I would argue that, seen through a gender lens, Arendt is trying to put forward a view of power that is much more in tune with more contemporary feminist deconstructions of power and empowerment, and the substitution of ‘power over’ with’ power to’.
Gender and the transmission and reproduction of violence in time and space
The literature on violence tends to divide violence into various ‘forms’. People differ as to the exact categories, but Philippe Bourgois’ categories outlined above are sound examples of the broad consensus: Political, Structural, Symbolic and Everyday. Scheper-Hughes and Bourgois also argue for a ‘continuum’ between these violences (2004: 1), and the WHO study on violence as a public health issue also points to evidence of:
links between different types of violence. Research has shown that exposure to violence in the home is associated with being a victim or perpetrator of violence in adolescence and adulthood. The experience of being rejected, neglected or suffering indifference at the hands of parents leaves children at greater risk for aggressive and antisocial behaviour, including abusive behaviour as adults. Associations have been found between suicidal behaviour and several types of violence, including child maltreatment, intimate partner violence, sexual assault and abuse of the elderly. In Sri Lanka, suicide rates were shown to decrease during wartime, only to increase again after the violent conflict ended. In many countries that have suffered violent conflict, the rates of interpersonal violence remain high even after the cessation of hostilities – among other reasons because of the way violence has become more socially acceptable and the availability of weapons. (WHO 2002: 15)
Like Bourgois, work in my own country played a strong role in opening up new questions about violence. The riots that took place over 12 hours in Bradford on 7 July 2001 involved hundreds of young Pakistani males. These males come out of rural Asian and mostly Muslim socialisation cultures (although the vast majority were second-generation immigrants), in which male honour is one of the most dominant socialisation norms. These traditional cultural norms have been fertilized with Western cultural portrayals of masculinity so that the rioters described their violence in language from film and television; it was, they said:
like a mission…James Bond.’…a ‘fight to the finish…a battle…A game…I’m in the middle of a war zone’…’My head went…I don’t take shit off nobody…I am angry…I’ll take him out before he takes me out’…’It does mek yer feel strong, cos yer done it with a load guys and lads. (Bujra and Pearce 2005: 11)
The need to explore the relationship between masculinity, femininity and violence has arisen from my field research in violent contexts of Latin America and also more recently in Bradford, UK, where I was part of a research team looking at the riots that took place in that city in 2001 and in which the overwhelming number of participants were young males of Pakistani origin. In Latin America, my experiences have taken me from the state terror and dictatorships of the Southern Cone in the 1970s to the civil wars of cold war Central America and Colombia in the 1980s, the multiple complex violences of post-cold war Colombia, to the persistent and complex violences in indigenous communities of southern Mexico and to the post-war contexts of Peru, Guatemala, El Salvador and Nicaragua. It is worth noting that this personal research trajectory through three decades of violence in Latin America mirrors a great deal the pathway of others who have tried to argue for linkages between everyday violences and other kinds of violence, for example, Koonings and Kruijt (1999), Moser and Clark (2001), Moser and Winton (2002), Moser and McIlwaine (2003), and Scheper-Hughes and Bourgois (2004). This is partly because Latin Americanists with this trajectory are acutely aware that the way we looked at violence in the 1970s and 1980s, a period characterised by state terror and state-promoted private violence, did not prepare us for the explosion of social violences in the course of the 1990s, both in countries which had suffered civil war and in those which had not. In El Salvador, an example of the former, an average of 6,250 people per year died from direct political violence during the 1980s, compared with 8,700 to 11,000 killed every year by criminal violence in the 1990s (Bourgeois 2004: 432; PNUD 2002). But in Brazil, which did not go through civil war, violent deaths of young men were among the highest in the world in the 1990s, with a homicide rate of 18,400 for males aged 15–29 and 10,352 for males aged 30–44 in 1995 (WHO 2002: 308).
