Is ‘maternal love’ a cause of peace?

Sadayo Takizawa

Originally published in 1996/1997, Issue 1

In Inter-State, spring 1995, Ms K. Clancy writes about one of today’s issues, the role of feminism in the international relations theory, and unfolds her views based on the assumption that only women can end war, since women hate war, whereas men love war. The distinction between masculinity and femininity in this way is so common that nobody seems to doubt it. But is it really true?

Here is my proposal on the issue of feminism. My aim is not a criticism of Ms Clancy’s view, but only to suggest another aspect of feminism. The question is, where did the idea originate that men love war and women love peace ? The expression as such is not much different from the expression that men are strong physically and intellectually, whereas women are weak in both aspects. For both expressions appear to be grounded on the same stand-point, that is, the differences of the physical appearance and the role of each sex in our society. We have a long tradition that men are bread earners, and women care takers at home. Men had to go outside and gain bread to support their families. Developing skills were necessary for them, so that men were naturally encouraged to develop and their abilities as much as they could, while women were kept behind.

The separation of the roles between men and women must have originally occurred from the difference of physical strength between them. Since then, men’s roles have been emphasised on public duties, and women on domestic. The chances to develop abilities for men were much wider than women. There were countless numbers of writers, musicians, scholars, without any wealthy family back-ground in Tudor time. [1] They were, however, always men. It was much later when women writers appeared in history, because of the women’s late awareness that men’s liberation did not include women’s liberation. Why did not women realise that in the first stage ? It could be because the majority of women found themselves comfort at home being occupied with domestic roles. Or it could be because women’s social status had a possibility for a change by marriage, unlike men’s which required nothing but hard work for a promotion. For instance, women can dream to be a princess, but men cannot unless they have to be born as a prince.

The existence of the division of roles by gender is still today so visible everywhere both inside and outside, although public duties are no longer considered only for men, and also a number of men might claim how much they share their domestic works with their wives.Our long tradition is not easy to wipe out. The problem is, it affects our perception of almost everything. Therefore, when we describe the nature of both sexes, we are often trapped by this tradition. The expression that men are strong and women weak, or men love war and women peace, is merely a different description of the same coin, which has been established by men on the ground of their convenience. Therefore, there is not any firm evidence to consider women as weak beings, nor is there firm ground to conclude that women are peaceful and hate war.

To consider the nature of femininity, I start with the examination of maternal love since both are deeply related. There might be some who oppose this view and say femininity and maternity are not the same thing so that we should approach the issue separately. Yes, I agree with that in the exact sense. Yet it cannot stop me thinking of the nature of feminism from the aspect of nature of maternal love.

1. Nature of Maternality

It is argued that our world was established based on patriarchy which some feminists regard as a central cause of war as well as the other many kinds of suffering in our world. Men have created the world in their image. The consequences of this include possessions of property, slavery, racism, militarism, nationalism, and finally wars. Long before the seventeenth century when the early modern states began to take shape, patriarchy had always been the main supportive source of those formations. It was certainly Machiavelli who first advocated the role of masculinity in public duties; Hobbes political theory is often pointed out to have failed to recognise women’s lives. Far from the failure of the recognition of women, Hobbes appears to have purposely ignored the existence of women, for he simply drops out women from his notion of family. According to Pateman, the author of the Sexual Contract [2], Hobbes’ definition of ‘family’ is as follows: a family ‘consists of a man and his children; or of a man and his servants; or of a man, and his children, and servants together; wherein the father or master is the sovereign: ‘ (in Leviathan) And, ‘a father with his sons and servants, grown into a civil person by virtue of his paternal jurisdiction, is called a family.’ (in De Cive)

In short, women do not exist at all in his conception of family, although in this world women share fifty per cent of the world population, as they did in Hobbes’ time. However, Rousseau was in my opinion a little different from the others. I would claim that he was a theorist who rejected both paternity and patriarchy. If not, his rejection of his children is incomprehensible. Rousseau’s contract theory is not necessarily based upon patriarchy. His ideas of state and man’s nature are outstanding among the others whose ideas are polluted with the masculine conception of world. Rousseau’s conception of man’s nature is purely independent from the gender bias, although some might point out that his idea is still not freed from man’s conception of nature. Even so, who can criticise it ? Our awareness are limited by those of the time.

