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In virtually every known society past and present, women have not been treated as the full equals of men. In a few societies, such as the Eskimo, women have had a great deal of liberty and influence, though still less than men. In many other societies women have been and are severely oppressed.
In some non-industrialised societies there is no organised violence, and also relatively little 'structural violence' such as oppression, exploitation and inequality. But many nonindustrialised societies do engage in organised violence, which can be called 'war' (though the similarity to modern war is limited). In most of these warlike societies, fighting is directly organised around the gender division of labour. For example, in some hunter-gatherer societies, men have sole responsibility for hunting and fighting, while women are involved in child-rearing, cooking and gathering. In these situations, men control the means of violence against outside enemies and can use this control to dominate the women.
The link between the gender division of labour and organised violence in non-industrialised societies strongly suggests that there may be a close connection between modern forms of male domination over women and modern war.
Modern military forces are overwhelmingly composed of men. Furthermore, sexism is a common part of military training and military life. Soldiers are trained to be violent, competitive, tough, and 'masculine.' They are trained to reject feminine characteristics of supportiveness, cooperativeness, tenderness and physical softness. Often military training is accompanied by explicit verbal abuse of women and the portrayal of women only as sex objects.
The masculine ethos of military life has much in common with the oppressive treatment of women in both military and civilian life, including rape, batterings, prostitution and poor working conditions. In direct person-to-person violence, it is primarily men who are the perpetrators.
Another connection between modern patriarchy and war is the service provided by women to men in both military and civilian life. Cynthia Enloe in her book Does Khaki Become You? has analysed a range of areas in which women serve the military: as prostitutes, as military wives, as nurses, as soldiers, and as workers in arms industries. In each of these cases women are placed in a subordinate position where they are easily exploited. The service of women to men is carried out in civilian life in a similar fashion, and in very similar categories: as prostitutes, as wives, as workers in the 'helping professions,' and as workers in occupations which are poorly paid, low-skilled and lacking security and career prospects.
Also quite revealing is the gender division of labour in the military. This is clearest in the category of 'combat soldiers,' from which women are often excluded in theory. In fact, the actual role of women in combat has varied considerably in different countries and at different times, as Enloe has ably documented. When the need is urgent, women are used at the front lines in positions that at other times would be called combat positions. But when this happens, the definition is 'combat' is changed so that women are not seen to be involved. So while what women do in the military varies considerably, one thing remains constant: the gender-based distinction between 'combat' and 'non-combat.' This suggests that military interests have a strong ideological concern to maintain 'combat,' the place where direct violence is seen to take place, as an exclusively male preserve.
In some guerrilla warfare struggles, women have played a role as combat soldiers. But as soon as the urgency of the fighting is reduced, women are pushed back to other, less vital positions. This applies equally to the Israeli army and the Vietnamese army. A similar process applies to women who work in armaments factories during wars. After the war they are pushed out by men and forced into the private sphere. It would seem that maintaining a central role for men in the preparation for and implementation of organised violence is a key feature of the war system.
While these connections between war and male domination are suggestive, they do not amount to a clearly defined link between the two. It is too simplistic to say that male violence against women leads directly to organised mass warfare. Many soldiers kill in combat but are tender with their families; many male doctors are dedicated professionally to relieving suffering but batter their wives. The problem of war cannot be reduced to the problem of individual violence. Rather, social relations are structured to promote particular kinds of violence in particular circumstances. While there are some important connections between individual male violence and collective violence in war (rape in war is a notable one), these connections are more symptoms than causes of the relationship between patriarchy and other war-linked structures.
Even the link between overt sexism and the military is being attenuated as war becomes more bureaucratised and face-to-face combat is reduced in importance. Typical military tasks in a highly technological military force include flying a plane, servicing a computer, operating communications equipment, administering supplies and supervising launching of missiles. Such tasks are similar to duties in the civilian workforce, and the need for highly developed sexism of traditional military training is not present. Military training and activity, though still containing much emphasis on brutality and obedience, is becoming more oriented to technical competence and bureaucratic performance. To the extent that women can perform as competent technicians or bureaucrats, they too can serve the war system effectively.
Furthermore, the functional value of women to the military does not demonstrate an automatic connection between war and domination over women: while women's services may be useful to the military, they are not necessarily essential to its survival. To get at the connection between patriarchy and war, it is necessary to look at the links between patriarchy and both the state and bureaucracy, as well as between patriarchy and the military.
