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The resurgence of reactionary attitudes served as the ideological underpinnings of this new “erasure of the commons,” resulting in the further deprivation and persecution of impoverished women.
Indeed, this era saw the development of a number of peculiar and brutal punishments for women who disobeyed their husbands, most notably the infamous “scold’s bridle”—also called the “gossip’s bridle”, signifying the shift in the term’s connotations—a contraption made of metal and leather which enclosed a quarrelsome woman’s head and placed in her mouth a spiked bridle, which would tear her tongue if she attempted to speak or move her head.
These cruelties were most widely inflicted upon women who were perceived as defying the social order, but were in reality those were made most precarious by it—poor women, prostitutes, women who participated in riots against the enclosures. Federici describes an instrument called the “cucking” or “ducking” stool, a sort of chair to which these wayward women were tied and repeatedly dunked underwater.
Silvia Federici has been one of the most influential and widely cited Marxist feminist scholars of the last 50 years.
Her landmark work, Caliban and the Witch, argued that witch hunts were an organized campaign of mass murder of women who defied the increasing implementation of a patriarchal, authoritarian order under a rapidly developing capitalist state.
The neoliberal project of the Reagan years displays marked parallels with the early capitalist period of European history that concerns Federici.
Along with the dismantling of the social safety net, government-funded infrastructure, and labor’s organizing power, came a fierce backlash against feminism and the rights won by feminist and anti-racist movements.
Women’s solidarity is worker solidarity Taken together, these measures—austerity, a reactionary ideological backlash against feminism and racial equality, criminalization of poverty, and the crippling of labor power—served to create an easily exploited, feminised, racialised underclass on unprecedented scale.
As during the time of Federici’s demonstration, the quest for profit and global hegemony (both periods saw imperialist campaigns of plunder and conquest, though with more sophisticated realpolitik during the latter) led to the modern-day war on women, particularly marginalized women.
They sewed, washed their clothes, and gave birth surrounded by other women, with men rigorously excluded.
Their legal status reflected this greater autonomy.” However, with the transition to capitalism, gossip—or solidarity among women—came under fire.