
  • Promote innovation and technology: Information and communications technology can help increase women’s inclusion in the economy, particularly in high-productivity service sectors. Greater access to information and technology can also stimulate changes in social norms and attitudes toward women’s roles in society, potentially improving access to education and political involvement.

Gender-specific policies

  • Provide child care: Evidence suggests that the availability of child care is strongly associated with an increase in women’s labor force participation and productivity. Child care, particularly high-quality child care, is one of the most important enablers of women’s economic empowerment and can have a positive impact on children’s learning.
  • Change laws that limit women’s economic independence: Reforming inheritance and family law to lift prohibitions on daughters’ legacies and to reduce husbands’ power over wives’ economic activity can have positive economic effects, going beyond the specific outcomes they are intended to address.
  • Improve or reduce work in the informal sector: Women are concentrated in the informal sector, which includes jobs that are unregulated and insecure, like street vending. Policies designed to move workers from the informal sector to the formal sector can significantly benefit women. Working in the formal economy is more likely to empower women because it is associated with more control over their own incomes than they would have in informal work. Evidence suggests that strengthening the collective bargaining capacity of women workers in this sector and improving awareness of women’s rights is important to ensuring that income levels and working conditions improve in the formal economy.

As we have repeatedly pointed out, countries on a broad basis need to move towards radical conservation. Satyajit Das has described in his recent series at Naked Capitalism how the various green energy schemes are problematic, due to lower EROI than current sources, infrastructure requirements and other life-cycle costs often omitted from conventional calculations, and inadequate supplies plus high environmental costs of key resources. His last post described how energy demands are set to keep rising while the needs for cuts loom. He showed that many climate plans are based on reducing energy consumption by 25%, and why that was implausible. He pointed out a key conundrum:

Increases in energy efficiency perversely lead to higher energy usage. Since 1990, global energy efficiency has improved by around 33 percent but energy use increased by 40 percent primarily due to economies growing by 80 percent.

To put it another way, increased efficiency had the effect of making energy cheaper, which led to so much growth that it more than offset the savings.

Now that process is going into reverse as various states adopt piecemeal carbon-curbing programs and are running into issues like grids being inadequate for the planned transition to electric vehicles. One outcome of this process will be less consistent energy supply. How does that affect commerce, particularly energy intensive industries that run continuous processes manufacturing, like paper? These operators have to run their machines all time, save for scheduled maintenance, due to very high capital costs.

We are seeing in Europe an early example of what happens when energy becomes expensive, and as we have pointed out, those high energy consuming industries have been cut back production and some have shuttered operations and are moving to countries with cheaper energy. This is a first stage in the sort of changes that we may see as climate pressures increase and efforts to curb energy use intensify. The Wall Street Journal describes some of the results in Europeans Are Becoming Poorer. ‘Yes, We’re All Worse Off.’ The Journal attributes this “decline” to Europe’s poor demographics and preference for leisure to American levels of consumer goods consumption. But if you look at the timing, the problem clearly became acute in the wake of Covid and the sanctions on Russia which have cut Europe’s access to cheap Russian gas:

Adjusted for inflation and purchasing power, wages have declined by about 3% since 2019 in Germany, by 3.5% in Italy and Spain and by 6% in Greece…

The pain reaches far into the middle classes. In Brussels, one of Europe’s richest cities, teachers and nurses stood in line on a recent evening to collect half-price groceries from the back of a truck. The vendor, Happy Hours Market, collects food close to its expiration date from supermarkets and advertises it through an app. Customers can order in the early afternoon and collect their cut-price groceries in the evening.

“Some customers tell me, because of you I can eat meat two or three times per week,” said Pierre van Hede, who was handing out crates of groceries.

Karim Bouazza, a 33-year-old nurse who was stocking up on half-price meat and fish for his wife and two children, complained that inflation means “you almost need to work a second job to pay for everything.”…

Weak growth and rising interest rates are straining Europe’s generous welfare states, which provide popular healthcare services and pensions. European governments find the old recipes for fixing the problem are either becoming unaffordable or have stopped working. Three-quarters of a trillion euros in subsidies, tax breaks and other forms of relief have gone to consumers and businesses to offset higher energy costs—something economists say is now itself fueling inflation, defeating the subsidies’ purpose.

Public-spending cuts after the global financial crisis starved Europe’s state-funded healthcare systems, especially the U.K.’s National Health Service.

As you can see from the Urban Institute list, the subtext is clear that women’s access to the labor market is generally precarious. They are a secondary source of labor. Employing men is seen as a priority since they are the traditional breadwinners. It’s politically unacceptable to say that in advanced economies but that it is pattern in developing countries and in very bad times.

In particularly, women have benefitted from the rapid advance of technology, since it creates jobs that don’t require strength (desk jobs and in developing economies, assembly work). As Das again pointed out:

Most technological developments, designed to improve lifestyles, are energy dependent. Aviation and information technology illustrate this aspect of energy demand…

Similarly, data centres in which over $100 plus billion is invested each year consumes $7 billion in electricity over a similar time horizon. Data and computation intensive applications, such as artificial intelligence, and virtual or augmented reality such as that of the metaverse, will require significant amounts of energy…

In computing, energy use per byte has decreased by an astonishing 10,000 times over a similar period but global computing demand for electricity has risen sharply due to the proliferation of devices and a 1,000,000+ times increase in data traffic.

So as economic conditions come under strain, social safety nets will be cut, and you can be sure that child care subsidies and funding for education, two big boosts to women’s past advancement, will be cut. At least Europe has extensive public transportation, and that will presumably remain well subsidized to discourage use of cars. But what happens in the US? Electric vehicles are more expensive than autos powered by gas. In the UK, when electricity prices rose, they also became more expensive to operate; subsidies seem to have reversed that, but how long can they be sustained?

The reason for the focus on cars is the improved status of women here, as Elizabeth Warren described in her book The Two Income Trap, is their workforce participation when married or co-habiting. Warren pointed out that led to a new baseline of higher costs, such as (critically) for a second car and home help. By contrast, the Journal article on Europe mentioned one woman who had given up her car and was cobbling together rideshares. Expect this to become a new normal, particularly if planned prohibitions on the sale of new gasoline vehicles is not reversed. Some may be able to convert to scooters as their second car, but that isn’t realistic for someone with a four or five day a week job and harsh weather. And what happens to the cost of help when their transportation costs rise? Or to put it from their perspective, what happens to the incomes of home cleaners and various underpaid casual women home workers when their costs of doing business rise yet their employers are squeezed?

And that’s before getting to the cheery forecast that AI will destroy more women’s jobs than men’s.

