State Power Is Male Power: Women And The Welfare State

Argues that the welfare state, from a feminist perspective, is a feature of a patriarchal power structure.

Canada and the United States are in the midst of a period of economic expansion almost unprecedented in history. Integral to this expansion has been the tax and spending cuts of ideologically conservative governments. These governments have removed a great many lazy women and children from the welfare rolls and, through policies such as workfare, made them productive workers in our society. This paper will demonstrate, however, that this process may be seen as very logical when viewed from a feminist perspective. Underlying the conservative arguments about finances and budget is a subtextual debate about power in general and patriarchal power in particular. It will be argued that the welfare state is an integral feature of this patriarchal power structure. As such, the welfare state’s focus on the weakest and the most disadvantaged in our society – whether in cutting benefits or controlling behaviour – reflects a continuing interest of patriarchal power structures in dominating the lives of women who are disproportionately represented in those dependent upon the welfare state.