I hold Rousseau’s rejection of his own children as a significance of the degree of his sensitivity. Children were too pure and too fragile for him to keep under him. He feared his influence on them, because he thought it might destroy children’s purity. And children were only products of nature, not his. He does not declare, “I am your father”. He was too sensitive to make such a declaration. However, there is still one question, why did he send his children to an orphanage ? Why orphanage ? The answer would be, “we are, after all, all orphans, aren’t we ?”, in Rousseau’s sense. That is why I regard Rousseau as a philosopher who rejected paternity and denied patriarchal monarchy.

When we talk about the nature of maternity, therefore, we have to go back to the more ancient times, at least, before the formation of early modern states. Machiavelli is good example for examining the case . Machiavelli and Bacon are the most distinguished figures who appear in a strong militant masculine outlook. Are they anti-feminist? The answer is ‘yes’. They are anti-feminist. Their anti-feminism is not just because they did not realise the impact of gender, which is the most arguable point to consider our today’s problem of gender approach. The formations of modern states, male kingdoms, have not naturally occurred, but have been created through the men’s struggle against matriarchy. [3] The rise of witch-hunt in the same period cannot be just a co- incidence. For instance, if we see this amazing craze under the light of men’s counter-attack against matriarchy, the reason why it became strong particularly this time would become much clearer.

Machiavelli had to fight against matriarchy. Therefore, his stresses on masculinity were not merely an advocating of patriarchy, on which monarchy was grounded, but an expression of his crisis which he had to recover and build up his identity as a male. His struggle against matriarchy was an urgent matter not only common to all men of his time but also common to all throughout history up to today. [4] Imagine all the family drama and children’s struggle for becoming adult. First we all enter this world entirely dependent on mother’s nursing. Without it we can hardly survive. Mothers hold the whole power over their babies’ lives. Maternity is the primal power to which every child has to subordinate before entering a civic society. If a boy failed to overcome his mother’s power and remained under her subjection, he could not properly enter public life. Then, how would he later be called? A man who failed in a sort of war against the maternal power in his youth. Mammy’s boy, isn’t he? No women, even feminists who regard maternity as the most peaceful factor in this world, appear to prefer such a man.

After all, we cannot simply conclude maternal love as the most respectable nature, because it also contains a nature which could turn to the demonic character. The universal image of maternity such as the Virgin Mary with her baby Christ under her arms, is merely a fiction which has been drawn by men as their final peace. The notion of women that they are peace-lovers and anti-war figures, is derived from men’s idea. When we argue the role of feminism, therefore, we have to examine the nature of women and the primitive stage of matriarchy fundamentally as male philosophers have seriously dealt with the man’s nature since the ancient Greek times. If we only consider feminism based on the image and the conception of women both of which were created by men, we would again fall into the man’s world and we could not escape from the man-made ideas. Whereas it does not have any supportive evidence to say men are physically and intellectually strong and women are weak and ‘inferior’, it also does not have any evidence to say women are peace-lovers and men are not.

2. The Role of Goddesses in History

‘Once upon a time woman was a goddess.’ This is a common and old saying in Japan. Such a view on women is, however, not only the Asian phenomena but also common to all countries. Western civilisations created various kinds of goddesses before the creation of Virgin Mary, as well as male gods. These ancient gods and goddesses have taken a great part in our history, and still do. Therefore, it is not true that women have never played the main roles in the world history. In a way it is perhaps right, but in the exact sense not. For instance, we have a female figure in the Great French Revolution, and the American Independence, the Goddess of Liberty. How did she become a symbol of Liberty leading the Great Revolution? If history was written by men, why did they bring the female figure as their symbol of the time? The relation between men and such goddesses in their history might have some deep meaning.

Despite the fact that political thinkers, like Hobbes, have totally ignored the existence of women in their theories, male revolutionists used female figures as if they were their ideals. They did not forget women. At least a particular female figure had a part in the great event, even if she was merely a fictional figure in man’s mind. As we know, the French Revolution of 1789 was the event of man’s liberation, not women’s liberation. However, in that great drama men gave a woman the ruling role. What on the earth was the idea of the idealists who were actually leading the Revolution of the time? Therefore, the Great Revolution in France in the eighteenth century was the triumph of Neo- Romanesc movement in a way.