Shame, honour and pride: socialisation, men and violence
…male sociodocy owes its specific efficacy to the fact that it legitimates a relation of domination by inscribing it in a biological which is itself a biologized social construction. The double work of inculcation, at once sexually differentiated and sexually differentiating, imposes upon men and women different sets of dispositions with regard to the social games that are held to be crucial to society, such as the games of honor and war (fit for the display of masculinity, virility) or , in advanced societies, all the most valued games such as politics, business, science, etc. The masculinization of male bodies and feminization of female bodies effects a somatization of the cultural arbitrary which is the durable construction of the unconscious. Having shown this, I shift from one extreme of cultural space to the other to explore this originary relation of exclusion from the standpoint of the dominated as expressed in Virginia Woolf’s 1927 novel To the Lighthouse. We find in this novel an extraordinarily perceptive analysis of a paradoxical dimension of symbolic domination, and one almost always overlooked by feminist critique, namely the domination of the dominant by his domination: a feminine gaze upon the desperate and somewhat pathetic effort that any man must make, in his triumphant unconsciousness, to try to live up to the dominant idea of man. Furthermore, Virginia Woolf allows us to understand how, by ignoring the illusion that leads one to engage in the central games of society, women escape the libido dominandi that comes with this involvement, and are therefore socially inclined to gain a relatively lucid view of the male games in which they ordinarily partake only by proxy. (Bourdieu and Wacquant 2004: 273)
Gendered and bounded space as obstacles to understanding violence
In an influential book, The Sexual Contract, political philosopher Carole Pateman (1988) discussed the gendered character of the construction of our understanding of ‘private’ and ‘public’ spheres in the course of the European project of ‘modernity’. The emergence of the idea of ‘civil society’ bifurcated the ‘public sphere’ into two, that of the ‘state’ and that of a ‘privatised’ sphere of ‘public’ associational life, or civil society. The private domestic sphere of the ‘home’ was then another spatial construction which like civil society was to be autonomous from the state, but not subject to critical public scrutiny either by civil society or by the state. ‘Civility’ was a discourse for the bourgeois public sphere and the new social bonds of public associationalism which emerged in the late eighteenth century (Howell and Pearce 2001). The freedom of the individual and of that individual in ‘his’ home was established in the course of these bounded imaginings of space: ‘A man’s home is his castle’ became a popular dictum. Another was a ‘woman’s place is in the home’. These sayings reflected the effort to fix the relationships within as well as the boundaries of the gendered space of castle/home.
Feminists have deconstructed patriarchy, women’s oppression and exclusion, and made visible male violence against women; more recently an emerging field of masculinity studies has begun to unpack and analyse the varied patterns of male identity formation. However, the argument that violence has a gender dimension rooted in gender socialisation which might transmit and reproduce violence through time and space is surprisingly rare in mainstream discussion of violence.
It has always surprised me how contemporary studies of violence recognise ‘private (or domestic) violence’ as a serious phenomenon but rarely address the possibility of connections between violence in private and public spaces or the specific contribution gender socialisation processes make to the reproduction of violences in and between those spaces and over time. Most violent acts are carried out by young men between the age of 15 and 44 on young men between the age of 15 and 44, including self-directed violence; men commit much more violence than women do – homicides, suicides and even ‘accidental’ violence, such as road crashes (WHO 2002). But also:
historically and cross culturally, they make war. Men are soldiers and, as politicians and generals, those who instigate and lead the fighting. Men also engage in extreme violence: they are (mainly) the concentration camp guards, the SS, those who perpetrate genocide, mass ethnic rape, pogroms, torture, and the murder of children and old people. (Chodorow 2002: 252)
Identity and security concerns
The perceived threat posed by immigration to notions of national identity and historical continuity is increasingly commonly voiced in industrialised societies. For example, while accepting that ‘immigration on a modest scale brings benefits in the form of diversity and new ideas’, Professor Robert Rowthorn of Cambridge University argues that ‘the pace of the present transformation in Europe worries me. I believe it to be a recipe for conflict.’ This is related not to the personal qualities of immigrants, he stresses, but to the sheer numbers. ‘Rapid changes in the ethnic or cultural composition of a society may cause widespread disorientation, resentment and conflict’ (Rowthorn 2003: 71).
The second, substantive, kind of criticism focused on the content of the document. Two criticisms should be mentioned, both of them emphasising the reductionist view of the ‘consensus’ presented, which allegedly suppressed the diversity and the pluralism present at the Forum. One of the criticisms, originating in the feminist movements and organisations, stated that the document had been drafted and signed by 18 white men and one African woman. Not surprisingly, it was argued, sexual discrimination was mentioned in only one of the proposals (number 8), among many other forms of discrimination, and there was no trace of a gender perspective in the rest of the document. The other criticism, originating in the radical leftist groups, alleged that the manifesto was a reformist or neo-reformist document, drafted by a small group of intellectuals (the same old types). Most proposals, even if correct, were limited in scope, so the argument ran, thus contributing to the illusion that imperialism may be successfully confronted by non-radical measures and struggles.
