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Woman vs. the Nation StateA Manifesto by Carol Moore
February 2003 version of article originally published in
Liberty Magazine, November, 1991
Patriarchy and patriotism — both from the same root word, pater (father) — are simply two sides of the same authoritarian coin. Patriarchy is the ideology that males should rule. Patriotism is the worship of male-dominated states. Males have created — and still create — political culture worldwide, so it’s no surprise that male values, needs and ambitions dominate.
An excellent example of this is the mad rush to Gulf War II. Two powerful patriarchs warred over territory and flung highly personalized threats and taunts; one of them continues a battle his father started, even as the other sets up his son to follow him as leader. Tens or even hundreds of thousands of men, women and children will die for the gratification of these breast beating bullies.
Male-dominated culture — patriarchy — discourages individual men and women from expressing the mix of assertion and cooperation, independence and compassion that is natural to individual men and women. Our culture indoctrinates men — often savagely —into dominance and aggression, and bullies women into dependence and passivity.
To deal with this sad situation, feminists have offered a variety of solutions, most of them state solutions. Too often liberal feminist groups effectively have sold out to the state which offers a certain amount of equality and power to those women who go along with its male-created goals. Others sell out for the welfare benefits offered by a paternalistic state.
Anti-authoritarian women — self-identified feminists and those rejecting any label -- be they anarchists, libertarians, decentralists or ecofeminists reject power in the male-created dominated states. They reject in theory the welfare benefits it offers, though in practice they may accept them in situations of dire need.
Instead, anti-authoritarian women insist that men give women an equal say in the creation of the attitudes and structures forming our cultural, economic and political institutions. They want these to reflect women’s values and needs as well as men’s. If that means starting from scratch, so be it! (Unfortunately, in recent years some anti-authoritarian women have bought male arguments that corporations are more dangerous than the state and that we can't abolish government welfare until we create alternatives, ignoring the fact that necessity is the mother of invention!)
Anti-authoritarian women know that males maintain their dominance primarily through the threat and practice of personal, political and military violence. They see a spectrum of male violence from violent pornography, forced prostitution, child abuse, woman-battering, activist violence, criminal and police violence, political oppression, and environmental destruction on to weaponry, militarism and war. (See an excerpt from feminist Robin Morgan's book The Demon Lover: On the Sexuality of Terrorism for a description of how violent males co-opt woman-initiated nonviolent movements. Also see my 2001 article The Return of Street Fighting Man: The Pathology of the New Progressive Violence) In fact, it seems that in patriarchal society violence to prove manhood – personally, politically and militarily – is defacto the world’s primary value for which all must be sacrificed.
Anti-authoritarian women go beyond opposing mere initiation of force, distrusting the violence some libertarian men, left and right, revel in when they discuss personal or national defense or political revolution. Such women believe only a culture as free as possible of violence can ensure women’s freedom.
The Nation State as
of Male Violence
Anti-authoritarian women recognize that institutionalized violence results in centralized, elite control of economies, which entails inequality and poverty for women and powerless classes. (Some call this “structural violence,” but it boils down to real violence: economically unjust laws enforced by threats of police violence.)
So long as it remains legitimate for men to dream of gaining and maintaining centralized power through revolutionary or state violence, violence against individual women will remain a small matter. Therefore anti-authoritarian women are not merely estranged from male-dominated nation states; they reject their legitimacy and defacto seek their abolition. Anti-authoritarian women decry the fact that large nation states control the most personal aspects of their lives, destroy local economies and communities, despoil the environment, and use military might to control their citizens and threaten people of other nations.
Anti-authoritrian women know that putting an end to male personal, political and military violence will mean the rapid dissolution of the nation state system. The threat or use of police and military violence created and maintains almost all nation states. As the uprisings in the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia have shown, empires and nation states quickly begin to dissolve into smaller ethnic, religious, racial, or regional entities once that threat weakens.
Antiauthoritarian women believe that women have the least to lose and the most to gain from the dissolution of centralized nation states. They know that as long as people believe the patriarchal nation state is legitimate — as long as it survives — males will retain disproportionate economic, personal and political power over women. They will continue to deprive women of the respect, love, and opportunity that women merit. And they will continue their war against other nation states and against “mother nature.”