Another set of factors is that societies tend to become more politically conservative in poor economic times. The impact of the global financial crisis was a big reason for the much-decried rise of right in Europe. If traditionalist forces become more powerful, that will lead to a faster gutting of social services. It’s not hard to see that programs like day care would be high on the list.

Of course, worrying about the status of women might seem like a luxury if we are facing worst case climate outcomes. But in a way that encapsulates the issue. Most of what we value or see as normal will come under stress as this crisis progresses.


1 Of course, the evolution of Western society is path dependent, and some economists have pointed out that women’s work isn’t even part of class analysis. As Margaret Benson wrote in a 1969 essay in the Monthly Review:

The position of women rests, as everything in our complex society, on an economic base.

—Eleanor Marx and Edward Aveling

The “woman question” is generally ignored in analyses of the class structure of society…The status of women is clearly inferior to that of men, but analysis of this condition usually falls into discussing socialization, psychology, interpersonal relations, or the role of marriage as a social institution.1 Are these, however, the primary factors? In arguing that the roots of the secondary status of women are in fact economic, it can be shown that women as a group do indeed have a definite relation to the means of production and that this is different from that of men…

The appearance of commodity production has indeed transformed the way that men labor. As he [Ernest Mandel] points out, most household labor in capitalist society (and in the existing socialist societies, for that matter) remains in the premarket stage. This is the work which is reserved for women and it is in this fact that we can find the basis for a definition of women.

In sheer quantity, household labor, including child care, constitutes a huge amount of socially necessary production. Nevertheless, in a society based on commodity production, it is not usually considered “real work” since it is outside of trade and the market place…This assignment of household work as the function of a special category “women” means that this group does stand in a different relation to production than the group “men.” We will tentatively define women, then, as that group of people who are responsible for the production of simple use-values in those activities associated with the home and family.

Since men carry no responsibility for such production, the difference between the two groups lies here. Notice that women are not excluded from commodity production. Their participation in wage labor occurs but, as a group, they have no structural responsibility in this area and such participation is ordinarily regarded as transient. Men, on the other hand, are responsible for commodity production; they are not, in principle, given any role in household labor. For example, when they do participate in household production, it is regarded as more than simply exceptional; it is demoralizing, emasculating, even harmful to health.

And in keeping, a story I have told from time to time:

In the early 1990s, Radcliffe held a conference on work-life balance. I didn’t go to this event, but it became notorious among Radcliffe women of my age. The speakers and the participants recommended a lot of family friendly policies, which sounded all well and good, but query how you’d ever get them implemented.

The woman who was arguably the most successful woman professional in the room as the first woman partner in M&A on Wall Street (and I know her personally, she is formidable) got up and said: “Nothing will change until women own the means of production.”

The room went silent.

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  1. KD

    If I had to hazard a guess, the two most important factors relating to the rise of Western attitudes and laws relating to the status of women are modern policing and modern medicine, with modern contraception playing a role. If it falls on families to protect females from sexual violence, and these family vendettas are expensive (as in lethal), then there will be strict restrictions on females. If you have to have 10 children to have a reasonable chance that 2 live to adults, woman would be forced to take very traditional roles in order to keep societies from completely depopulating (and taking their social norms with them). Its not clear that economic growth is necessary.

    On the other hand, to move from a consumer-based society focused on growth and expanding consumer choices to something else involves a huge cultural shift and a change in priorities. Hard to see this happening outside of some kind of religious frenzy, and hard to see the rise of some eco-friendly form of old time religion without more traditional attitudes taking hold. You can imagine if everyone converted to the Amish faith that the carbon footprint would be substantially reduced, but that wouldn’t comport with modern egalitarianism.

    1. NoFreeWill

      Cops do not protect women from sexual violence and are often themselves the perpetrators of it, you need only look at the pile of 1 million untested rape kits (in Los Angeles alone) for evidence of this. Modern medicine and contraception have played an important role, with religion mostly playing an opressive one. I can see an eco friendly religion being created that is feminist, but it would require people to understand that it is capitalism that is incompatible with both survival and feminism.

      1. KD

        Cops do not protect women from sexual violence and are often themselves the perpetrators of it, you need only look at the pile of 1 million untested rape kits (in Los Angeles alone) for evidence of this.

        Last time I checked, rape is a crime, and they arrest and prosecute people for it. Usually pretty significant sentences as a result of convictions as well. In contrast, some place more tribal, uncles are expected to kill perpetrators, which can become very costly to the clan, so you have restrictions on women’s freedom to prevent incidents requiring vendettas. In reality, most men have no interest in limiting women’s freedom or political rights, and are happy to see this stuff go (it was supermajorities of male legislatures that passed the Seventeenth Amendment). Most of the “patriarchy” is the result of societies with less social complexity trying to deal with the problems of protecting women from sexual violence. With greater complexity (centralized government and policing), the patriarchy (in that form) disappeared.

        At the end of the day, the modern world is all about materialism and consumption, with a smattering of sensation seeking, hedonism, and adventure thrown on top for spice. Radical conservation is a negation of that orientation. I do not see an easy way to re-order people’s priorities unless it was through some kind of spiritual awakening, and a re-framing of values. This would also represent a restructuring of the modes and means of production as well, and would transform the status of women, as well as the political questions in relation to that status. It might be good for women in many ways. It certainly would involve change.

        In any event, if people can’t adapt, society will collapse and people will be forced to turned to ancient sources of meaning in order to survive. My guess is it might be easier via collapse than to completely re-orient the average person, especially when the MSM will be shoving everyone in the other direction.

        BTW, this segment was pretty amazing, this guy is like someone out of a Tolstoy novel:


        1. Odysseus

          Last time I checked, rape is a crime, and they arrest and prosecute people for it.

          Rape is nominally a crime, but the mere existence of “untested rape kits” shows that it is not prosecuted.

          1. Yves Smith Post author

            Sorry, that may be true but your factoid does not establish that.

            First, over 60% of rapes are not reported. The police can’t pursue what they are not told about.

            Second, having a rape kit done is not tantamount to reporting a rape. See for instance very pro-woman New York:

            DNA evidence from a crime like sexual assault can be collected from the crime scene, but it can also be collected from your body, clothes, and other personal belongings. You may choose to have a sexual assault forensic exam, sometimes known as a “rape kit,” to preserve possible DNA evidence and receive important medical care. You don’t have to report the crime to have an exam, but the process gives you the chance to safely store evidence should you decide to report at a later time.

            Third, in the UK, half the women who report a rape (and presumably can identify the perp) drop charges when they realize what is entailed in going forward. So the failure to test rape kits can be significantly in connection to cases not being pursued. Women basically have to relive the rape again and again in developing their case, and face aggressive cross examination on what they were doing right before the rape (any alcohol or drug consumption will be spun to discredit the victim) and their sexual history.