Finally, global civil society is uneven and unequal in the gendering of risk perceptions. As Jude Howell shows in Chapter 1, the gendered nature of global civil society is ambiguous. On the one hand, civil society may be a sphere more permeable to women than the market and the state due to its roots in charity and voluntarism. On the other hand, civil society is seen by some feminists as a ‘public’ and hence historically exclusively male domain. As Howell points out, the theorists and activists who reinvigorated the concept did not problematise this heritage. Hence, risk framing in global civil society is likely to be male-dominated. Despite the campaigns on violence against women, a universal but ‘private’ risk such as rape is not likely to get the same consideration as climate change or terrorism.
Fourth, the concept of civil society needs to be disaggregated into not only different types of organisations with divergent ideological and political predilections but also into individuals, structured by societal divisions such as class, gender, and ethnicity. The focus within civil society studies on organisations as well as the tendency to reduce ‘civil society’ to a singular actor and voice has analytically steered the gaze away from the constituent individuals who come together in the spaces of civil society. Similarly, although many feminist theorists cautiously refer to ‘feminisms’, in the plural, there is still a tendency to work with aggregate notions of ‘the women’s movement’, which can mask rather than reveal the ideological nuances among women’s groups.
First, there is a huge gap in the literature concerning the gendered composition of civil society, the gendered norms and practices prevailing among civil society organisations, and the barriers to the participation of not only women in civil society but also some men. There is no systematic, comprehensive disaggregated data available on the gendered make-up of civil society. How many male-dominated or female-dominated associations are there, and what kinds of issues, sectors or activities are these associated with? What do we mean by a gender-based organisation? What is the gender distribution of different kinds of formal and informal organisation? What percentage of volunteers and employees are women, and how does this vary across time, country context and sector? How do we explain the predominance of men or women in particular types of groups? What proportion of directors, trustees and managers of civil society organisations are male, and why are women under- or over-represented in different country contexts or at the global level? How has this changed over time? What legal or regulatory mechanisms facilitate the exclusion or inclusion of many women and some men from participating in civil society? Through what gendered norms and practices, such as the lack of childcare facilities or the times of meetings, are women effectively excluded from taking part in different civil society groups? How do gender relations within the household affect the way women participate and organise, be it in women’s organisations or other kinds of civil society groups? Although some of these questions have been broached in relation to state institutions and formal politics, their application to the realm of civil society requires systematic attention and research.
Any model of gender and civil society has thus to incorporate global networks, institutions, influences and ideas. This then poses the challenge of moving beyond the nation state as the unit of analysis. Comparative work on gender relations and on civil society tends to start from the national context and seeks points of commonality and difference. Trying to understand international organising around gender and the continuities between this and national-local forms of activism calls for a different approach that is less framed, or maybe not at all framed, within the notion of territory. Given the plurality of norms and identities circulating in international contexts, the relative significance of the national is potentially questioned.
Developing a conceptual framework
In her insightful and novel analysis of the organisation of production, Diane Elson (1998: 5–6) argues cogently for a model of political economy that includes the domestic. Using a tripartite model of the private, public and domestic sectors, she demonstrates how the circuits of the market (through which goods, services, money and labour flow), of taxes and benefits (through which income transfers and public goods flow) and of communications (through which information, rumours, ideas, values and meanings flow) connect these sectors and channel the flows between them. At the same time the sectors feed into these channels. To illustrate, the market feeds commercial values through the communications network, the state transmits regulatory values, and the domestic feeds provisioning values. These values in turn can have positive as well as negative dimensions. Thus, the domestic sector may feed in values of caring and giving as well as of patriarchy (Elson 1998: 6).
