Programs are distinct from policies—they are the specific actions that flow from policies. In the draft below, we have selected six institutions in which women are primary “targets” of oppression and three important “mechanisms” of sexist oppression. Other important institutions are listed, but we are recommending that we emphasize the first group.

For these institutions and mechanisms, we have set out our vision of a future society free of irrationality along with a few paragraphs about the current state of that institution and how it got that way. To avoid repetition, we didn’t—but could have—added the following to each “vision” section: Because sexism and internalized sexism will have been eliminated, no woman will be settling, ever, for anything less than absolutely everything.

These beginning descriptions do not include proposed strategies. We want there to be discussions and discharge groups in which women (l) think through ways that race and gender intersect in each of the institutions and (2) develop strategies for changing and transforming each of the institutions including a vision of what that institution would look like without sexism. (“The Human Male: A Men’s Liberation Draft Policy” has good examples of strategies.)

Although not every woman in the Community will be attending one of the conferences, we hope that every woman in the Community will have the opportunity to participate in a local activity centering around the above goals.

We will now look at the following institutions and “mechanisms.”


1. Economy and Work

2. Institutions Surrounding Reproduction

3. Child-Raising

4. The Beautification “Industry”

5. Marriage

6. Sex “Industries”


l.Internalized Oppression

2.Violence Against Women

3.Sex and Sexual Victimization




In a non-oppressive future society, the world’s resources will be equitably distributed, with women being thoughtful, responsible participants in production, reproduction, and consumption. All work will be valued, and all work will contribute to human survival and flourishing. Every woman will contribute according to her abilities and will receive the fair compensation she needs.


Class societies promote inequalities of every kind. Economic inequalities based on sexism have existed in most known class societies. As with all other oppressions, the underlying basis for female oppression is economic exploitation. The value produced by women’s labor is taken from women by the ruling class of the society. All women are expected to do the unpaid work of childbearing and mothering. Once class societies came into existence, these two functions became the excuse for the oppression of females and for the extra exploitation of their labor. Today a majority of the world’s females grow up poor and remain poor throughout their lives. The majority of the adult poor are female (the “feminization of poverty”). Women constitute fifty-one percent of the world’s population. They work two-thirds of the world’s working hours. They receive ten percent of the world’s income and own less than one percent of the world’s property. Economic globalization and restructuring of the world’s labor force have accelerated these trends and use sexism to exploit workers.

Most adult women work two jobs. In the economic “north,” they do unpaid work in the home and devalued work in the wage-work force, where they earn less than men. In the economic “south,” most adult women work as unpaid mothers and workers at home. There also, the majority of agricultural workers and poorly-paid wage workers are women.



For most of human history, humans have had to struggle to ensure that our species not die out. Procreation has been a hedge against impoverishment. In the future, under new conditions, it is likely that only some women and men will produce new human life, and they will do so only when more people are needed and with the well-being of the planet taken into account. To eliminate overpopulation, it may be necessary that fewer children be born. Each child would have ample material and emotional resources to develop fully. All women (and men) would be able to have important relationships with young people (see the section “Child-Raising”). Women’s and men’s distinct roles in reproduction will no longer irrationally shape female or male lives.


Women’s ability to bear children has been a precious and crucial function, necessary to the survival of the human species. With the advent of class societies, women’s role in reproduction became an excuse to oppress and subjugate women. Nothing in women’s childbearing role justifies oppression. There has been and continues to be harsh oppression associated with the act of reproduction. In conceiving and carrying a fetus to term, women undergo many unnecessary struggles, such as insufficient nutrition and poor medical care.

Like women, children have often been treated as the property of adult males. Owning-class women’s children have been appropriated as future “owners.” Other women provide the world with workers. Women have not been free to pursue their dreams for their children or to encourage their children to pursue their own dreams. In practice, they have been coerced into carrying out the goals of the oppressive society.

Today, in the economic “north,” women spend a smaller proportion of their lives giving birth and caring for young children than before. This is due to the availability of birth control, having fewer children, having more opportunities outside the home, and living longer. Reproduction no longer defines women’s value to the extent it did formerly.

In much of the economic “north” it is commonly accepted that a woman has the “right to choose” whether or not to have children (although sexism has greatly interfered with the ability of women to freely choose in this area, particularly in the absence of discharge). Because of this, birth control has been available, and majority opinion has defended a woman’s right to choose an abortion.1 Also accepted is the idea—but not necessarily the practice—of child care outside the home.

In the economic “south” (with the exception of China), most women still spend many years reproducing and caring for children. Reproduction and overpopulation still go hand-in-hand with poverty, racism, and sexism. Women face tremendous health problems tied to pregnancy and childbirth.

In most of the world, women are expected to have children and raise them. It is considered radical to suggest doing otherwise. The idea of applying fresh thinking to questions of reproduction is not yet widely accepted. Women often make decisions that are not in their best interests. Women need the chance to think freshly about every aspect of their lives. In the current collapsing society, rational decision-making about reproduction should take into account what will further women’s liberation and the well-being of all humans, along with an individual woman’s desires.