First, what is patriarchy? For the purposes here it can be seen as a set of social relationships which provide for the collective domination of men over women. Patriarchy is manifest in unequal salaries for similar work, in discrimination, in legal inequality, in unequal expectations, in patterns of interpersonal dominance and submission, and in patterns of rape and other direct violence. Especially vital to patriarchy is the control by men of most key positions in dominant social structures: government, state bureaucracies, corporations, the military and professional bodies.
Associated with patriarchal power relations is a gender-linked allocation of social roles. ('Gender' here refers to socially shaped differences, while 'sex' refers to biological differences.) Dominance, confidence, strength, competition and rationality are seen as masculine, while submission, nurturing, caring, sensitivity and emotionality are seen as feminine. Men are expected to exhibit masculine behaviour and women to exhibit feminine behaviour, though in practice few people fit their gender stereotypes in all ways and circumstances. The masculine values are the ones valued most highly for positions of power, and people (men or women) in such positions are expected to behave appropriately. At the same time, actual masculine or feminine behaviour patterns are used to justify men holding most powerful positions and most women remaining in subordinate positions.
There are several ways in which the oppression of women can be analysed. One approach is in terms of gender roles which are inculcated from birth. Another approach uses value differences between men and women, which serve to constitute a men's culture and a women's culture. These perspectives are useful in analysing certain types of problems. But to analyse the connection between patriarchy and war, I find it more convenient to use a type of power analysis which looks at social structures through which men collectively dominate over women. To illustrate this approach I will look at patriarchy and bureaucracy.
The connection between patriarchy and bureaucracy can be seen as one of mutual mobilisation. In short, men use bureaucracy to sustain their power over women, while elite bureaucrats use patriarchy to sustain the bureaucratic hierarchy.
The first part of this dynamic is men using bureaucracy to sustain their power over women. In a typical bureaucracy, whether a state agency, a corporation, or a trade union, most of the top positions are occupied by men. Women are concentrated in lower positions such as typists, process workers or cleaners. In addition, top male bureaucrats usually have wives who do most of the work of child-rearing and housework and who provide emotional and career support. The power, prestige and privileges of the top bureaucrats thus depend on the subordinate position of women both on the job and at home. To maintain this power, the top bureaucrats can use their power in the bureaucracy to keep women in their subordinate place. This can take place in several ways:
In these and other ways, the power that men have as top bureaucrats is used to keep men collectively in a dominant position over women. In this way, bureaucracy is mobilised by men to support patriarchy. The domination of men over women does not occur in the abstract. In this case it operates via the unequal power distribution within bureaucracies.
Equally important is the way patriarchy is mobilised to serve bureaucracy. Top bureaucrats can maintain and strengthen their power by using, within the bureaucracy, the wider cultural dominance of men over women. The existence of a promotion path which favours men ensures the loyalty of many men in lower positions. The discrimination against women in lower levels (for example, the low salary, lack of autonomy and low prestige of typing positions) provides an opportunity for low-level men to feel superior to someone. In this way the psychology of masculine domination is mobilised to support bureaucratic hierarchy. A patriarchally organised bureaucracy is structured to maximise the linkages between male-female inequality and bureaucratic inequality. This ensures that any fundamental challenge to bureaucratic hierarchy would also require a fundamental challenge to prevailing male-female power relations.
The mobilisation of patriarchy to serve bureaucracy takes place by many of the same methods as listed above by which bureaucracy is mobilised to serve patriarchy. Particularly important is the gender-typing of particular tasks, work styles and occupations, and the association of top positions with masculine values of competition, individualism, emotional aloofness and instrumental rationality.
The same processes of mutual mobilisation apply between patriarchy and other structures, including the state, the military and capitalism. For example, the gender-based definition of 'combat' in the military is used to mobilise men and masculine behaviour for the military, and also to mobilise military hierarchy and command-obedience relations to maintain male dominance over women.
The same processes of mutual mobilisation also provide a dynamic between dominant structures and the oppression of ethnic minorities and gays. For example, capitalists often have exploited and fostered ethnic divisions between workers to hinder and disrupt organisation of workers against employers.
While patriarchy and other war-related structures support each other in many ways, there are also points of friction and direct conflict. For example, it is important in bureaucracies that subordinates respond to female bosses in the same way as to male bosses. But this is incompatible with patriarchy to the extent that subordinate men see power differences as inherently linked to biological sex rather than just to masculine and feminine behaviour. In other words, treating individuals according to their performance, which can be useful for bureaucratic efficiency and legitimation, can conflict with treating individuals differently because they are women.