Machiavelli and Bacon were both deeply concerned with the ancient Greek mythology. They were strongly provoking the patriarchy, but were also admirers of the ancient goddesses. Their propaganda for a patriarchal society was the rejection of matriarchy. Reforming society from the matriarchy to the patriarchy, in other words, the primitive state to the modern state, was the plan that aimed at by them. Although both were still living in a state of religious confusion, patriarchy soon found the Puritanism as a suitable form to fit in. It was the perfect marriage of patriarchy with Puritanism and it was also suitable to the new-born capitalism as theorised by Max Weber. [5] Capitalism has soon forgotten the role of women and left them behind in history, except the occasional appearance with the idealists of Romanticism.

3. Conclusion

Feminism of the post-war, especially in the late 1960’s, first came out of the cultural crisis that we faced through witnessing the new U.S. invasion of Vietnam. Our society in the second part of the twentieth century is still standing on the ground of socio-economic inequalities, unfairness, and so on. A number of women took a great part in this post-war movement. However, the peace movement in the early 60’s was not conducted only by women. It was preceded by the activity of CND. [6] Then it became the wide-spread movement including countless women, urging them for the re-thinking of their identity. Therefore, we cannot conclude that only women love war, and men do not. Men also do love peace just like anyone else. The beliefs that women are peace-lovers and men are war-lovers, is merely a myth, as well as the belief that men are superior to women physically and intellectually so that only men can enter the spiritual world, is only an incredible myth.


1. The examples are; Christopher marrow as draper’s son and Ben Jonson brick layer’s and so on.

2. See C. Pateman, Sexual Contract, 1988, Polity Press, pp. 46 – 49. Pateman’s views on Hobbes are, however, not agreed with the view which considers him as a patriarcharist. Her argument is, Hobbes’ assertion of natural right is maternal, not paternal and she claims that Hobbes is a patriarcharist who rejects paternity. Also see Shanlley & Pateman ed. Feminism Interpretations and Political Theory, Polity Press, 1991, p.54.

3. The emphases by both, Machiavelli and Bacon, on the role of masculinity in public duties are referred in Francis Bacon: History, politics and sciences, by B. H. G. Wormald, 1994, Cambridge press, and in Fortune is A Woman: Gendered politics in the thought of Niccolo Machiavelli, by H. F. Pitkin, 1984. Also the paper, Marriage Contract and Social Contract in 17c English Political Thought, by M. L. Shanley, in the Western Political Quarterly, vol.32, 1979.

4. As for Machiavelli’s family drama and his crisis, see H. F. Pitkin, Fortune is A Woman: Gendered Politics in the thought of Niccolo Machiavelli, 1984, University of California, p.231. Pitkin also points out that Machiavelli describes women’s nature destructive (ibid. p.115).

5. M.Weber, Die Protestantische Ethik und der Geist des Kapitalisms. / The Protestant ethic and the spirit of Capitalism, 2nd ed. 1976.

6. See J. Liddington, Long Road to Greenham: Feminism and Anti-Militalism in Britain since 1820, 1989, VIRAGO Press Ltd.


Bacon, Francis. Essay ed. by Grigson

Clancey, K. The role of feminism in the Internal Relations Theory, in the Inter- State, spring 1995, Aberystwyth, UCW.

Hobbes, Thomas. Leviathan, De Cive: The English version entitled in the first edition Philosophical Rudiments Concerning Government And Society, ed. by H. Warrender, Oxford, 1983.

Josephson, Matthew. Jean-Jacques Rousseau, London: Vitor Gollancz Ltd, 1932.

Liddington, Jill. Long Road to Greenham: Feminism and Anti-Militalism in Britain since 1820, VIRAGO Press Ltd, 1989.

Machiavelli, Niccolo. The Prince and the Discourses, with the introduction by Max Lerner, 1950.

Pateman, Carole, Sexual Contract, Polity Press, 1988. .

Pitkin, Hanna Fenichel. Fortune is A Woman: Gendered politics in the thought of Niccolo Machiavelli, University of California, 1984.

Shanlley, Mary Lyndon. Marriage Contract and Social Contract in 17c English Political Thought, Western Political Quarterly, vol.32, 1979.

Shanlley, M. L. & Pateman, C. (ed.) Feminism Interpretations and Political Theory, Polity Press, 1991.

Soble, Alan. In Defence of Bacon, Philosophy of the social sciences, vol.25, June 1995.

Sullivan, V.B. Neither Christian Nor Pagan: Machiavelli’s Treatment of Religion in the Discourses, Polity, vol.26, 1993-94.