Theoretical literature on the state is at the other pole from the family: almost no one has seen it as an institutionalization of gender. Even in feminist thought the state is only just coming into focus as a theoretical question.
Yet reasons to address it are easy to find. The personnel of the state, as noted in chapter 1, are divided by sex in quite visible, even spectacular, ways. State elites are the preserve of men, with a very few exceptions. The state arms men and disarms women. President Carter, though supporting the Equal Rights Amendment, still announced that he would not give women a combat role in the military. The diplomatic, colonial and military policy of major states is formed, as noted in chapter 5, in the context of ideologies of masculinity that put a premium on toughness and force. The South Pacific is at present having a textbook demonstration of this from the French, with atomic testing at Muroroa Atoll, the bombing of the Rainbow Warrior in New Zealand in 1985, and anti-independence violence by French settlers in Kanaky (New Caledonia).
The state engages in considerable ideological activity on issues of sex and gender; this very diverse activity ranges from birth – control in India and China, through the reimposition of the chador on women in Iran, to the Soviet efforts to increase the number of women in paid work. States attempt to control sexuality: criminalizing homosexuality, legislating on age of consent, venereal disease, AIDS and so on. The state intervenes in the sexual division of labour in ways ranging from subsidized immigration to equal opportunity policies. It regulates workplaces and families, provides schools, builds houses.
Given all this, control of the state is a major stake in sexual politics. Accordingly the state has been a major object of strategy. From the Seneca Falls convention of 1848 to the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) campaign of the 1970s, American feminism has placed demands on the state and tried to guarantee women’s access to it. Australian feminism has put considerable energy into gaining a presence inside the state bureaucracy, through welfare funding and the ‘femocrats’. The main focus of groups like the Campaign for Homosexual Equality in Britain has been legal reform through lobbying of parliamentarians and bureaucrats. The American New Right in its turn has attempted to roll back feminism through control of courts and legislatures.
It can hardly be denied that the state is deeply implicated in the social relations of gender. Alain Touraine remarks that ‘the state is not the one who represents the metasocial guarantees of social order… but rather the agent of a concrete historical collectivity, situated in relation to other communities and to its own transformation.’ Yes; but that ‘historical collectivity’ has to be defined in gender as well as class terms. The question is how to understand the connections.
There are four arguments in the theoretical literature on the state that might do the job. The first is the liberal theory that thinks the state in principle a neutral arbiter, which in practice can be captured by interest groups, in this case men. The institutional sexism of the state is therefore a matter of the imperfect citizenship of the excluded group, women. This approach can make sense of the main concerns of liberal feminism, both in terms of legal equality (suffrage, Equal Rights Amendment, equal employment opportunity) and specific welfare needs. But it does not give any grip on the sexual division of labour among state personnel, or on the gender structuring of state violence. On the face of it, the approach is contradicted by the fact of state oppression of groups of men, notably homosexual men, and by the heavier criminalization of men’s sexuality than women’s.
This is consistent with a second approach which sees the state mainly as an apparatus of regulation and soft domination. Jacques Donzelot’s The Policing of Families and Michel Foucault’s History of Sexuality are the classics of an approach now also adopted by some theorists of gay liberation such as Jeffrey Weeks. They picture the state as part of a dispersed apparatus of social control working through dominant discourses as much as through force. This is useful in getting beyond the state as an organization to its sphere of operation, making the connection with everyday life. It also allows a recognition of the multiple and sometimes contradictory apparatuses at work. But it is not at all clear in this approach why the state regulates to the extent that it does, unless it is simply prurient. Foucault and Donzelot do not account for the constitution of interests in sexual politics.
A third approach certainly does. It defines the state as a class state producing effects on sex and gender in pursuit of class interests. The ‘Freudian Left’ from Wilhelm Reich to Herbert Marcuse conceived of state action in these terms, with sexuality either repressed or carefully ventilated according to the needs of capitalism. Marxist feminism has generally seen the state’s motivation in class terms, though seeing its effects as maintaining men’s subordination of women. Discussions of state action on wage levels, welfare provision and welfare ideology by theorists like Mary McIntosh have succeeded in getting the dimension of political economy into the argument. But, as the discussion of extrinsic theories in chapter 3 noted, it is not clear why gender effects are essential for the reproduction of capitalism or the maintenance of profit.