      2. Jonathan Salomon

        State police doesn’t protect anyone from violence ever. That’s a big myth planted by governments into the minds of sheeple. No matter where you live on planet earth. Police always shows up on the scene of the crime after it happened!

  2. digi_owl

    All in all, it is easy being liberal (or should i say progressive?) when food and shelter is secure into the foreseeable future.

    Why the post-war left’s abandonment of any material basis was such a gift to the xenophobic right, as they could then point to immigration as being the cause rather than big finance keeping it all for themselves.

  3. Phenix

    Men on average are bigger, stronger, and faster than women, which means they can physically dominate them. And they don’t like dealing with a lot of bodily fluids, which is what caring for babies and toddlers includes.

    For example, when they do participate in household production, it is regarded as more than simply exceptional; it is demoralizing, emasculating, even harmful to health.

    A lot of things have changed since the 1990s. I wont speak for your world but working men are not scared of caring for babies. The men at my work 500+ make fun of anyone that wants to get away from essential child care but we do understand that men can not feed babies. I was surprised by the wide spread push for breast feeding among my people max salary is under 126-50K down to part timers that make poverty wages. They do however bottle feed if the mother pumps or does not breast feed at all. It’s considered basic etiquette now.

    I know one guy that refused. We still made fun of him even if his position was defensible..maybe. I never met his wife but I believe they both agreed to traditional gender roles.

    The only multi-millionaire I know forced his wife to sign a contract about child care BUT he now thinks he is a woman. I do not think his position is stable but perhaps he represents the upper class of America.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      Please tell me where your workplace is. I can pretty much guarantee a fair to high wage white collar workplace in a blue city or in/in close proximity to a university town.

      As for your beliefs about attitudes, what people say to pollsters where they have anonymity, is different than what they say in front of peers.

      This was from 2011, not the 1990s, that 86.6% of men believed the wife should take care of children: https://www.researchgate.net/figure/Mens-attitudes-towards-responsibility-for-taking-care-of-children_fig1_253340772

      And this 2023 Pew survey found that men say they take more responsibility for childrearing than their wives say they do, and the comment at the end says the women’s perceptions are more accurate, that they do carry more of the load than men, and that has become worse under Covid:

      Consistent with past surveys, perceptions of who does more when it comes to child care responsibilities differ by gender among married and cohabiting parents in opposite-sex relationships.2 Mothers tend to say they do more than their spouse or partner, while fathers tend to say they share responsibilities about equally.

      Majorities of mothers say they do more than their spouse or partner when it comes to managing their children’s schedule and activities (78% say they do more of this), helping their children with homework or other school assignments (65% among those with school-age children), providing comfort or emotional support to their children (58%), and meeting their children’s basic needs, such as feeding, bathing or changing diapers (57% among those with children younger than 5). On each of these, fathers are more likely than mothers to say they do more or that they share these responsibilities about equally with their spouse or partner. Still, with the exception of helping their children with homework, only about one-in-ten fathers say they do more than their spouse or partner when it comes to these tasks.

      When it comes to disciplining their children, similar shares of mothers (53%) and fathers (51%) say they share this responsibility with their spouse or partner about equally, but while 36% of mothers say they do more, just 16% of fathers say their spouse or partner does more in this regard. In turn, 31% of fathers say they do more disciplining than their spouse or partner, compared with 13% of mothers who say their spouse or partner does more than they do.

      Mothers who say they do more than their spouse or partner when it comes to managing their children’s schedules and activities and providing comfort or emotional support are more likely than those who say both parents share these responsibilities about equally to say parenting has been harder than they expected. About seven-in-ten mothers who say they do more when it comes to managing their children’s schedules and activities (71%) and providing comfort or emotional support (72%) say being a parent has been at least somewhat harder than they expected, compared with 54% and 59%, respectively, among mothers who say they share these responsibilities about equally with their spouse or partner.

      Previous research has found that working mothers are more likely to carry more of the household and caregiving load, and many of the duties mothers take on in family life were made even more difficult in the COVID-19 pandemic.


      In addition, your focus on a quote in a footnote comes very close to strawmanning the post. The point is that the elevated status of women now is a function of greater prosperity and techology, and those tailwinds will go into reverse as adaptation to new energy realities sinks in. So it is totally irrelevant how enlighted your workplace is. This is an extremely recent development and is unlikely to survive hard times.

      1. Phenix

        I make 55-70k a year. I live outside of Philadelphia and I am a manager at a warehouse. I pretty much live paycheck to paycheck since I support 3 other people. I float between all the areas and tend to talk a lot about kids since I have them and most people there know I am big on holistic living. I work with a lot of high school graduates and drop outs. I’m one of the few people with a degree.

        I am amazed by the amount of people who want to breast feed and care for their children but are stopped because our society does not value child care and bonding.

        Yes, women do more in the home and a lot of men are lazy sacks of shit. I am specifically talking about babies and how you categorized the people I know and work with. I may be an outlier since I work a lot with black men and per surveys they are more involved with their children but the same sentiments are shared by my non-black co-workers. Diapers are not scary. It’s part of raising kids.

        I do not disagree with the rest. I guess I’m just sensitive since, as a male, I am routinely grouped with people that suck or whose mentalities are not aligned with our current reality.

      2. Phenix

        I think it would be interesting if this was posed to Heather and Brett of Darkhorse. I have not idea what they would say. It would be interesting.

      3. Tim

        My wife and I have an implied agreement regarding the division of labor for our family of 4: I do the things that we agree I can do better than her and she does the things we agree she can do better than me, and we share in doing the things we are both equally competent in doing.

        The good news is that we are very complementary in our skills. That isn’t by accident, it’s a mix of the stereotypical advantages and disadvantages between the sexes and our intention in mate selection to find somebody that complemented us.

