Academic Papers

The Logic of Masculinist Protection: Reflections on the Current Security State

Gender and violence have been the subject of many discussions amongst academic feminist scholars in the Western world. Young’s article (2003) reflects on the events of September 11, 2001, and the subsequent ‘war on terror’ in Afghanistan in October 2001, with a justification for liberating Afghan women from the ruthless Taliban. That was, however, only false propaganda aiming to gain public support. The bleak climate of the early 2000s, filled with fear and hatred, brings out the new terminologies: ‘war on terror’ and ‘Islamophobia.’ Needless to say, understanding the political situation is vital, and it will be argued that attention should rather be paid to the message within. Young’s main argument on war and security issues is the masculinist logic behind that she describes throughout gendered hierarchy within families and applies it to the larger picture of governments and the (United) States. Some may argue these are only demonstrated facts and do not bring any explanatory values on why it is the way it is. The missing piece of the puzzle is the notion that the whole argument and examples used come from Western intellectual ideologies and thinkers. The main argument is, thus, the insidious link between the ‘Holy Trinity’ of Power, Religion and Capital that brings up the question: “who is the one to fear of?”

Young’s article can be divided into three main parts. Young sets out the scene with a statement of former president G.W. Bush (2002): “My most important job as your President is to defend the homeland; is to protect the American people from further attacks,” that catches the reader’s eye and piques the curiosity. The first part is mainly informative, introducing her main arguments of the implication of gendered lens theory to support the masculinist logic of the U.S. government. She questions the feminist stance on the subordinate position of women in non-Western cultures (Young 2003: 1-3).

The second part is devoted to ‘masculinism as protection.’ She argues the role of the State is identical to those seen within nuclear families, where a father is the head of a family with the ultimate power and protects his wife and children. In return, he receives their unconditional devotion (ibid: 4, 7, 9, 14). He is the ultimate authority. This is demonstrated through Pateman’s ‘sexual contract’ and Hobbes’ ‘social contract’ theories. Only a sovereign power, Leviathan, can protect citizens against the brutal and barbarian state of nature. In return, the sovereign receives absolute obedience. “The world out there is heartless and uncivilised…The protector must therefore take all precautions against these threats… and be ready to fight and sacrifice for the sake of his loved ones” (ibid: 4). Similarly, after September 11, 2001, the Bush administration has taken the approach of spreading fear within the public. To gain support, they plotted false propaganda with an appeal to the liberation of Afghan women as a justification for waging war in Afghanistan (ibid: 3).

The third part overtly expresses Young’s criticism of the U.S. government and accentuates the hegemonic position of the U.S. as a saviour of the world, a protector of all nations (ibid: 17). This idea of a protector, however, is double-faced. The same guarantor of security can also be the one that makes its citizens insecure if they decide to question or disobey the system. The State decides who is a ‘good’ or ‘bad’ citizen (ibid: 14-16). Young links this patriarchal logic to colonialist ideologies. The sovereign protects and cares for the weaker nations as redemption from savagery and guidance towards development (ibid: 19). Lastly, Young appeals to all democratic citizens “to resist leaders’ attempts to play father over us” (ibid: 22).

Young writes in an easy structure to follow. There are two key elements to highlight. From the feminist perspective, gendered patriarchy and state violence have ruled the world for centuries (Federici 2021: 115). From the lens of realism, the state is the ultimate guarantor of security and protection of weaker, from the anarchic system out of it, where no state or regulations take place and selfish human nature is capable of anything (Bronowski, Mazlish 1963: 240-242; Pateman 2022: 44; Tuck 2002: 67; Young 2003: 4).

It was Hobbes who built the foundations of the first realism back in the seventeenth century (Federici 2021: 180). He lived through the civil war in England; hence no wonder his views on human nature were authoritarian and pessimistic. However, he did not pretend the ‘state of nature’ ever existed but argued that this was the brutish state of affairs during a civil war (Bronowski, Mazlish 1963: 225, 238, 239; Tuck 2002: 29).

Alarmingly, the democratic and liberal U.S. government, on the one hand, acts as in the state of nature on the other. The belief that “each sovereign State, when it feels strong enough, claims to be the headquarters of a Chosen Race” (Shaw 1944: 124) aims to attain sovereign power over all nations (Young 2003: 3, 17; Tawney 1972: 20).

