women and the state
January 19, 2003 07:03 PM

Kerri's question to the world at large this week: Do women benefit or suffer from the State?

I think a lot of the way this question can be answered depends on how one defines and views the concept of State. How do I define it?

  1. A nation with non-physical boundaries

  2. A collective government (cooperative or authoritarian) that defines rules and priorities for that nation

Given this [possibly oversimplified] definition, I tend to believe that people in general benefit from the existence of a state. Why? This may be cynical, but I think people tend towards territorialism and aggression in the absence of limits and structure. My vision of a world without nations is one in which civil war becomes the order of the day. Shifting that aggression to a national level, and placing the decisions of territory into (generally) the hands of more than one person is, in my belief, better for the daily survival and productivity of the individuals who make up a nation.

You might disagree. You might think that the idea of nation creates territoriality on its own, and that people are inherently peaceful. I just don't feel that either history or individual interaction bears out that theory.

Collective government sets up a "state" (in the sense of governors) apart from and accountable to the people. Even the most authoritarian states must ultimately have the approval of the governed in order to govern. This approval can be achieved with fear, but in most modern states, it's achieved by a combination of acculturation and exchange. We accept government because we're taught to, because it delivers tangible benefits, and perhaps simply because we need and want it.

Are women served by the tangible benefits of government? Yes. And no. Women benefit from welfare systems, public education and health provisions, and a range of other state-sponsored programs that vary from nation to nation. Women may also suffer when the collective voice of women is overwhelmed by other voices, making the state less accountable to us - for instance, when pharmaceutical companies use campaign funding and lobbying to speak louder to legislators than individual women do (thereby allowing potentially dangerous products to remain on the market longer).

I think the way to ensure the state remains accountable to everyone is to continue to demand accountability. In a republic, this is best achieved by making your voice louder by joining others - not by eschewing your voice as is common in America. The modern Western state requires active citizenship, and I think a lot of the failures of our state to support its people are due in large part to our own passivity.

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your wicked thoughts

I added your response as a link in the topic because I think you defined state in a relatively unbiased way.

Nice response, by the way.

What would be some ways people could make their voices heard, besides the obvious ones like marching and such?

these are the thoughts of Kerri on January 19, 2003 07:34 PM

Lots of people just support women for their own reputation, not because they want this world to change... that's very sad and what you said was brilliant.

these are the thoughts of Livia on January 20, 2003 10:47 PM

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