  4. Hayek's Heelbiter

    Fascinating. To me “The status of women is clearly inferior to that of men” is to me a sweeping apples to oranges generalization.
    Although anecdotes are not data, one by one, the attractive, highly empowered women I worked with on Wall Street back in the day, are dying alone with their cats (or dogs or parrots).
    If they were earning $500k, they wanted to marry the bankers earning 10x. Bankers earning 10x wanted to (and did) marry trophy bimbos who desired children and weren’t too confrontational. All of these high-powered women immediately overlooked any man earning less, even if these desirable men were actually at the dawn of their career. Oddly enough, the happiest couples I know from this cohort were (a) a woman who had circulated in the highest echelons of Hollywood but married a carpenter and now lives in rural Massachusetts, working as a primary school teacher, and (b) a partner at a white-shoe law firm who married her high school sweetheart, a chef.
    Some interesting statistics:
    The Paradox of Declining Female Happiness (1% per year since 1970). Many studies out there, but recent summarization:
    45% of women between ages 25 and 44 will be single and childless by 2030:
    57% Of Single Adults In U.S. Not Looking To Date
    Statistics show why it’s so hard to be an average man on dating apps with an interesting discussion at the end regarding dating apps and the GINI coefficient. The Top 10% of men get 58% of the likes, the Bottom 50% 4.3%.
    Men blame Feminism; Women blame Misogynism and the Patriarchy.
    In actual fact, this is evolutionary sociobiology 101, an effect called “hypergamy.” Women will consider any man earning less than they do as substandard, no matter what other virtues he may possess.
    As NC readers, it should be immediately obvious, suivez l’argent!
    Although I have never seen any studies on this and would welcome NC commentariat input and clarification, I am fairly certain that escalating hypergamy is a result of all the “guy” jobs moving to China, Mexico and India, and an increasing cohort of women who refuse to date “down,” much less marry a man they consider beneath them.
    What the collapse of two-parent families bodes for Western society we can only conjecture.

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      Wowsers, please improve your drafting or otherwise stop adopting a contrary posture you then completely reverse later to get attention. It’s disrespectful and disingenuous at best.

      You act as if you disagree with your initial quote, and then confirm what it says by banging on about hypergamy. Why would women feel the need to marry up if they had equal status and earning potential?!?!

      1. Hayek's Heelbiter

        Hi, Yves,
        I’m very touched that you took the time to respond to the post. I love the liveliness of the NC commentariant. I’m willing to accept that I might well be wrong, and I actually seek to be refuted. Countless of my viewpoints have either been reversed or at least modified by NC articles and comments. Keep up the great work.
        In answer to your final question, two million years of hominid evolution has hardwired women to prefer Alpha / High Status / High Value Males. A plethora of studies, especially on data apps, have verified the reality of this effect. As for myself, I can only offer what I witnessed back in the day in the Wall Street trenches / tranches (?).

        1. hunkerdown

          No, but lying is the health of the heroic society, and heroic societies only exist as consequences of lying, particularly about the actions of the past and forced theories of causality.

          Evolutionary science is one of the places industrial capitalism hides its mythologists. The philosophy, history, and law professions are some of the other important ones.

          1. Hayek's Heelbiter

            Not sure how the fact that only four mammalian species (including humans – all other mammals are fecund until they die) undergo menopause (cf. the Grandmother Theory) is a mythology promulgated by evolutionary science at the behest of industrial capitalism, but perhaps it is.

      2. carry

        I think your bewilderment is because you seem to assume that mate choices are rational. ALL professional women i know seek higher status men, and all of them know cognitively that this will lead to unhappiness in the long run (the reasons given by them are mostly that higher status men live in a cutthroat work environment, and therefore are not nice or caring people).
        They say they cannot help themselves, i.e. they are not attracted to others, even if they are nice/goodlooking/fun.
        This is of course only anecdotal evidence, but the reasons given are suspisciously similar.

        1. Yves Smith Post author

          I’m not bewildered. This is your projection.

          I am pointing out the contradiction in Hayek’s Heelbiter comment.

          And consider this account from the Guardian in 2018 re when women earn more than men. It appears both husband and wife are uncomfortable about that:

          New research from the US Census Bureau shows something a bit strange in the era of powerful feminist organizing. Apparently when women earn more than their husbands, both spouses lie about it.

          About one in four heterosexual couples that the census looked at had wives that earned more than their husbands. In those cases, though, husbands over-reported their income while their wives under-reported their own. (The census sorted all this out when it matched couple’s answers to their actual IRS filings.)

          Now, we can’t know for sure why the exaggeration happens – perhaps couples want to present themselves as more traditional to the census, maybe husbands feel insecure about making less or wives are anxious that their salary difference will “emasculate” their spouse. Whatever the reason, though, it serves as a good reminder that it’s not just political equality we need to fight for – it’s equality in the culture, and our relationships.


          1. carry

            Ah, sorry, then I misunderstood your last sentence and its punctuation.
            And I agree with the Guardian article, my anecdotal evidence says the same thing.

          2. Tim

            If we are trying to paint discussions and solutions to problems with the statistical majority, the primary consideration in discussions about the sexes and the economy must be evolutionary science. Cognitive biases aren’t the only things hardwired into us.

            Physical, social, and cognitive differences between the sexes exist. Inversions of those differences, when they occur (which can be quite often, but still the minority of cases) can make for an uncomfortable experience, almost an existential crisis.

            The survey above likely has a social component to it. The wife probably feels she loses social status for having a man that can’t earn/provide as much as she does (did I marry down?)

      3. Roger Blakely

        Hayek’s Heelbiter’s comment is not a shocking comment. His comment is standard operating procedure for men in the Manosphere. If Hayek’s Heelbiter had not taken up the task today, I would have spent five minutes whipping up the same comment with the same links. This is how we think. Every day more men are thinking this way.

        Before he died last year at the age of 53 years old (of natural causes), Kevin Samuels had over one million subscribers on YouTube. Kevin Samuels made $4 million on YouTube in the last year of his life. At the moment Pearl Davis, a 26-year-old upper-middle class white woman talking about these issues, has 1.6 million subscribers. Two weeks ago she was interviewed by Piers Morgan.

        1. Yves Smith Post author

          Please do not straw man me. I did not express shock. I expressed annoyance. The way he wrote it was that it started off as if he was disagreeing when he changed his stance and supported the idea that women THEMSELVES see that they have lower status, hence the attraction of marrying a higher status man.

          Many readers don’t get past the start of a comment plus first impressions stick.

        2. Expat2uruguay

          Thank you Roger Blakely. As a 60 year old female civil engineer, now retired, I’m interested in what hayek’s heelbiter has to say and recognize that it is representative of a substantial cohort of men. (I myself am not described as these women have been, but it has become clear to me for quite some time that I am in fact an alien interloper who has dropped into this society.) Anyway, thank you for advancing the position of many who should be understood if we do wish to function as a society together!!

          But I’m not clear on what your point is by introducing these YouTube creators. Are you simply saying that this particular man has gotten less followers than this particular undeserving woman? The guy was older than the woman, who you described as a white upper-class woman who has been interviewed by Piers Morgan. She sounds like a Karen. And he’s supposed to represent a successful businessman because he made this money? I’m actually pretty confused on where you’re going with this, hopefully you’ll come back and tie these ends together… What’s your point here?

