The Real Enemy: Capitalism

When you look at a beauty ad and see an unrealistic depiction of how women should look, is that sexism at work? Or was it instead just someone who looked at the potential to foster insecurity in women and thought, “I can make money by exploiting that?” When you look at a beauty ad and see a disproportionate share of people with lighter skin, is that racism at work? Or was it instead just someone who looked at who had money in the world and realized that it was white people, so why market to people of color? When you see heteronormative television, is it homophobia? Or is it hollywood recognizing that they will sell less content if it challenges society’s perceptions of what relationships should be like too much? The enemy at the root is actually Capitalism much more often than the system would have you believe. Why? Because it wants to deflect blame towards something else. So very often when we have a conversation about racism, sexism, what have you, what we’re actually doing is talking more about more symptom-level phenomena than root causes, and missing an opportunity to talk about the real enemy. We reward unethical companies for implementing “green” or “inclusive” practices, thinking they’ve become good guys, instead of thinking that they’re just cashing in on a different phenomenon. And when we do this, we further and disproportionately empower the most sneaky companies. Capitalism works by playing on the darkest parts of humanity: our fears and insecurities–of not being as beautiful as the person next to us, of people who look different, even fear of being regarded as not humanitarian enough–whatever it can get its hands on.

Of course sexism, racism, and other discriminatory isms exist. Have they been dramatically magnified and perpetuated by capitalism? Absolutely. Should we continue to fight against non-economic forms of discrimination? Absolutely. But we should also be aware of when our efforts align with what the money-making system wants: to deflect blame, and capitalize on your well-intentioned efforts.

Written by a white, heterosexual, cisgender, male

Inspired by article “Who Bullies the Bullies?” on

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