Though feminist theorists have not paid much attention to the relationship between civil society and the family, it can be argued that conceptualising the family as inside or outside of civil society has consequences for the way we theorise civil society and gender, and indeed for practical strategies around gender emancipation. Arguing, as Pateman does, that the family is ‘at the heart of civil society’ challenges modernist and voluntarist views of civil society, which posit civil society-type organisations as free of clan and familial ties and obligations. Taking the family as crucial calls for a gender analysis of civil society and state institutions. It thus strengthens the idea that civil society discourses, spaces and organisations as well as state organisations and practices are shaped by, and in turn reproduce, particular configurations of gender relations. Moreover, it places organisations based on ethnicity or blood ties within the scope of analysis by civil society researchers, a dilemma that has been captured in the works of researchers in Africa.
Feminist political theory and civil society
Although the family forms an important element in Habermas’s account of the transformation of the public sphere, so distinguishing Habermas from many contemporary writers on civil society, feminist thinkers such as Joan Landes, Mary Ryan and Nancy Fraser have challenged the normative ideal of a (bourgeois) public sphere as open and accessible to all. Joan Landes (1988) argues that gender became the main axis of exclusion in the new republican sphere in France through discursive practices that belittled women’s participation in political life. Mary Ryan (1998: 195–222) challenges Habermas’s depiction of a decline of the bourgeois public sphere by documenting the movement of North American women into politics from the early nineteenth century onwards. In doing so she subverts the masculinist, bourgeois concept of a single public sphere and highlights the profusion of counter-publics that were neither liberal, nor bourgeois, nor necessarily male. In defence of the normative concept of public spheres in actually existing democracies, Nancy Fraser (1997:136–7) argues that any adequate conception of the public sphere has not only to bracket social differences such as gender but also to eliminate social inequality.
Enlightenment and post-Enlightenment thinkers in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, such as Rousseau, Ferguson, Paine, and de Tocqueville, counterposed civil society not only to the state but also to the family, though they paid little attention to the latter. In their conceptualisations of individual rights, freedom and civil society, they operated with a gendered notion of the public based on the abstract individual male. For Hegel the (patriarchal) family and the state form the two hierarchical poles between which civil society is located. As economic relations are integral to civil society, civil society is defined as both non-state and non-family. Hegel excludes the family from civil society not only because the family is the first context in which the abstract legal person is situated but also because the family is assumed to be a unity, based on love, without any conflict between its members, and from which its (male) head enters the world of civil society (Cohen and Arato 1995: 628–31, n. 48). Among contemporary writers on civil society the Hegelian distinction between family and civil society is, whether implicit or explicit, commonplace (see, for example, Carothers 1999: 207; Diamond, 1994: 5; White 1994: 379; Hawthorn 2001: 269–86; Van Rooy 1998: 6–30).
Today, citizens tend to have multiple, overlapping identities and interests. Ethnic origin, age group, religious creed, sexual orientation, and consumption patterns have become a more powerful source of identity than social status. We all become what we desire to be by resisting whatever negates our freedom, and in the incessant search to give our own life meaning. This process opens up new linkages between personal life and public debate, individual freedom and collective responsibility. The process of self-construction is inseparable from the dynamic of social transformation. Citizens capable of making up their minds, deliberating and taking stands, are at the root of a second phenomenon of great significance for the strengthening of substantive democracy: the rising power of public opinion to shape and influence public debate.
Finally, because of their own experiences and their analytic emphasis on issues of oppression and emancipation, feminists are well placed to take up issues of subordination, domination and power in civil society and to problematise the notion of civil society as a harmonious unity or as a comfortable and benign field of diversity and plurality or as the site of peace and justice. Through their past focus on exposing the complex ways in which the gendered relations of the family become reproduced in the economy and state, feminist thinkers have developed conceptual and theoretical frameworks and methodological approaches which can be readily deployed in interrogating the gendered interconnections between the family and civil society. Similarly, researchers and male activists working in the fields of men and masculinities, queer theory and sexuality possess analytic frameworks and tools for addressing the gender contours of civil society.
Fourth, the discourse of civil society has been appropriated across the ideological spectrum to propel particular political agendas and positions. Feminists need to be particularly cautious when the language of civil society is used in debates about state deregulation, user choice and community provision of welfare services. There is the danger that the language of civil society and related concepts of community and social capital becomes an ideological device for justifying a particular vision of the state, which entails the return of welfare services to the family, and in practice to the unpaid and undervalued female carer.
