Feminist Demands


This edition of Feminist Demands has been translated, prepared, and revised for digital publication by the Institute of Marxism-Leninism-Maoism under the Central Committee of the Communist Party in Switzerland on the basis of the edition published in the Collected Works of Mariategui, First Peruvian Edition, Volume 14, Biblioteca Amauta.


This is an article written by Comrade J.C. Mariategui in Lima, Peru. It was first published in Mundial on the 19th of December, 1924.

#Workers and oppressed people of the world, unite!


#J.C. Mariategui
#Before the 19th of December, 1924

The first feminist concerns are being born in Peru. There are some cells, some nuclei of feminism. The proponents of extreme nationalism would probably think that here is another exotic idea, another foreign idea that is being grafted onto the Peruvian mentality.

Let us calm these apprehensive people down a bit. Feminism should not be seen as an exotic idea, a foreign idea. We must simply see it as a human idea. An idea characteristic of a developed society, peculiar to an epoch. And, therefore, an idea with the right of citizenship in Peru, as in any other segment of the developed world.

Feminism has not appeared in Peru artificially or arbitrarily. It has appeared as a consequence of the new forms of women's mental and manual labour. The women of real feminist affiliation are the women who work, the women who study. The feminist idea thrives among women of mental or manual crafts: university professors, workers. It finds an environment conducive to its development in the university classrooms, which attract more and more Peruvian women, and in the trade unions, in which factory women join and organize with the same rights and the same duties as men. Apart from this spontaneous and organic feminism, which recruits its adherents among the various categories of female labour, there exists here, as elsewhere, a somewhat pedantic and somewhat mundane feminism of philistines. Feminists of this rank turn feminism into a mere literary exercise, a mere fashionable sport.

No one should be surprised that not all women come together in a single feminist movement. Feminism has, necessarily, several colours, several trends. One can distinguish in feminism three fundamental trends, three substantive colours: bourgeois feminism, small-bourgeois feminism, and proletarian feminism. Each of these forms of feminism formulates its demands in a different way. Bourgeois women, in their feminism, practise solidarity with the interests of the conservative class. Proletarian women substantiate their feminism with the faith of the revolutionary masses in the future society. The class struggle — a historical fact and not a theoretical assertion — is reflected on the feminist level. Women, like men, can either be reactionaries, moderates, or revolutionaries; therefore, they cannot all fight the same battle side by side. In the human panorama of today, class differentiates individuals more than gender.

But this plurality of feminism is not based on the theory itself. It depends, but rather on its deformations. Feminism, as a pure idea, is essentially revolutionary. The thought and attitude of women who feel themselves to be both feminist and conservative lack, therefore, internal coherence. Conservatism works to maintain the traditional organization of society. That organization denies women the rights that women want to acquire. The feminists of the bourgeoisie accept all the consequences of the existing order, except those that oppose women's demands. They tacitly maintain the absurd thesis that the only reform that society needs is feminist reform. The protest of these feminists against the old order is too exclusive to be valid.

It is true that the historical roots of feminism are in the liberal spirit. The French revolution contained the first germs of the feminist movement. For the first time, the question of women's emancipation was raised in precise terms. Babeuf, the leader of the Conspiracy of Equals, asserted feminist demands. Babeuf harangued his friends: «Do not impose silence on this gender that does not deserve to be scorned. Enhance rather the most beautiful part of yourselves. If you do not count women at all in your Republic, you will make of them little lovers of the monarchy. Their influence will be such that they will restore it. If, on the contrary, you count them for something, you will make of them Cornelias and Lucretias. They will give you Brutuses, Gracchi, and Scaevolas.» Polemicizing against the anti-feminists, Babeuf spoke of «this gender that the tyranny of men has always wanted to annihilate, this gender that has never been useless in revolutions». But the French revolution did not want to grant women the equality and freedom advocated by these Jacobin or Equalitarian voices. Human rights, as I once write, should rather have been called the rights of man; bourgeois democracy has been an exclusively male democracy.

Born of a Liberal womb, feminism could not be implemented during the capitalist process. It is now, when the historical trajectory of democracy comes to an end, that women acquire the political and juridical rights of men. And it is the Russian revolution that has explicitly and categorically granted women the equality and freedom that, more than a century ago, Babeuf and the Equalitarians demanded in vain from the French revolution.

But if bourgeois democracy has not realized feminism, it has unintentionally created the conditions and the moral and material premises for its realization. It has valourized women as productive elements, as economic factors, by making of their labour an ever more extensive and intense use. Labour radically changes women's mentality and spirit. Women acquire, by virtue of labour, a new notion of themselves. Formerly, society destined women to marriage or to prostitution. Today, they are destined, first and foremost, to labour. This fact has changed and elevated the status of women in life. Those who challenge feminism and its progress with sentimental or traditionalist arguments claim that women should be educated only for the home. But, practically speaking, this means that women should be educated only for female and maternal functions. The defence of the poetry of the home is, in reality, a defence of the servitude of women. Instead of ennobling and dignifying the role of women, it diminishes and demeans it. Women are something more than mothers and females, just as men are something more than males.

The type of woman produced by a new civilization must be substantially different from that which has formed the civilization now in decline. In an article on women and politics, I have examined some aspects of this subject as follows:

Troubadours and lovers of female frivolity have every reason to worry. The type of woman produced by a century of capitalist refinement is condemned to decadence and decay. An Italian writer, Pitigrilli, classifies this type of modern woman as a type of luxury mammal. And, well, this luxury mammal will be gradually depleted. As the socialist system replaces the individualist system, luxury and feminine elegance will decline. Luxury and socialism are incompatible and enemies. Humanity will lose some luxury mammals; but it will gain many women. The costumes of the women of the future will be less expensive and sumptuous; but the status of those women will be more dignified. And the axis of female life will shift from the individual to the social. Fashion will no longer consist in the imitation of some Madame de Pompadour dressed in pearls. It will consist, perhaps, in the imitation of some Madame Kollontaj. A woman, in short, will cost less, but will be worth more.1

The subject is very vast. This brief article attempts only to ascertain the character of the first manifestations of feminism in Peru and to rehearse a very summary and rapid interpretation of the physiognomy and spirit of the world feminist movement. People who feel the great emotions of the times should not and cannot be strangers or indifferent to this movement. The women's question is a part of the human question. Feminism seems to me, moreover, a more interesting and historical subject than women's wigs. While feminism is the category, the wigs are the anecdote.

  1. Source: J.C. Mariategui: Women and Politics (Before the 15th of March, 1924)