There is still no completely reliable and safe birth control. Many of us have been prevented from thinking for ourselves and taking charge of birth control, just as we still struggle to take intelligent charge of our sex lives.


Discharging work on our early lives, including our pre-natal memories, provides evidence that the fetus is a human life and that abortion is the taking of a human life. At the same time, women have unintended pregnancies—because of rape, incest, coercion, pressure by society to be sexually active, pressure to be mothers, birth-control failures, and the barriers to thinking and taking charge that result from sexism. Until these factors no longer affect women, abortion must be available as a choice. However, the goal must be to eliminate the need for abortion by eliminating sexism and supporting women to decide when and if they will become mothers.

We can help women use the discharge process as they contemplate being sexually active and being mothers.


Parents sometimes wish for “perfect” children. Pre-natal screening identifies fetuses with disabilities so they may be aborted. A disabled child is viewed as undesirable, an assumption that runs counter to the preciousness of every human being. It undermines every person’s sense of acceptability, whether disabled or not. We need to welcome all young people, not try to create children according to pre-set standards. Parents of disabled children must be given enough help to meet their needs.


Advances in technology and medicine, as well as general societal improvements favorable to women, have made possible real gains for some women (and children) in relation to childbirth—for example, lower maternal and infant mortality rates in the economic “north.” Unfortunately, mortality rates remain high in most of the economic “south.”

Women’s traditional knowledge about childbirth has often been ignored and supplanted by insensitive medical establishments.


New reproductive technology—for example, in vitro fertilization—has made it possible for women to conceive without sexual intercourse. A woman can have children even if intercourse during her fertile years has been too problematic because of the impact of sexism, although this option is too expensive for most women. New reproductive technologies, although potentially helpful, keep the pressure on some women to reproduce. For them, it may mean that they are subjected to extensive medical intervention rather than being given a chance to grieve the inability to bear children or tolerate and enjoy sexual intercourse.

There are also ethical questions we need to ask about some of the new reproductive technologies.



 We envision societies in which it is possible to do a superlative job of raising children, in which the work of child-raisers is highly valued, and in which everyone values the young and takes responsibility for their care. Child-raising will be well-rewarded with sufficient economic, social, and emotional support to child-raisers. The work will not be restricted to one gender. Well-led teams, composed of women and men, biological and non-biological parents, and people of various ages, will commit themselves to particular children. (We don’t yet foresee in any detail how these teams might coordinate with “family” or “home” structures for children, or how the team members might relate to each other, but we envision ample and intimate human resource for all children and adults involved.)


In class societies women have always been given overall responsibility for raising children. In slave, feudal, and early capitalist societies, women raised the children and men owned them.

Mothers are oppressed by society as parents in addition to being oppressed as women. Their work, which is of great value, is devalued almost everywhere. It is accepted as “principle” that parents receive no pay for a twenty-four-hour-a-day job from which there is little or no relief. Parents are generally isolated with little support for their work. Mothers, in class societies, generally do the majority of parenting work.

Women’s biological role in reproduction (pregnancy, giving birth, and nursing) has been used as the primary excuse for female oppression. Caring for the young is one of the most important tasks in society. However, under oppressive conditions, mothering has severely limited women’s lives. Mothers experience the depth of female oppression. The job of mother—primary, exclusive, unpaid raiser of children—is expected of almost all women and still defines the lives of the majority of women. A fairly recent version of this expectation in the economic “north” was a “cult of motherhood” and domesticity. Women were expected to stay at home and work as housewives and twenty-four-hour-a-day mothers. Now most women in the economic “north” work at least two jobs—in the wage work force and at home. Though no longer exclusively relegated to the home, most women are still expected to provide primary child care, and this work still shapes women’s work lives throughout society. They are still expected and encouraged to be mothers, even where “right to choose” ideas are prevalent. Once having chosen, both mothers and non-mothers are penalized for their choices.

In the economic “south,” women are mothers to many children, and many have also done agricultural labor, factory work, or other paid labor.

Even under the present oppressive circumstances, child-raising can be joyful for the adults involved. Given the exploitation of other forms of work, it can be, and often feels like, one of the most meaningful jobs possible. What people say about the “rewards” of child-raising contains both pretense and truth.



In the absence of sexism, the beautification industry will not exist. Everyone will know that all women are uniquely beautiful (defined in human terms) without need for “enhancement” by the beautification industry. All humans will be free to decorate themselves or not—as may suit them and as may make sense in the circumstances—for reasons such as heritage, art, style, theater, celebration, attracting attention, fun, communication, and discharge. Humans will have figured out how to get rid of ageism and hurtful competition in these areas. All humans will have access to a healthy environment, nutritious food, and all else that nurtures vigor and physical well-being.