Another point of friction arises in the military's mobilisation of masculine values. One key masculine value is dominance, which is useful to the military in developing a hostile attitude to the enemy. But for internal control the military insists on obedience within the chain of command, and obedience or submission is a feminine rather than a masculine value.
It would appear that the war system is mainly strengthened by the close interconnections between patriarchy and other war-related structures. But these interconnections also provide a basis for grassroots mobilisation by feminists and others to effectively intervene. An attack on patriarchy, depending on how it is carried out, can also help to undermine structures such as bureaucracy and to promote self-managing alternatives. To see how this can be done, strategies against patriarchy need to be examined.
The feminist movement contains a wide range of perspectives. Some of the dominant directions go under the names of liberal feminism, radical feminism, socialist feminism, anarchist feminism and lesbian feminism. Each of these rubrics contains several types of analysis and strategy. The different perspectives within the movement have grown out of different social circumstances, including the historical era, the social class of the women, and the ethnic and cultural environment.
This diversity of perspectives has led to a variety of actions and directions. Here only some strategies against patriarchy will be examined. The focus will be on their strengths and weaknesses as part of efforts to also remove the structures underlying war.
One basic strand to the women's movement has been to push for equality for women in society as it is presently organised. The immediate goal is removal of formal inequalities such as unequal pay, lack of support facilities such as childcare, and gender-linked job categories. Discrimination against women is strongly opposed, and legal or quasi-legal avenues for redress are favoured. The goal is fair representation of women within bureaucracies, professions, corporations, political parties, trade unions and churches.
By helping to undercut dominance of men over women within organisations, liberal feminist action of this sort can to some degree weaken the existing power distribution. In a social environment in which explicit discrimination against women is illegitimate, the use of patriarchal inequality to bolster bureaucratic and other power structures is made more difficult.
Furthermore, collective actions to empower women to push for their rights and due rewards within existing hierarchies can serve a radicalising function. In confronting discrimination, women may come to question and organise against the hierarchies themselves. For example, struggles for maternity leave and time off to care for children may become linked with struggles for more flexible work hours and career patterns and for more worker autonomy on the job.
But there are serious limits to the programme of promoting equality within otherwise unchanged structures. Many women who obtain top jobs will be conditioned by perspectives, powers and interactions at the top, and become essentially like other elites. Only the gender composition of the personnel may be changed, and not the relations of power, wealth, status and knowledge. In some ways this would actually strengthen structures such as bureaucracy and capitalism, which in their pure form are supposed to operate on the basis of prescribed rules and performance abilities rather than characteristics such as gender and ethnic origin.
This problem has been realised by many feminists. One common idea is that there are two stages to a feminist programme: first, getting women into positions of power, and second, implementing changes in organisations to undercut hierarchy and inequality. The problem with this is that postponing structural change to a later time is likely to mean indefinite postponement.
The most serious threat from feminists arises from the potential for mobilising women to act against their oppression and, as part of this, against their exclusion from and exploitation by dominant structures. If women are successful in gaining some representation in these structures, this will partly remove the rationale for challenge, namely exclusion and discrimination. In addition, many women who do rise to positions of power thereby gain a vested interest in the hierarchy.
The programme of promoting women into elite positions is sometimes held to be a fruitful avenue for transforming society because women, through their biology or very early and deep socialisation, will be less aggressive, competitive or dominating than men. But even if the deep-seated psychological characteristics of women are different from those of men, this by itself does not necessarily pose a severe threat to dominant structures. Women vary in their characteristics. Furthermore, they do have a potential for violence, for domination and for ruthlessness. Corporations and military forces will select those women, and indeed women will select themselves, who are most suited to operate in them, and the women will be further socialised once they join. Furthermore, even if some caring and cooperative women obtain high positions in corporations and armies and proceed to act according to these values, this might only lead to the failure of some businesses and the defeat of some military forces rather than a collapse of the wider capitalist and military systems.
Another problem with the promotion of equality within present structures is that some structures may be undesirable even if they were balanced by gender or entirely female. The military is a case in point.
The experiences of earlier social movements should not be forgotten. The early feminist movement was often closely connected with socialist ideals. But the socialist goals were set aside to concentrate on obtaining the vote for women. After enormous efforts this was achieved, but with surprisingly little effect on the electoral system. This success was followed by the virtual collapse of the feminist movement and hence also the almost complete loss of a feminist push for socialism. Similarly, the organisation of workers for better working conditions was achieved after enormous effort, but at the expense of jettisoning most of the radical efforts for workers' control.