Third, civil society is a double-edged sword for feminists. It can provide a site for organising around feminist issues, for articulating counter-hegemonic discourses, for experimenting with alternative lifestyles and for envisioning other less sexist and more just worlds. With its organisations of self-support, community action, and voluntary care, it can foster solidarity, promote mutual support and prioritise values of care, respect and equality. Yet it can also be an arena where gendered behaviours, norms and practices are acted out and reproduced. As Anne Phillips (2002: 80) warns, the associations of civil society are relatively unregulated when compared with the state and therefore vulnerable to sexist and other discriminatory practices. Civil society can be the terrain of conservative ideologies that foster women’s dependency in the constricted space of the family as well as of emancipatory ideologies that aspire to gender equality. It offers fertile soil not only to liberal, socialist and radical feminists, gay and lesbian movements, and progressive men’s groups, but also to conservative women activists, anti-gay lobbies and patriarchal and misogynistic male groups.
Second, drawing attention to how women and gender relations have been absent in the work of many civil society researchers is important for enriching empirical analysis. However, it is also of interest how, why and when men organise in the spaces of civil society, and how such action in turn shapes the possibilities for women’s participation. In this way we can begin to ask whether men and women organise differently, whether the styles of leadership and mobilisation are different, whether the organisational forms are distinct, whether the issues addressed, the language expressed and the type of activities engaged in differ between male and female bodies. Although much discussion of civil society ignores the gendered nature of organising, the emergence of a field of study around men and masculinities has much to offer in understanding men’s engagement in civil society. Moreover, this would provide an opening to develop a more nuanced approach to men’s organising that takes on board competing notions of masculinity and diverse identities and solidarities. The differences between various types of men’s organising such as the military, working men’s clubs, gay movements, anti-feminist men’s groups, and Fathers For Justice could then be explored and comparisons drawn with women’s organising.
Given the centrality of civil society to feminists as a space for association, for the articulation of interests, and for ideological contestation, it is important that we theorise these spaces from a feminist perspective, and the language of civil society can be useful in this endeavour. In the past feminist theorists have used the diverse languages of social movements, struggle, rights, equality and emancipation to frame their understanding of women’s activism. As a result there is a rich, empirical treasury of historical, structural and analytic accounts of the rise of women’s movements in a diversity of contexts. Feminist researchers focused on women’s movements apart from the broader context of civil society, while civil society theorists referred to women’s activism to illustrate the dynamism and vibrancy of actual civil societies. Yet there are surprisingly few studies of how such movements and forms of collective action impinge more generally upon the spaces, organisations and regulatory frameworks governing civil society, nor of how the regulatory frameworks governing civil society, the organisational composition and forms of civil society, and the range of issues and values espoused by civil society actors in turn affect the way women organise. In what ways, if at all, do women organise differently from men in civil society? As civil society is a broader concept than social movements, it allows for the possibility of exploring these larger questions about how spaces for collective action are used, how they become politicised, and how they are gendered.
Time for gender and civil society theorists to tango
There are many reasons why it is time to interrogate more closely the relationship between gender and civil society. The first and perhaps most obvious reason for feminist theorists and practitioners is that women have been significant actors in the theatres of civil societies across the world. Often excluded from state institutions and male-dominated politics, women in different historical and cultural contexts have found it easier to become active at the local level through, for example, community organisations, self-help groups, traders’ associations, faith-based organisations, mothers’ groups, or campaigning. It is on this terrain that women activists, including feminists, have articulated their demands, mobilised around issues such as the right to vote, dowry, land rights and domestic violence, and created networks of solidarity. The spaces and institutions within civil society can exclude women, but they also have an emancipatory potential, which feminists can and do make use of.
Nevertheless, it is curious that there has been so little interrogation of the relationship between gender and civil society, within either feminist or civil society theories. This is surprising not only because each set of theories would have much to gain from the other in terms of theorisation and practical knowledge but also because organising around gender relations can constitute in different historical and cultural contexts a significant part of actually existing civil societies. This chapter addresses this lacuna. It begins by laying out the reasons for promoting a closer encounter between gender and civil society theory. It then explores what this would mean for the way in which civil society and gender are theorised and conceptualised. In particular, it develops a framework for conceptualising gender and civil society that highlights the interconnectedness of sites of power and the constant flow of socially constructed male and female bodies through a circuit of gender relations. Finally, we map out the practical and theoretical issues that deserve further investigation and action.