A fourth group of theorists tackle this head-on by arguing that the state is from the start a patriarchal institution. David Fernbach proposes that the state was historically created as the institutionalization of masculine violence. Catherine MacKinnon looks at the form of state action, in particular legal ‘objectivity’, as the institutionalization of a male point of view, and shows how it impinges on sexual politics in the management of cases of rape. Zillah Eisenstein’s dual systems model sees the central state as an agent in sexual politics at the same time as class politics, showing for instance how Carter’s support of the ERA made tactical sense in terms of factional divisions in the American elite. Carole Pateman proposes that the development of the liberal state was itself underpinned by a new form of patriarchy in civil society developing in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.
These lines of work have the potential to deal with the full range of issues about gender. But before they can converge there are some difficulties, or at least complexities, to be dealt with.
When the state is considered as a repressive apparatus, it is clear that the main objects of physical repression are men. The evidence is clear enough in statistics like those on arrest and imprisonment in chapter 1. There are cases where state violence is directed mainly against women, such as the European witch craze that peaked in the seventeenth century, and the mass rape by the Pakistani army in Bangladesh in 1971; but the most persisting and general uses of state force are by men against men.
Yet this does not mean that state repression has nothing to do with gender. There is a very active gender process here, a politics of masculinity. The state both institutionalizes hegemonic masculinity and expends great energy in controlling it. The objects of repression, e. g. ‘criminals’, are generally younger men themselves involved in the practice of violence, with a social profile quite like that of the immediate agents of repression, the police or the soldiers. However the state is not all of a piece. The military and coercive apparatus has to be understood in terms of relationships between masculinities: the physical aggression of front-line troops or police, the authoritative masculinity of commanders, the calculative rationality of technicians, planners and scientists.
The internal complexity of the state is now well recognized in class theory and is equally important in relation to gender. Actual states are by no means consistent in their processing of gender issues. The political leadership in New South Wales has introduced a broad equal-opportunity program mainly directed at women; much of the bureaucracy, which is of course run by men, has quietly resisted it. Recent policy in a number of Western countries has been to hand more welfare functions from the state to ‘the community’, i. e. to the unpaid work of women; but at the same time the training of girls for paid work has been expanded, with rising retention rates in school and new occupational preparation programs. Equal employment opportunity programs have been expanding in Australia at the same time that funds for childcare, which would make them effective, have been cut. The gradual extension of the civil rights of homosexual men via decriminalization and antidiscrimination laws is contradicted by continued exclusion from state employment and now by official scaremonger – ing over AIDS. The Canadian state has got itself into serious difficulty with the contradiction between strong antidiscrimination provisions in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which came into effect in 1985, and the formal exclusion of homosexuals from the military and Mounted Police. The patriarchal state even finds itself funding feminism, across a considerable spectrum from rape crisis centres through women’s units in the bureaucracy to grants for feminist academic research. Some of this is mere incoherence, to be expected from the sheer complexity of the state as a set of instrumentalities. But some is real contradiction.
How can these points be built into a gender analysis of the state? They suggest that the state is not inherently patriarchal, but is historically constructed as patriarchal in a political process whose outcome is open. The process of bureaucratization is central here, as conventional bureaucracy is a tight fusion of the structure of power and the division of labour. Together with selective rprrnit-ment яг|8 prnrrintinr^tbpgp structures form an integrated mechanism of gender relations" that results in the exclusion of women from positions oTanthoritv and the subordination of the areas of work in which’ most women are concentrated. But conventional bureaucracy is itself under pressure, as the huge contemporary output of management-theory repair manuals testifies. Demands for more efficiency, for decentralization, even for more democracy, can unhinge parts of this mechanism. It is largely in the spaces where gender politics and organizational reform intersect that feminists in the state have gained ground.
Power in the state is strategic because there is more at issue than a simple distribution of benefits. The state has a constitutive role in forming and re-forming social patterns. For instance the state at a superficial level supports marriage through taxation incentives, housing and so on. At a more fundamental level marriage is itself a legal action and a legal relationship, defined, regulated and to some extent enforced by the state. Another notable state enterprise is in the field of fertility. Pro-natalist and anti-natalist policies have been debated and contraceptives accordingly banned or distributed. How far state policy has actually been successful in controlling this aspect of women’s bodies is debatable, but there have certainly been vehement attempts, from antiquity to the present, to do so.