Struggles for equality within present structures cannot be a substitute for structural change, but they can be an important part of struggles for such change, as I will describe later.
Another strategy against patriarchy is based on changing the attitudes and experiences of individuals, especially women. The aim is to increase their assertiveness, overcome submissiveness, learn new skills such as job skills, and generally to build confidence and ability. A special focus is on girls' education and experiences in early life which need to be changed to promote their skills and self-esteem.
This approach has several advantages. It addresses the problem that women will not attain equality simply by removal of barriers and that they must be able and willing to work for their own interests. Assertiveness training and learning of skills can act to mobilise individual women against their oppression.
But as a means for challenging structures responsible for social problems, change restricted to the individual is severely limited. Because patriarchy and other structures such as bureaucracy are closely intertwined, individual confidence and skills will have limited effect. Instead, organised patterns of discrimination and oppression will continue to create and foster feelings of inferiority and inhibit development or use of skills.
To confront this, attention is needed on collective rather than just individual assertiveness and skills.
Another set of feminist concerns is to address patriarchal domination and its effects at the immediate level of individuals and the local community. This has led to the development of rape crisis centres, marches to 'take back the night,' women's refuges, campaigns to end legal and professional restrictions on abortion, opposition to sexist language and behaviour, resistance to sexual harassment, and attacks on anti-women pornography. These initiatives are vital in overcoming gender-based inequality and patterns of dominance and submission. They help individual women who are physical and mental victims of violence and sexist attitudes, and empower women to take control over their own lives.
Direct challenges to patriarchy also can have an indirect impact on the support provided by patriarchy to the war system. This occurs through the weakening of patriarchal domination at key points, such as the role of rape, violence and restrictions on abortion in keeping women dependent on men as protectors or providers. This reduces the value of patriarchy as a prop for other structures such as bureaucracy and the military. For example, challenging the treatment of women as sex objects reduces the potential for mobilisation of masculinity in military training.
Another important challenge is to overcome the division of labour between home and workplace. The separation between 'productive' labour for corporations or state bureaucracies and 'reproductive' labour in the home and family is central to patriarchy. Challenging this separation is also a challenge to dominant structures within the sphere of 'production,' which is based on subordination and exploitation of women's labour within the family.
But many direct challenges to patriarchy only peripherally challenge the key large-scale structures of the war system. For example, many campaigns against pornography strengthen state power by promoting the use of law and administrative intervention to stop pornography. Similarly, some campaigns against rape and sexual harassment rely heavily on legal and administrative sanctions. While such campaigns can have a beneficial short-term impact in restraining sexist practices, they do little to address structures such as the state with which patriarchy is intertwined. As long as such structures remain, they will provide a strong support for patriarchy and thus help perpetuate problems such as rape.
The question is, what should be done? While many feminists do not want to strengthen the state, they are also concerned about women being raped now. Laws and state intervention seem to provide a quick and powerful avenue to oppose such problems.
In many cases this dilemma is more apparent than real, because effective administrative intervention to serve the interests of women against patriarchy only occurs as a consequence of grassroots action. Consider for example two possible directions for a campaign against sexual harassment in a state bureaucracy. One path is to apply pressure to top administrators to introduce guidelines and penalties to oppose sexual harassment. This might involve higher-level bureaucrats being responsible for intervening against sexual harassment and the introduction of new disciplinary procedures to deal with harassers. There are several difficulties with this approach. Most top administrators are likely to be males, and relatively unresponsive on the issue of sexual harassment. The implementation of the guidelines will be in the hands of higher-level bureaucrats, mostly males, who will be reluctant to take action against harassers in the top ranks. And the new disciplinary procedures will strengthen the power of the top bureaucrats.
An alternative approach is to act mainly at the grassroots: to raise the issue of sexual harassment with low-level workers, to organise nonviolent action training sessions to develop skills in opposing sexual harassment, and to take up individual cases of harassment. The basic aim would be to mobilise women and sympathetic men against sexual harassment and, more generally, to challenge male domination in other areas. This might be linked with other initiatives, for example to reorganise work in a less hierarchical and more cooperative manner, which would reduce the bureaucratic power of men over women which is often linked with sexual harassment. One likely consequence of such a grassroots approach is that the introduction of guidelines and formal penalties would become easier, if this were thought desirable. Indeed, bureaucratic elites might well take the initiative themselves to forestall a more serious challenge to the bureaucratic power structure.