          1. Roger Blakely

            My point is not to see Hayek’s Heelbiter as an individual guy making an individual comment. (I don’t know Hayek’s Heelbiter, and I have never communicated with him.) He is submitting a red pill comment as someone who identifies with the Manosphere on YouTube. Red pill is an anti-feminist outlook on gender relations.

            The Manosphere is growing under the radar screen of the mainstream media. I mentioned the YouTubers just to show that the Manosphere has reach. Contrary to the opinions of the people who run our favorite Web Site, I am not an isolated weirdo. The opinions that I share are standard talking points from the Manosphere. My opinions are shared by a growing number of men.

    2. jefemt

      “…dying alone with their cats…” Well, I know a fair number of later in life single- never-married and/or divorced, (few widowed) – women, and they all seem very content and busy in their solitude.
      A woman without a man is like a fish without a bicycle?

      But this has nothing to do with the potential plight of women in a pre-jackpot or at least crack-up of degrowth.
      I personally see HUGE opportunity for ALL to job share, work less, and live more meaningful lives we can’t even envision in the areas we started to ponder and realize were ‘essential’ during the gift that was Covid and the shutdown. Opportunity squandered, although many do seem to have individually re-aligned their lives to some extent.

      The collective ‘we’, an unrealized abstract, is seemingly fading further and further from the realm of possibility, does not seem to be a popular notion much less discussion folks will entertain.

      “we” lack collective political will, organization, and the faith in ourselves to make it so.
      Despite what Rosie the Riveter declared in her poster (there is no “We”)
      but she is right, we COULD do it…

      Women’s issues, gender equality issues, environmental/sustainability issues… all intertwined.
      Means of production- older than dirt- a valid point.
      My view—until ‘we’ shift paradigms completely, drop the us v them… and create a true ‘we’, regardless of station, melanin, chromosome makeup, preferred pronoun, language, cultural heritage, faith, we will stay divided, and inevitably fail. Rinse and repeat details for each cycle, but fail we will.
      It starts with a recognition of a right to exist, a respect for each individual, and a big dose of love and compassion.
      Much of politics, economics, and policy is purposely based on the essential need for a foil, a ‘them’, an ‘other’.

      Frankly, I don’t see Nation-States, wealthy, organized faiths, influential classes or categories, allowing an ‘us’ to exist.
      (Well, Davosman does, BUT, on ‘their’ terms… you will own nothing and be happy…
      Actually, if we all are in the beautiful swimming pool of life owning nothing, we might be happier. I just don’t see Davosman in a public pool… )

      Not much hope and a lot of cynical pessimism in this old cowboy

  5. JTMcPhee

    Going on a big energy diet, the status of everyone except the Elysian Elite will be degraded.

    Growth made economic space for women to join the PMC and take part with men on a less unequal footing (speaking large) in the disease processes that we chat about here.

    Would like to see evidence that anything but gender of the Lootery would change if “women own the means of production.” Greed is not sex-linked, as far as I can tell, nor bloody-mindedness.

    Looking forward to the day when the nascent efforts of bioscience folks get the in-vitro production of humans up to “Brave New World” level. Freeing (a privileged few) females from sex- linked drudgery.

    What does the political economy “we” want actually consist of? My preferences, as a retired male old-style “liberal” pretty clearly don’t count for squat, even if they favor women having equal shares of the benefits (and burdens) of keeping it all together and going in a healthier (who decides this, again?) direction.

    To the victor go the spoils. Pretty much everyone (outside a small margin) just wants MORE. What chance of derailing that construct? If women run things, or run half of things, or a little more as reparations for all the past inequities, that’s going to change?

    1. BlueMoose

      Going on a big energy diet, the status of everyone except the Elysian Elite will be degraded

      Yes, I suspect that it won’t be limited to women. As the situation degrades and nations/localities take a hard right turn to authoritarianism, giving up rights for promised security – lots of other groups are going to have a hard time. It will be open season for a lot of groups that the deplorables/right wing rabble have been forced to tolerate once they are in control. Of course the Elysian Elites will be able to carry on as usual.

      Obviously women can’t relocate, but if I was in a LGBT+ community, I would be looking now to find some place that was more sympathetic to their situation.

      I hope that doesn’t come across as passive-aggressive because I wish no harm to anyone. Stay safe (as they say).

  6. disc_writes

    Do not forget sanitation. 100 years ago, there were no public toilets, not even in most bars or restaurants (where no respectable woman would go alone, anyway). Men relieved themselves in the open, but that was not an option for women.

    In Southern Europe, it wasn’t until the 1960s/1970s that one could reliably find public toilets in somewhat decent state. And I can attest that, as late as 2005, the agricultural university in Tirana, Albania only had toilets for professors, but not for students.

    All other aspects become of secondary importance, if you cannot even leave your home.

      1. disc_writes

        The research plots were not around the city campus, but outside of town. So I guess that it was a combination of timing, going to cafe’s, and peeing against the walls.

        Back then, girls would typically not walk alone, but were accompanied by other family members. I do not know how much things have changed since then. I know a number of Albanians in Belgium and the Netherlands and they are very modern in their behavior.

        Which kind of makes my point: women adapt quickly. When sanitation, clean water and electricity are reliable, freedom of movement increases rapidly. When they are not reliable, women have to limit their range of activities.

        Men move freely regardless.

    1. ambrit

      I’ve mentioned this once before, but my parents, when they ‘honeymooned’ backpacking through France back in the 1950s told of the “public house” in a small village out in the boondocks somewhere in the South of France where the pissoir was a big wall, with a side wall on each end, divided into two separate sections by a third wall. Each side had a “sign” painted on it high up; ‘Hommes’ and ‘Femmes.’ You bought your own paper.
      ‘Bathroom etiquette’ is mutable and quite different in different cultures.

  7. Louis Fyne

    IMO, women may have a double whammy from: 1. “faux AI” (ChatGPT-like software) gutting lower-tier white collar jobs and entire industries like customer service; and

    2. relatively, blue collar “dirty jobs” (plumbers, machinists, etc) will hold up while discretionary spending industries (travel, discretionary services, retail ,etc) will get hit more

    Amazon and my credit card company rolled out more sphisticated customer service software.

    A godsend, no more phone tree hell, my problems solved in less than 60 seconds. A neutron bomb for jobs of women and at Indian call centers

  8. Eclair

    Yves, thank you for writing on this subject.

    Like you, (but more so, since I am even older,) I lived through the feminist ‘revolution.’ I graduated from a top women’s college, where we were constantly told that we were the top 2% intellectually in the country. But our choices, upon graduation (based on our role models among the women professors) were to find a husband (preferably from a similarly high-ranking men’s school,) marry, have children, join The Junior League, and engage in suitable charitable work. Or, go to grad school, and carve out an academic career, while remaining single and childless.