The Alternative to
States: Confederated Communities
Anti-authoritarian women offer as an alternative to the nation state decentralized, non-violent communities joined only in a variety of voluntary regional, continental and worldwide confederations. (See my review of Sonia Johnson's book Wildfire: Igniting the She!volution.)
Women hold diverse visions of the political, social and economic makeup of the ideal community. Men and women might create an endless variety of communities once freed from centralized control: women’s communities, gay and lesbian communities, religious communities, “proprietary” communities run like hotels, socialist communities, wilderness protection communities, farm-based communities, urban yuppie communities, business park communities, etc. Their sizes could range from a few thousand to several hundred thousand individuals.
To prevent communities from becoming mere patriarchal mini-despotisms, anti-authoritarian women promote consensual decision-making and non-violent sanctions. To be truly democratic, and to avoid the unfair deal-making that characterizes systems of majority rule, decisions should be made with the maximum of consensus. Unless individuals enter a community under explicit contractual arrangements, a super-majority of 75% or more should be required for ratification of all decisions. In this way, communities would create only rules or laws that enjoy overwhelming support. Special interest legislation would be a thing of the past.
Confederations of communities, which would have strictly limited powers, also would use consensus decision-making in their assemblies of representatives. In both, all elected officers would be held to strict standards of accountability and serve a limited number of terms.
Violence would no longer be used to regulate society, enforce laws and resolve conflicts. Non-violent sanctions such as peer pressure, publicity, boycott, and protest could be equally effective and less open to abuse. These new forms of controls would eliminate the warrior ethic and weapons of war. Nonviolent civilian-based defense and peacekeeping would deal with the minor inter-community conflicts that might arise in a demilitarized world.
Benefits of Radical
of Nation States
Of course, radical decentralization of power will be achieved only when a critical mass of citizens adopts the values that society traditionally has indoctrinated women into accepting: compassion, cooperation, equality, and nonviolence. Though it may be true that many men and women already share these values, most undoubtedly remain afraid to challenge the elites that fiercely defend male dominance. Inspiring those sympathetic individuals— male and female — to work toward creating a society based upon such humane and libertarian values is our most important task. Creating such a society may not be as difficult as it seems, for the benefits of decentralization may inspire women to take the risks necessary to achieve them.
Increase Love and
Even in advanced societies, male-dominated families, schools, churches,
work places, media, legal and political systems, as well as individual
men, continue to hammer away at women’s self-confidence and
A recent study shows women are twice as likely as men to suffer
because of pessimistic attitudes, the stresses of child care, poverty,
and sexual and physical abuse.
Women remain dependent upon — even addicted to — their romantic relationships with men. The desire to gain and keep a man’s love remains most women’s strongest motivation. Self-help books like The Cinderella Complex, Women Who Love Too Much, and Men who Hate Women and the Women Who Love Them sell millions.
Women must realize that so long as the patriarchal nation state survives men retain the delusion that they are superior to women who are at the “bottom of the hierarchy.” They will continue to deprive women of respect, love, and opportunity. When women challenge the legitimacy of the nation state, they deprive men of the ultimate trappings of pride and power.
If enough women call for the abolition of the patriarchal state, they might convince men that women are serious about demands for liberation. Eventually, men might give women love and respect equal to that which women have traditionally given men.
Families: Marriange should be a contractual situation
two individuals who write up the contract before marriage, with means
altering it specified in the original contract. The pre-nupital
also should specify alimony and child support under the specific
and other contingent circumstances, with means of adjusting the divorce
settlement if some unexpected circumstances happen (rich husband loses
money and becomes disabled while poor wife wins the lottery and marries
In a free society polygamy would be legal and people could arrange the number of males and females watching whatever number of kids. Plus people could more easily create communal living situations now effectively outlawed by zoning laws that would allow retired people, etc to help with childcare.
In a free market there would be much greater job opportunities, higher pay rates, lower basic expenses and job flexibility so that both males and females could work part-time, job share, etc. so that both husband(s) and wive(s) could share child care duties.
End Political Oppression: The patriarchal nation state ruthlessly suppresses all threats to its authority. Most nation states play off racial, ethnic, religious, cultural and regional factions, manipulatively giving and taking away rights and privileges. Most abridge the rights to freedom of speech, press and association, to protest, privacy, fair trial, etc., usually in the interest of “national security.” Government controlled education and mass media are often mere propaganda vehicles. But once we end the patriarchal game of competition for power and control, many conflicts between factions will diminish or resolve non-violently.