In short, focussing on obtaining changes at the top to challenge patriarchy may only aggravate problems in the long term. Instead, consideration should be given to challenges to patriarchy at the grassroots. Such grassroots initiatives would also challenge other structures such as bureaucracy which provide support for patriarchy.
Feminism has made a great impact on the organisation and style of many social action groups. For many decades, most social action groups, such as those of the peace movement, have been organised hierarchically. A few men, who were usually white and middle-class as well, have held the important positions in the main movement organisations, and indeed they still do in many cases. These men have acted as executives, public spokesmen, theorisers, campaign decision makers and sometimes as gurus. Other people have not been given the same opportunities. Women in particular have been relegated to being tea-makers, typists, cleaners and providers of sex. The situation has not been better in the black movement, which also has been organised patriarchally.
The 1960s revival of the feminist movement had its origins in the experience of women in being oppressed within 'progressive' movements of the left. In sharing and comparing their experiences they developed a critique of domination within political movements and helped develop alternative modes of interaction. These included sharing of feelings as well as ideas, encouragement of participation by all, consensus decision making, and sharing or rotation of tasks. These practices had been in use earlier by some groups. The feminist input greatly expanded the range and depth of their use. These approaches are now used in the nonviolence movement, some anarchist groups and portions of the environmental movement, as well as the feminist movement itself. Only portions of the peace movement have taken up these approaches, and they are as yet hardly ever used in Marxist groups, trade unions or political parties. The extension of egalitarian methods will depend on development of democratic decision-making procedures for groups which contain strong conflicts of interests, as discussed in chapter 5.
There are now a number of women-only groups in some areas of social action. These are important in providing a place for women to organise and develop their thoughts and feelings away from constant confrontation with sexist men.
While acknowledging the vital role of women-only groups, it is also important to recognise difficulties. One is that there is only limited energy left for working in groups with men, for example in mainstream peace groups. It will remain necessary to challenge hierarchy, power-knowledge connections and other problems in mixed groups. Many women have the choice of working only in women-only groups, or of doing 'double duty' by working both in mixed and women-only groups. This problem is not unique to women's issues. Many people in radical caucuses, for example in professional areas, work both within the caucus and also in the normal professional organisation.
Another and perhaps more serious problem for women-only groups is the possibility of developing new dominance relations between women. These can be based on class, ethnic origin, experience, knowledge or personality. This problem can be hidden by the feeling that 'we are all women' and a consequent reluctance to tackle other sorts of inequalities. The same problem occurs in mixed groups when, as occasionally happens, particular women play a dominating role which no one is willing to question for fear of being branded sexist. At a different level, the same problem occurs when a person in an elite position is not criticised because she is a woman or a feminist. This problem points to the need to link critiques of and challenges to patriarchy with similar efforts against other oppressive structures.
One of the major forces within the antiwar actions of the 1980s has been women-only protests. The most well known is the women's peace camp at Greenham Common in England, and there are numerous others. There are many strengths to the women's actions.
The women-only or women-led antiwar protests are the most dynamic part of the contemporary antiwar movement. My guess is that the positive consequences for the movement itself are only beginning to be realised. But there are also some limitations to these protests.
First, a primary orientation of many of the women's protests, like most antiwar protests, is to appeal to governments to take action. I have discussed the shortcomings of this approach in chapter 1.
Second, women-only protests tend to orient women to struggling only outside the patriarchal structures in the war system, such as the state and the military. Relatively little attention is given to helping mobilise opposition from inside structures to link with outside challenges. Transforming or abolishing war-linked and patriarchal structures will require working from the inside as well as the outside, and this means taking the struggle to men as well as women.
In many women's antiwar actions, participation is fostered by equating women's role in childbirth and child-rearing with an innate antipathy to war. This connection does serve to mobilise many women who do not see themselves as feminists but who do identify as mothers. But it also serves to accentuate the two limitation of women's protests mentioned above. The appeal-to-women's-conscience aspect is easily linked with the approach of appealing to the consciences of elites, and emphasis on women's alleged innate antipathy to war turns attention away from forging links with men inside the structures of the war system.
The most serious challenge posed by feminists to the war system grows out of the feminist critique of all structures based on domination, inequality and exploitation. Rather than try to get women into positions of power within present hierarchical structures, the aim is to reconstitute the structures to remove the basis for domination. This approach does not reject other strategies such as those described above, but rather builds on aspects of them to link challenges to patriarchy with challenges to other structures.