    Suddenly that all changed, thanks to Betty Friedan and Gloria Steinem and others. And the economic surplus.

    Now, in my 80’s, after grad school, husbands, children, career, I have time to reflect, while pulling weeds in the garden. Fossil fuel and the electric grid have made my domestic life easier: clothes drier, hot water heater, central heating, automobiles. Even now, a battery-operated chain saw, a sub-compact hydrostatic drive tractor with bucket and brush hog, allow me to cut and trim trees, mow a field and move loads of compost.

    I refused to be a ‘lesser’ human, because of my gender. But, to prove this, I had to hire women to care for my children. And, because ‘child care’ is considered of secondary importance in our economic/social system, they were paid less than I was. They had minimal benefits and no job security. Because ‘house work’ is unimportant, I hired women to clean. At a lower wage, and with no benefits. I was perpetuating the system of economic and social inequality and cementing the status of women and women’s work as lesser than my upgraded status as a ‘superior’ worker. Well, at least I was contributing to the increase of GDP, by changing ‘unpaid domestic labor’ to the category of ‘paid domestic labor.’

    To close this overly long comment, I was struck by the remark, in your footnote, taken from the Radcliffe conference, that ‘nothing will change until women own the means of production.’ I remember reading, decades ago, a remark that the reason men wage war is that they are furious because they can’t have babies. Women, in a real sense, have always owned the ‘means of production.’ Without them, humanity ceases to exist. Oh, men can create life in a laboratory. But they much prefer to control women; to fence them in, to restrict their sexuality to two options: maiden or whore. To denigrate ‘domestic’ work by turning it into unpaid labor. By making it ‘manly’ and profitable to clear cut virgin forests, or bulldoze thousands of acres of forest into an open scar, oozing toxic goo, in a bid to produce more petroleum from tar sands, or build bombs and F-35’s. Women have fallen into the trap of mistaking money for social capital. We have become house slaves lured by the promise of ‘equality,’ or of being accepted as ‘one of the boys.’ But, we’re still part of the system, we reinforce the inequality. Raised up from our slavery, we become the overseers of slaves. But, really, it’s the whole rotten system of slavery that must be destroyed, if women, and men, are to become truly equal and content.

    1. DJG, Reality Czar

      Sistren and brethren: I will take Eclair’s text and go from there.

      Women have fallen into the trap of mistaking money for social capital.

      I’d argue that this mistake is almost everywhere in NATO-landia these days. Consider the Ukraine Project, which consists of throwing money at a corrupt government so that the Ukrainians call kill off a generation of young men.

      Years ago, I read the wonderful book, The Mummies of Urumqi, by Elizabeth Wayland Barber. Early on, Barber states rather matter-of-factly a great truth: For most of human history, most human beings spent most of their time on agriculture and on making fabric.

      As we collectively contemplate a lower-energy future, we have to rethink and rework the means of production. I will point out that the average Italian uses forty percent of the energy of an average American. It isn’t as if mass suffering has to occur. Life here in Italy is remarkably pleasant: And much of Italian life still revolves around growing, making, and selling food as well as cloth and clothing. (My Chocolate City is well known for the many custom shops–and I have bought gifts for kids from a woman with her own brilliant atelier in the Via Barbaroux.)

      I also recall Wendell Berry’s wonderful essay on how he could run a 160-acre farm using only horses, no tractor. A tractor is dirty and not as good a companion.

      So there is a path to a low-energy future that keeps the powers that women have earned. Some of those powers may not include being “Director of Marketing and Strategic Meddling” at BlahBlah Corporation. But it may include (and my experience here in the Undisclosed Region indicates so) directing an organic farm or distributing cheese. Is it truly a triumph of feminism that many directors of marketing are women?

      I am reminded of the naysayers who always turn up (even here among the commentariat) to bloviate about how a turn toward “organic” agriculture or “best practices” will result in famines. Such a change won’t. Farmers just aren’t that inept. Big Ag is inept.

      The technology will remain: Vacuum cleaners aren’t going extinct. Good farmers abound–they just get very little respect from M.B.A.s.

      What has to change–and we have the power to change it–is predatory capitalism, now infesting NATO-landia and eager to kill us with money. We have to turn the tables. I’ll stick with my neighbor Antonio Gramsci: Pessimist because of intelligence, optimist by sheer will.

      1. Eclair

        Thanks, DJG! Kind of off topic, but you mention women directing an organic farm or in charge of cheese distribution. A few years ago, I fell down the internet rabbit hole, doing some research for a friend looking for background on her Swedish great-grandmother. After discovering that her relative had failed her exam for dairy maid (the Swedes kept records of everything!), I was intrigued by 19th century Sweden having schools for dairy maids and kept on researching. Found a dissertation on Swedish dairy farming. Apparently women had been in charge of dairies and cheese making, on the larger farms, until milking and cheese making starting to by mechanized. Then it became a largely male domain.

    2. Stephanie Highley

      I was struck by the remark, in your footnote, taken from the Radcliffe conference, that ‘nothing will change until women own the means of production.’ I remember reading, decades ago, a remark that the reason men wage war is that they are furious because they can’t have babies. Women, in a real sense, have always owned the ‘means of production.’ Without them, humanity ceases to exist.

      A similar thought struck me a years and years ago when Frank Herbert’s The White Plague – I wondered at the time if there was a through-line in Herbertian history from the near-extinction event of The White Plague to the creation of the Bene Gesserit. No other fiction writer I’ve encountered, except Atwood and P.D. James, really deals with the political and social ramifications of reproduction and who controls it. Likewise, it very rarely seems to come up in current discourse, except by radical feminists comfortable with material analysis and the sort of paleoconservative who worries about falling birthrates among people of European descent – both of whom rightly understand that women constitute a very specific class of laborer, even if they have very different ideas about how to fight that particular class war. Otherwise, discussion of reproductive work in the U.S. is pretty limited to abortion and the need for population control as a tool to fight climate change – neither of which tend to leave much space for ideas to materially support the women at work reproducing.

      I believe this lack of discussion stems at least in part from the division of reproductive and child-rearing labor that you site – a big chunk of the price of admission to the discourse is to not be distracted by child care. To survive and thrive in a neo-liberal world, babies and their subsequent two decades of maturation need to be passed off to someone else, and anyone who thinks differently is likely to excuse herself from the table to go do the actual and frequently unremunerated work, garnering neither money nor social capital, except possibly very locally – I think specifically of Sharon Astyk, a writer who was committed to radical conservation and women-led population development, whose voice is not nearly as prolific as it was prior to her family’s expansion via fostering/adoption. So the system perpetuates, because outside of a huge extended family network, what else is there?