In managing institutions and relations like marriage and motherhood the state is doing more than regulating them. It is playing a major part in the constitution of the social categories of the gender order. Categories like ‘husbands’, ‘wives’, ‘mothers’, ‘homosexuals’, are created as groups with certain characteristics and relationships. Through them the state plays a part in the constitution of the interests at play in sexual politics. They in turn react on the state through political mobilization. The classic example is the state repression and regulation of sexuality that played a central part in the creation of ‘the homosexual’ as a social category and personal identity. This in turn became the basis of a politics of civil rights for homosexuals. The same kind of cycle is very general.
The Patriajxhal state can be seen, then, not as the manifestation of a patriarchal essence, but as thecentre of a reverberating set of power relations and political processes in which patriarchy is both constructed and contested. It this perspective is sound, it makes the historical trajectory of the state vital to an understanding of its place and effects in sexual politics. I will finish this discussion with a couple of hypotheses about this trajectory.
The growth of the modern state depends, as Pateman proposes, on a change in patterns of gender relations. A key part of this is a change in patterns of masculinity. The tradition-centered patriarchal authority that was criticized at the level of public politics by liberal rationalists such as Locke represented the hegemony of a particular kind of masculinity in domestic life too. Over the period in which both the modern state and the industrial economy were produced, the hegemony of this form of masculinity was challenged and displaced by masculinities organized much more around technical rationality and calculation. The system of industrial capitalism was constructed by this shift as well as by class dynamics; and so was the characteristic form of state bureaucracy sketched above.
This did not eliminate other masculinities. What it did was marginalize them: and this created conditions for new versions of masculinity that rested on impulses or practices excluded from the increasingly rationalized and integrated world of business and bureaucracy. Such ‘wild’ masculinities emerged through the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. In one direction, the forbidden sexual affection between men became the basis of a homosexual masculinity labelled and stigmatized by the state. In another direction, the forbidden violence between men became the basis for aggressive masculinities that – given the conditions that followed World War I – were mobilized in fascism. The importance of front-line soldiers in the fascist movements is familiar. Less familiar but equally significant is Hitler’s contempt for the ‘gentlemen with diplomas’ who ran the bourgeois world he despised.
The condition of women was also implicated in the process of rationalization. There was a deepening contradiction between their subjection to individual men in "domestic patriarchy and the powerfuFeighteenth and nineteenth century trend to universalize citizen rights^ closely connected with the rationalization of the state and of markets. This contradiction was picked up in the feminisms of МГагу Wollstonecraft in England and SusanJL Anthony in the United States and pithily expressed by John Stuart Mill. The early woman suffrage campaign was not a diversion from ‘social’ issues (though it later came to be a means of ignoring them); it seized on the major contradiction that the development of the state at that point had exposed.
The winning of citizen rights by women did have profound effects on politics, though not in reshaping party politics. Women’s organizations have been important in some conservative parties, but women’s parties as such have had no impact. Much more generally women were constituted as direct consumers of state services. Through the twentieth century a complex network of services and benefits has grown around the widows’ pensions and maternity allowances that were first provided: baby health centres, women’s health centres, supporting mothers’ benefits, taxation allowances and so on. As is well known, women are now the major consumers of welfare services in toto, partly because they live longer but also because of the ways in which state support is designed to substitute for husbands’ wages, presupposing women’s exclusion from the labour market. Kerreen Reiger notes how such welfare developments provided vehicles for intervention by professional experts (doctors, nurses, psychologists, social workers) in households, reshaping women’s domestic work. Sheila Shaver notes that when welfare and taxation policies are taken together as a system of transfers, the state is in effect taking from women as individuals and redistributing to them as someone’s mother, wife or widow. Putting these points together we can see the state as being deeply involved in the growth of much more mediated and abstract relations between women and men through the twentieth century. It is tempting to link this with the growth of a mere mediated and alienated sexuality, with commercial standardization in advertising, pornography and mass entertainment.