Worldwide, the vast majority of elected and de facto representatives
rulers of nation states — and of constituent states and city
as well — are men. Irritable husbands, family and child-care
the inability to raise money or mobilize supporters, and direct rebuffs
from male politicians have discouraged women from entering politics.
older males have continued to teach younger ones the ropes and give
the resources to enter the political arena. Finally, many women find
male struggle for political power so distasteful that they leave
to men, thus ensuring their continued dominance.
Community government, the one political arena where women have the most interest and the most influence, is increasingly under the control of male-dominated national governments. But once we bring 98% of political decision making down to the community level, it will be open equally to all, not just politically savvy men.
Crime is a side effect of patriarchy. Most hard-core criminals are
of poverty and child abuse. But many are men simply carrying
violence to its logical extreme, wantonly resorting to theft,
extortion, battery, rape and murder.
Recently, this tendency has escalated because of the patriarchal “war on drugs.” Male elites distrust psychoactive, “consciousness expanding” drugs because individuals using them tend to question patriarchal lifestyles. Authorities prefer to punish rather than heal those who abuse drugs. The crackdown on drugs has driven up prices, turned unemployed ghetto youths into criminals, and has wound up creating more powerful and harmful drugs than those originally outlawed.
Ending poverty, eliminating patriarchal violence, fostering compassion and cooperation, and educating individuals about drug use and abuse would eliminate the most heinous crimes. As much as possible, communities would deal with non-violent crime by non-violent means such as publicity, fines and expulsion.
Male culture demands men strive for wealth in addition to power, using
state power to take economic advantage of the weak. Patriarchy stifles
compassionate ideas of voluntary redistribution of wealth from the
talented to impoverished individuals and worthy charitable and
As the failures of socialism have shown, socialist states become little more than bureaucratic battlegrounds for dominant males. They crush economic initiative, productivity and efficiency. In state capitalism, competitive males know that gaining access to state power and gaining great wealth go hand in hand. Many “evils of capitalism and the free market” are really the evil consequences of patriarchy.
Through taxation and inflation nation states rob citizens of 30% to 75% of their incomes. The money goes to military spending, to subsidize big corporations or inefficient state-owned enterprises, and to support bloated bureaucracies and their bureaucrats. National laws centralize and cartelize critical industries, especially banking, finance, insurance, utilities, transportation, housing, farming and the medical and legal professions. Elites benefit while workers, small business, and local economies suffer.
However, without the support of national governments, big government bureaucracies would collapse and corporations would go broke or dissolve under the pressure of competition. Workers, small businesses and local communities would see an explosion of opportunities that would allow women’s businesses and cooperatives — and businesses sensitive to women’s needs — to flourish. See my mid-1980s article Local Economics which describes that movement for individual and local economic self-determination vs. big government and big corporate rule.)
Improve Social Welfare: Social welfare programs are the great bribe nation states use to mollify their people. Bureaucrats running these programs have a vested interest in keeping people dependent and impoverished; their jobs depend on it. State-provided social security, welfare, medical care, education, child care, etc. are usually poor alternatives to what an efficient economy, compassionate voluntary organizations, and systematic voluntary redistribution of wealth can provide. The truth is, national governments use social welfare programs to excuse the larger wrongs done in the name of the nation state.
Protect the Environment: Eco-feminists point out the psycho-social connection between the subjugation of women and the “rape of mother earth.” Nature is just another “resource” to be used in the male quest for wealth and power. National governments promote and subsidize environmentally destructive projects, permit the careless exploitation of “public” land, sanction poisonous levels of pollution, and build and use environmentally destructive military weapons. A culture influenced by women’s values would extend compassion to nature and create sustainable economic and conservative environmental attitudes and institutions.
Women have worked to end the cruelties of patriarchy — sexist language and behavior, discrimination, rape, woman battering, militarism and war. Now women must lead the struggle against the cruelest patriarchal institution — the nation state. Promoting and organizing for secession is the best strategy to achieve radical political decentralization. Once enough women grasp this idea and begin to act on it — and enough men join us — the real revolution toward freedom, peace and justice worldwide will have begun.
Copyright 1998 by Carol Moore. Permission to reprint freely granted, provided the article is reprinted in full and that any reprint is accompanied by this copyright statement and the URL http://www.carolmoore.net.