      Astyk herself advocated for what she called the ‘church model’ of activism, which sounds a lot like what the Archdruid has discussed as a previous era’s club and lodge model of mutual aid, which is not revolutionary but it occurs to me that the revolution will probably need child care as well. I like that idea, mostly because it seems practical in a world that so seldom logistically connects the political to the biological.

      1. KD

        Likewise, it very rarely seems to come up in current discourse, except by radical feminists comfortable with material analysis and the sort of paleoconservative who worries about falling birthrates among people of European descent – both of whom rightly understand that women constitute a very specific class of laborer, even if they have very different ideas about how to fight that particular class war.

        Yet the two things any state must do to survive is to reproduce and “educate” its population, and defend itself. If it fails to do either, it dies, and the two are intertwined. If it dies, then it can’t bring about the worker’s utopia or pay social security or anything else.

        The other blind spot in the “discourse” is nasty bits about how you actually project force successfully in the real world. Part of the problem with this blindness is you see very smart people falling for complete b.s. in MSM in their propagandistic portraits of the Russo-Ukraine war.

        I don’t know how someone can be a serious thinker on politics if they don’t address reproduction and warfare, because the state is the chief means of politics, and the state depends on reproduction and warfare. I suppose you can be an anarchist dreamer and spin stories about utopia, but otherwise its silly. I think the fear is that if one strays too close to the sun, you will end up with some kind of ultra-reactionary take on things, but if true, it is compensated by the fact that you are wrestling with how the real world works, and you understand the dynamics of the historical process as it has unfolded, rather than just looking at everything as a morality play.

  9. The Rev Kev

    I can easily see a future where men are turned against women and visa versa as economic hard times come as a blame game is set up. But here is the thing. Who would be setting it up exactly? Perhaps those that have siphoned of most of the wealth of the economy leaving the majority to scramble for any crumbs trickling down. And by setting up these divisions, it allows them to skate free. After all, it is working wonderfully for them right now with these artificial, enforced “cultural wars”.

    If this sounds unlikely, consider this. In the US wages have flat-lined since the early 70s when disco was king. You crank in all the numbers and that is the way that it is. Productively, on the other hand, has shot through to the sky. In that gap are trillions of dollars that never went to workers over the past fifty years. Where did it go? I think that you can guess and the ever growing number of billionaires is merely a by-product of this. If that productivity had been going to workers like it historically had been before, then perhaps there would not be so much talk about the impact of energy diet effecting women as they would have been earning those much higher wages too.

    1. Anon

      If you ever take a gander through social media, it amplifies (and so normalizes) extremes. Never thought I would see the day where the girl next door is encouraged to perform, and will casually consider, a self-published stint in pornography (OnlyFans), but that’s where we are at. To your point, there are many influence networks, doubtlessly funded by establishment actors private and public, which fan the flames of their respective dumpster fires with such zeal; and in the case of feminism vs patriarchy, men and women are indeed at each others’ throats, the new Barbie movie being an expression of that zeitgeist. Here’s a pretty interesting commentary (from The Atlantic, sorry) that delves into the meat of what makes the movie so controversial.

  10. John Steinbach

    bell hooks referred to well-off feminists (white “house slaves”) as living in a “gilded cage.” My own feminist education as a cis male came primarily from women of color like hooks and, especially the Combahee River Collective. Also, “Off Our Backs” newspaper was a big influence.

    Yves’ analysis reminds us that as we collectively face “the Jackpot” we must reckon with issues of gender, class & equity. I recommend reading Ivan Illich’s book, “Gender” as a starting off point on this journey.

  11. Mikel

    Post-war situations were mentioned. Now throw escalating wars into the mix and what happens?

  12. p fitzsimon

    I recall from the 50s and 60s when feminists pontificated about Utopia. if women were liberated and could participate equally with men in all the work of society we would all be working 20 hour work weeks. Everyone would have more time with family and with their avocation in life. Instead we get 60 hour work weeks and multiple jobs per family. We knew a neighbourhood family back in the 90s with parents working 5 jobs between them to save for a house.

  13. mehitabel

    Interesting piece. There have been peak-oilers in years past who have predicted that energy descent would result in a rollback of hard-won advances in equal rights and civil rights. Not sure if this topic has ever been explored in depth.

    In 2010, BBC did a show on an experiment to power a typical U.K. household using human pedal power – teams of cyclists. The family was unaware that they were the guinea pigs… I remember reading a review of the show, and one of the producers involved was convinced that energy scarcity would mean a return to slavery (which is a big global scourge already).


  14. LY

    First thought is that the solution is scaling back the industrialized world’s work week from the nominal 40 hours, breaking the norms and reshaping expectations in East Asia and United States.

    Second thought is a perspective coming from poverty alleviation and food security. I know some people who work with an NGO (Buddhist Global Relief) focusing on food security and the status of women. They work with local grassroots organizations in Asia, Africa, and Americas (including US). Initially, they focused only on food security, but realized that improving the status of women was necessary, as they do most of the food preparation and child rearing. Supported initiatives include education, vocational and technical training (“right livelihood”), food gardens, and providing shelter for the most vulnerable such as children, widows, escaped war brides, etc. Many of the women never acquired “home economics” skills, or acquired reliable information on things like birth control and menstrual hygiene.

    None of this requires a high-carbon footprint lifestyle. But for it scale for everyone, it does require government involvement and priorities to address the Urban Institute’s points about food security, transportation, child care, labor rights, etc.

  15. Aurelien

    Just to state the obvious, but energy use is correlated with employment patterns. The idea of “a job” to which you “travelled” is mainly an invention of the later nineteenth century, and didn’t really get under way on a big scale until the growth of suburbs, and then took off massively with the introduction of motorways and high-speed rail travel. For much of human history the place of work and the place of residence were effectively the same, and even factory workers a hundred years ago generally walked to work.

    And in spite of what’s often said, women have always worked. When I was young, nearly all the women in our district worked, but in menial jobs: in factories, in shops, as cleaners, and not because they wanted to, but because they had to. With the exception of teachers, middle-class women didn’t work (at least not in Britain) because their social status came precisely from their leisure. Popular culture of fifty years ago is incomprehensible without understanding the stereotype of the harassed husband packed off to work every morning with the injunction to earn more money and get a better job. What changed was less a greater female participation in the workforce (do you remember the feminist agitation for women to work as miners? Neither do I)so much as the arrival of large numbers of women in high-paying jobs that out society codes as high-status and powerful.

    I suspect that we are going to see a forced re-localisation of much work, but how that will play out is hard to say.

