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Reduction of patriarchal structures

Knowledgebase > Reduction of patriarchal structures

Reduction of patriarchal structures

From ICWiki


Reduction of patriarchal structures:

Patriarchy is “a social system in which the father is head of the household, having authority over the women and children.” It is “a system of government by males.” Wiktionary.

The reduction of patriarchal structures is one of the core principles of the Niederkaufungen commune in Germany.

In the pamphlet of Aims and Principles, the “Grundsatzpapier“, written in 1983, the structures of the nuclear family are especially criticised.

New structures were proposed in the paper, and many of them have been put into practice.

  • Life in small living groups
  • Childcare and cooking done by collectives
  • Other housework done on a rota basis.
  • Work in self-managed collectives

Other Egalitarian communities have similar anti-sexist principles and similar structures in place to foster equality between women and men. For example, Twin Oaks Community has Feminism as a core principle, and FEC member communities all share similar ideas.


The Theory – Critique of the nuclear family:

Critics of the nuclear family see it as being one of the basic building blocks of patriarchal, capitalist society. The nuclear family is usually structured to enable the man to go out work while the woman stays at home and cares for children and household.
The man is usually integrated into a heirarchical workplace structure where competition and performance play major roles in his acceptance and position in the heirarchy. In exchange for his wages he receives services from his female partner which include childcare, cooking, cleaning and emotional support. The heirarchy experienced in the workplace is mirrored in the home.
A simple reversal of the roles does not radically change the patriarchal nature of the relationship.

The Nuclear Family:

The main relationship that is accepted and promoted by all states and societies is the nuclear family, the long-term relationship between one adult man and one adult woman, with a number of children resulting. In many western states, this no longer has to be a legally certified relationship. However, if the relationship breaks down when no legal contract has been made the woman often loses what few rights she would have been granted in an officially recognised relationship.

The nuclear family is a way of binding patriarchal society together in pyramids of authority. The intimate relationship is transformed into a social relationship where parents transmit the socially accepted concepts of gender roles and of “correct” sexuality to the children.

The nuclear family is also a way of ensuring high consumption and a dedicated workforce whose physical and emotional needs are serviced by women. The parents transmit a large number of the governmental and social concepts and enforce them. The boys learn to expect a privileged part in society. The girls learn to be second-class citizens. Until they are in their teens, the children are a group of captive consumers, both of goods and of ideas.

Society expects one man to take on the responsibility to provide for several other people in a society where those other people, his wife and children, have few rights of their own. Wage structures and laws generally discriminate against women. Role changing at work and in the home has a limited effect because it is still within the narrow confines of the nuclear family. We relate to each other in an “unegalitarian” framework.

Reduction of patriarchal structures in historical communities:

In some early Utopian literature and in some early communities there were attempts to change the role of women, although these were not always challenges to patriarchy.

For example, in 1534, when anabaptist rebels took over the city of Münster they established the community of goods and polygamy. The position of women remained subservient to men despite the rejection of traditional monogamous relationships.

The common possession of goods, women and children proposed by Tommaso Campanella in his early utopian work, “City of the Sun” written in 1602, would also have meant rather different social and sexual structures from those then existing, but Campanella’s vision was of a theocratic society and not an egalitarian one.
Other Utopian writers such as Gerrard Winstanley proposed emancipation of women to a much greater degree, and in his work, “The Law of Freedom”, women were given far more rights than those which existed in European society at that time.

The first feminist work to really challenge patriarchal ideas was Mary Wollstonecraft’s The Vindication of the Rights of Woman

Some early communal projects experimented with the ideas of emancipation of women, communal childcare and free love. For example, the perfectionist Oneida Communitystarted in 1848. This was a radical experiment which broke many of the taboos of the day. Nonetheless, Oneida was still in some respects a patriarchal christian community with John Humphrey Noyes as its clear leader.

In the 1960s, reduction of patriarchal structures became one of the main aims of the german commune movement, especially at the Kommune1 and in the AAO-Aktionsanalytische Organisation communes. They tended to concentrate on a critique of the sexually repressive role of monogamous couple relationships within the nuclear family. The idea of polyamory is held to be a rather less repressive way of structuring relationships.

Similar ideas were also circulating in the USA, for example at the Kerista commune in San Francisco.

New structures – the example of the Niederkaufungen commune, Germany:

  • Life in small living groups: The members of the commune in Niederkaufungen live in eleven small living groups. Two of these groups are “Women/Lesbian” (Frauen/Lesben) living groups, a third is a women’s living group with one small boy which has evolved from a mixed group. There is one men’s living group, the rest are mixed. Some of the living groups have parent couples with children living together, but there are also single parents with children in some groups. One couple consciously live apart within the commune, and some communards have partners outside the commune. Nearly all children have one or more self-chosen adult carers extra to their parents. The commune tries to keep to a ratio of one child per three adults in order that there are enough non-parents who can help with the children.
  • Childcare and cooking done by collectives: From the age of one, commune children can attend the commune Kindergarten in the mornings. This enables both parents to work, not just one (usually the man). The Kindergarten evolved from a self-organised childcare group and has places for children from the village of Kaufungen as well as for commune children. As most people work in the commune, parents are near their children if needed, and children regularly get to visit commune workplaces to see what is going on. Commune children get to know village children through Kindergarten attendance, and village kids and their parents get to know communal life in exchange. Many commune children have friends who are happy to visit them because there is so much to see and do, and a lot more freedom than in the nuclear family. From Monday to Friday, lunch-time cooking for the commune is done by the kitchen collective (Komm Menu). The collective is, at present, made up of three men and one woman, with two helpers, a man and a woman. The “centralized” preparation of meals by a collective again frees up communards from some housework usually done by women.
  • Other housework done on a rota basis: Preparation of breakfast, of the evening meal, of meals at the weekends, the dish-washing and cleaning of the kitchen are all done on a rota basis by all communards. Cleaning the rest of the commune is done by volunteers, and each small living group organises its housework autonomously. Running the wood-burning central heating system is done by a team of volunteers who organise their own rota. Thus men do the much same amount of “women’s work” as the female communards. There is a great degree of freedom of choice about whether you cook, wash dishes, or do other household and kitchen chores, but it is clear that everyone has to do their fair share. And everyone has to wash their own clothes.
  • Work in self-managed collectives: Nearly all communards work in self-managed collective businesses. Women and men have equal rights and equal responsibilities in the collectives. The collectives decide autonomously on working hours and conditions, holiday entitlements and division of labour within the collective.

See also:

Agriculture in Kommune Niederkaufungen

Ecological measures undertaken by Kommune Niederkaufungen

Governance in Kommune Niederkaufungen

External Link:

Kommune Niederkaufungen homepage (German)

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