Feminism & Development Zones: A Preview to the Three-Part Indyreader Web-Essay

Feminism & Development Zones: A Preview to the Three-Part Indyreader Web-Essay

Photo from The American http://www.american.com
Photo from The American http://www.american.com

I sat on the edge of the bar. We had closed for the night. I counted my tips and laid them aside. Putting my hands in my pockets, I pulled out little strips of paper, napkins, and corners of children’s menus. Scribbled across them were phone numbers, pick-up lines, “compliments”, and detailed sexual proposals; all written by gentlemen that I served during my shift. I counted them. As a self-identified anarcha-feminist, I knew what I was doing. Yet, I did it anyway. I laid these exploitations side-by-side along with the day’s cash take. Each little stack coldly stared up at me. They calculated my worth.

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The capitalist exploitation of women1 is fundamentally intertwined with our sexual exploitation. This overt sexualization is done in order to strip away personhood. Women are robbed of sexuality—making us into eunuchs; inscribing that we are sexual objects rather than agents.

Women are easily dehumanized via historical enabling structures under capitalism. Service work merely latches onto a female character and reinscribes the identity it wishes her to have. The consumer sees the woman as the product they are consuming. This female form is not a mere mascot for the product. They are the product.

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Baltimore’s predominant population is African American. Most of the staff at the Inner Harbor’s restaurants were People of Color. Uno’s was no different. A majority of the kitchen and serving staff were of color. Most of the managers were white men. There were five bartenders.The three female bartenders were all white. The two male bartenders were black. This dynamic played out as a particular horrific dance. I watched both: my white hands pour a whiskey sour and my active participation in the oppressive fetshization of gender and race.

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Development Zones are centers of concentrated capitalist activity; they are meant to bring an extreme amount of wealth to an area of a city. This is done under the concept that this wealth would then spread throughout. It is a type of disfigured “trickle down” ideology. Baltimore’s Inner Harbor is a Development Zone. In Baltimore, this “trickle down” concept has not worked, under any logic. The wealth is concentrated into national and international corporations. The majority of Baltimore remains impoverished.

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We live in a world formed through collective oppression. Through history’s invented rationale, and our active participation in sustaining these inventions, we divide one another into categories of privilege. This is done so that we may determine who has more power than another. According to how you occupy or do not occupy space across the spectrum of these places of privilege, much of your existence is dictated by methodical, learned, and ongoing denials and assaults. So we learn to view the world in intersections. We analyze how the world sees via all our various societally given and self-created realities—so that we may comprehend our present and future navigations.

Since we live under this system of oppression, known as capitalism, our navigations are contextualized under that narrative. Capitalism (and all oppression) aims to be solely that which exists; erasing that which produces. For by doing this, the doer no longer exists; it merely generates.

Capitalism invisibilizes workers’ humanities by superimposing its identity across them. Under this, workers have no need to fight for their rights, for they’ve ultimately been stripped of their personhood. They are merely that which secures what reigns.

This is a brief introduction to the three-part upcoming essay: Feminism and Development Zones. This essay will utilize the feminist approach, the “Personal is Political” in order to unravel how women are particularly exploited under super capitalism. Drawing on her experience as a bartender and server, within Baltimore’s Inner Harbor, Reidy will analyze the specific role of development zones. Further, she will critique how this form of oppression works to exploit identities formed around different modes of oppression, and most particularly, the female experiences within these actualities.

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I made my way down to a bar that stayed open later than we did. Along with my fellow employees, I watched us drink away a strong portion of the day’s earnings; multiple forms of systemic oppression built upon layers. I never could drink very much and felt my lucidity drift in and out of focus as ever-on-repeat conversations made their way around the table. A guy who had been sitting at the Uno’s bar earlier came over to reignite a one-way street “flirtation”. Looking down at my glass, I didn’t have the energy to acknowledge the harasser. One of my fellow bartenders, threw his arm over my shoulders. In one gesture, a kind undertaking was made in order to ward off the harasser and in another a separate form of sexual oppression.

We all endure similar subtle realities under oppression’s domination.

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1 I want to recognize the ways that both: women and those whose bodies and/or identities intersect with femaleness, experience exploitation in similar and divergent ways. I will talk about this further in the upcoming essay series.
 

Photo of Corey Reidy

Corey Reidy has been an Indyreader collective member since the start of 2009. And.. she adores it with all her heart. When Reidy isn't editing, writing, interviewing, or other Indyreader-centric organizing, she works to do other forms of radical activism -- including, but not limited to, organizing/being a board member of Hollaback! Baltimore. If she's not organizing, Reidy is most likely reading, biking, or practicing/studying yoga (of which she adores and will 100% go to bat to defend and promote).