  16. David in Friday Harbor

    Terrific post and comments for a Monday morning.

    I must agree that the biological reproductive imperative and the gendering of how it is carried out have everything to do with anthropogenic climate change and the escalating fight for the dwindling physical necessities for individual survival. My own unscientific observation of the anecdata tells me that our gender divisions have driven the current conditions for imminent collapse.

    In the economically developed world the “two-income trap” of birth-control and safe childbirth has enabled levels and patterns of mass consumption that would have been inconceivable to the czars and potentates of the Gilded-age. However, the normalized sex trafficking and child rape via dowry-pimping in the developing world has created an unprecedented population explosion that has now surpassed the Euro-American carbon footprint. Both trends are driven by the role and power of women in society.

    If the coming Jackpot turns us toward the “Law of the Jungle” and “Might Makes Right” Rules-Based Order world that the libertarians and neoliberals have lipsticked and powdered as “Freedom” I suspect that we will quickly return to the historic repression of women as mere reproductive service animals. As the father of independently-minded adult daughters, I might add, this is my worst nightmare…

  17. Kouros

    I do see a silver lining here: the thought that in fact, both the French Revolution and the Russian Revolution were truly started by the actions of women standing in bread lines for bread for their families…

  18. oledeadmeat

    “Nothing will change until women own the means of production.”

    What, precisely, would change?

    We have a commodity society – a world wherein owning a plethora of consumer goods are available to nearly everyone in the US, and many consumer goods are widely available thruout the world. Certainly, Coca-cola T-shirts seem to make it to the farthest reaches of the poorest 3rd world nations, so I think it reasonable to assume that other commodities also reach there eventually.

    Books, shoes, radios, musical instruments, scissors, toilets, toasters, matches, aspirin and the ten thousand other things Americans use in their lives are widely available because we want them and we have demanded them. Women (really everyone, but that does include women) have wanted many labor saving devices and as a result of the plentiful energy we have enjoyed, those devices are available. The world we have is the product of admittedly short-sighted near-term desires of the people living in it. Wal-Mart did not become a dominant business because Sam Walton was an evil misogynist trying to oppress people, he was looking at what people wanted and then figured out the most efficient way to give it to them.

    Is that going to change if tomorrow our system was transformed and women controlled all the means of production? And how would it change?

    1. hunkerdown

      By flipping the patriarchal script for cosmic “balance”, they propose the perpetuation of capitalism as a moral necessity.

  19. Bill Bedford

    There is one area where women have acquired ownership of production. The result has been that the fertility rate in almost all developed countries has fallen below replacement levels.

    1. hunkerdown

      A veto right, at least, and the other sex whose gender believes society is theirs to reproduce has a Big Problem with that.

    2. IEL

      The right is trying to reverse this. The article really puts the repeal of Roe into a frightening context.

  20. Susan the other

    In an indirect sense women have controlled the means of production. Not so much joining labor unions as being primary consumers. Because it’s pointless to produce if nobody is consuming. Yes men consume as much as women and they generally buy more expensive products but the bread and butter of capitalism and profits is based on women as consumers. The “elite” would have no means of production (money) if consumers all just said No. The same irony exists for automation and AI – that is, both eliminate not just costs of production but wages which are the very thing that drives consumption. I think a very timely question here is, Will the means of over-production be tamed and brought in line with sustainability, and therefore will those who control the means of over-production suffer a decline in status?

    1. Yves Smith Post author

      Lordie. Women get to vote, own property, and have some degree of access to top jobs and pay. When I got my job at Goldman, the grandmother of one of my college friends, who ran a retail business in the South and was traveling to buy in New York in an era when women almost never did anything like that (her husband, the business owner, died young), said, “Isn’t that wonderful. She won’t have to get married.”

  21. John

    Interesting that no one has mentioned religious traditions and how they inform gender relations. Not mentioned in Gibson’s book, I expect a return of more visceral religiosity post- Jackpot.
    Our current Materialist religion in the west is still basically Abrahamic and monotheistic in most aspects. And if only one person is going to be in charge, it’s Big Daddy! Women are never shown with much power. Relative peace and wealth only allows for better treatment of the feminine.
    I find that polytheistic religions give more status to the feminine, at least as far as the deities are concerned. I’m thinking specifically of Kali-ma in Hinduism and the various wrathful female deities in Tibetan Buddhism. Look them up. Skulls for jewelry, etc.
    Next to a sweet and submissive Virgin Mary, they are something to be considered, if not feared.
    Post Jackpot, there might be more reversion to that in the psycho/religious realm with some overflow to everyday life.

  22. ArvidMartensen

    An example of female economic disadvantage is now arising due to the Covid era and work-from-home, which at its face is a great way to save on transport energy costs.

    When Covid struck, women were mandated to work from home, while educating the children, feeding them, looking after the home etc. The divorce rate went up, here at least, due to women getting a first hand look at the capacity of some male partners to conserve their own energy. If you have to do it all, why not get get rid of the energy-vampires?

    And now that office real estate is tanking, in some cases women are being mandated to return to the office. https://www.skynews.com.au/australia-news/commonwealth-bank-orders-staff-to-return-to-the-office-from-july-as-workfromhome-model-falters-postpandemic/news-story/51338046308eab97f0fb0052234162a2

    But having seen an alternative to rush-hour traffic or hours on public transport, many mothers want to work from home. The preferred options seem to coalesce around 3 days at home, and 1 or 2 at the office.

    But, says business, you’re saving time and money by working from home! We want a piece of that. And so it is being actively mooted that stay at home workers (ie women) be paid less than those who attend the office full time. You know, fairness and all. https://www.skynews.com.au/lifestyle/trending/workers-willing-to-take-less-pay-for-more-workfromhome-flexibility/video/dc14c4c2a857a7167bf6d472ad6c20ee

    And I ask why? It was ok for women to work at home when it suited business. But now it’s some sort of luxury that women must pay for? No account being taken of the rocketing home costs, food costs, transport costs, energy costs, education costs etc due to the profits explosion.

  23. Tedder

    What analyses like this miss is the fact that cutting back a little on energy use while producing more electricity from sustainables will solve the climate crisis. We see that every year in spite of best efforts, carbon and methane emissions increase. Technological fixes–nuclear fusion, carbon capture, atmospheric manipulation–are all dreams.
    The key to the problem is “in a society based on commodity production…” Commodities themselves are not the problem as we all need to eat, etc, but consumerism is. Capitalism and its imitators are the problem.
    Without fundamentally revolving our current ways so that we can live within a calculated climate budget, our civilization is doomed. This means a genuine socialism and a planned economy.

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