Young argues that there are clear patriarchal structures within society and that gendered subordination applies not only to the nuclear family structures but also to the relations between governments and citizens. Nonetheless, these are only demonstrated facts and do not offer any explanatory values on why it is the way it is. She also briefly mentions the Western world but does not further investigate why women are considered ‘weaker.’ The question is this: “who do we really fear in the state of nature?”

However, the link between her arguments, the Western world, religion, and capitalism, needs to be included. Christianity supported the early transition to capitalism in the Western world. According to Bronowski and Mazlish 1963, Christianity is behind the rise of capitalism in the Western world. The material concern was hidden behind the ‘doctrine of celestial happiness’ to those who ‘ora et labora’ (pray and work), live in earthly misery, and silently obey the rulers. Because “the perfect happiness of man cannot be other than the vision of the divine essence” (Bronowski, Mazlish 1963: 27). 

Although we do not live in the Middle Ages, this link is crucial in understanding today’s world order. Religion is separated from democratic governments, but the motives of the U.S. government to protect innocents from evil Islam show the contrary. 

Hobbes’ statements are also very contradictory. Firstly, he claimed that the Leviathan was entirely based on philosophy and pure science and criticised Descartes for his theological thoughts. Subsequently, he stated that “the persecuted, instead of rebelling, must expect their reward in Heaven” (Bronowski, Mazlish 1963: 31; Federici 2021: 180). Secondly, Hobbes stated that in the state of nature, the political right is maternal, and it is the mother who has got the ultimate sovereign power, but there are no ‘wives.’ However, in Leviathan, he argues that in social contract theory, ‘families’ consist of a man, his children, and servants. The coin flips, and the political right is paternal (Pateman 2022: 44 – 47). Where are the women? Was his brutish state of nature the fear of matriarchy? 

From the late 15th to the late 17th century, the West was transitioning to capitalism. To succeed, women had to be taken away from the natural power they had gained. Deepening division between genders and teaching men to fear their power was exercised. Witch-hunting served as a servant of God and an attack on their resistance to the spread of the capitalist regime, where “women themselves became the commons” as their work was considered a natural resource (Federici 2021: 106, 108, 176). Hobbes was a strong supporter of the hunts (ibid: 227). The development of capitalist society and gendered subordination had created a new ideology: women, nature, and the earth had been defined as ‘nurturing mothers,’ and degraded their rank (ibid: 227). Thus, we argue that capitalism, religion, and Western ideologies are the hidden motives behind masculinism as protection.

Young’s article (2003) reflects on the events of September 11, 2001, and the subsequent ‘war on terror’ in Afghanistan in October 2001 with a justification of liberating Afghan women from the ruthless Taliban. That was, however, only false propaganda aiming to gain public support. She argues that the current Security State is strongly masculinised and must protect the weaker from the dangers of the outer world. In return, subordinates voluntarily give up their lives in devotion and obedience. Young compares the position of the U.S. government to those seen within nuclear families, where a father is the head of a family with the ultimate power and protects his wife and children. She supports her arguments through Hobbes’ ‘social contract’ theory and Pateman’s ‘sexual contract’ theory. The problem is, however, when the same guarantor or security makes his people insecure. The democratic values are questioned. Although Young brilliantly supports her arguments, we argue that the hidden motives behind masculinist protectionism are linked to capitalism, religion, and Western ideologies. We question whether the current world orders result from the fear of matriarchy.


Bronowski, J., Mazlish, B., (1963). The Western Intellectual Tradition. Hazell Watson & Viney Ltd, Aylesbury, Great Britain.

Federici, S., (2021). Caliban and the Witch: Women, the Body and Primitive Accumulation. Clays Ltd, Great Britain.

Pateman, C., (2022). The Sexual Contract: Thirtieth Anniversary Edition. Polity Press, Cambridge.

Shaw, B., (1944). Everybody’s political what’s what. Constable and Company Limited, London.

Tawney, R.H., (1972). Religion and the Rise of Capitalism. C. Nicholls & Company Ltd, Great Britain.

Tuck, R., (2002). Hobbes: A very short introduction. OUP Oxford.

Young, I.M., (2003). The logic of masculinist protection: Reflections on the current security state. Signs: journal of women in culture and society29(1), pp.1-25.

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