Many cultures that we know about have patterns that evaluate and classify women in unthinking ways on the basis of appearance. This type of “attractiveness” has often defined a woman’s worth and acceptability. Her sexual attractiveness has often been derived from an appearance that suggests she can bear vigorous and healthy children. It can also involve an appearance of youthfulness, which can be linked, for example, to men’s isolation in adolescence. Another part of this “attractiveness” is often an appearance that suggests a woman is willing to meet men’s frozen desires for attention. Women, particularly in the wealthier classes, have often been considered accessories for men. A woman’s dress and appearance could enhance the prestige of the master. Foot-binding, corsets, high heels, and plastic surgery are all harmful to the body, tend to give women a subservient appearance, and have installed distress recordings on women.

In our current stage of capitalism, ever-increasing profits accrue from selling beautification products and services to women. The multibillion-dollar beautification industries enforce sexism. They manipulate women to feel bad about who they are and how they look. These industries promote an ideal image of female beauty and sell products they claim will assist women to achieve it. The existence and promotion of this false image oppresses all women. With today’s technology, this propaganda can be disseminated wide-world. Technology even allows this image to be manipulated digitally, so that all women are pressured to conform to an idea of beauty that is a result of distresses and computer-graphic manipulation.

It is not possible to satisfy the irrational longings manufactured and encouraged by the beautification industries. In particular, they cannot be satisfied by the beautification industries. However, women’s frozen desperation keeps them buying, and the beautification industry makes big profits. Our distinction between the person and the pattern is our guide here. Every woman’s real beauty shows when she is free of patterns—for example, when her attention is completely off her distresses or she is crying or laughing hard. The person is irresistible. Only distress patterns make a woman feel, or temporarily look, unattractive. Discharge frees women of the distresses that can temporarily hide their innate human attractiveness.

Most people wear patterns most of the time. According to society, some of these patterns are beautiful and others are not. However, to an aware observer, all patterns are unattractive. Also, patterns in the observer can make a woman seem unattractive. Such patterns are cultivated by oppressive forces that define countless societal groups as less attractive.

The beautification industry sets up a false standard of beauty and then purports to make it and all that goes with it attainable by means of its products and services, all the while reaping huge profits. It also profits by implying that it can fulfill a woman’s patterned longings to be different than she is.



Without sexism, marriage will cease to be an institution of ownership or automatic exclusivity. Instead, people will form a variety of permanent, connected, committed relationships (the exact forms of which are yet unseen) based on cooperation, mutual respect, and love, and free from compulsive activity. The natural love that all humans feel for all other humans will be expressed in countless forms—including rich community support for each person’s flourishing. People won’t be pressured to seek the one perfect relationship to meet all their needs. (It is early yet to guess the role of sexual relationships in a rational society except to say that they will be rational.)


In today’s societies most adults are married. Being married can be in a woman’s self-interest, given female oppression. It might make sense to think about marriage as a collection of separate functions and relationships. These could include living together, sharing money, sharing domestic labor, raising children, sleeping together, having sex, sharing recreational activities, or securing health benefits.

Wives need encouragement to sort out the oppressive characteristics from the rational benefits of these separate relationships. For instance, closeness is rational and beneficial, but patterned restrictions on the many ways of being close with people can be oppressive, and need to be challenged. Women should challenge inequality in any of the relationships, such as unequal power to make decisions, or unfair division of domestic responsibilities. As we move to a non-oppressive society, marriage (the good parts) could have a place as one possible form of permanent, connected relationship. Advantages of marriage can include a ready partner for talk, touch, shared meals, sex and/or discharging about sex; better health; mutual backing; mutual love. Like a commitment to any project, a commitment to a marriage relationship can create the opportunity for a person to grow. People’s commitment to each other that can be part of a marriage can help them stay close as they struggle through difficult times.

Each kind of relationship needs the thoughtful support of other people. In each relationship, women need to play an active and aware role.


In early class societies the husband owned the wife. As marriage evolved in Europe, a married man and woman became a legal entity, that entity was “one person” under the law, and the one person was the man. A woman had no independent identity.

 Marriage consisted of a series of jobs and expectations for both the man and the woman. The wife was expected to serve the husband, to mother children, and to take care of the house. A husband was entitled to sex. Society did not punish rape and battering within a marriage, and they were not, and still are not, uncommon.

 In the economic “north” and parts of the economic “south,” the women’s movement and other social and economic forces have weakened some oppressive aspects of marriage to a considerable degree. However, distress patterns attached to the concepts of husband and wife remain, as if the legal and social changes had not occurred. Because wives get paid less than husbands for their work and continue to be unpaid workers at home, women continue to struggle for equality within marriage.

 In many nations of the economic “south,” marriage is still tied to a semi-feudal patriarchy in which women are treated as property, and violence is used to enforce that control. In those situations, it is difficult for women to live without the protection of marriage.



A rational society will eliminate the sex industries. It will eliminate the sexual abuse and economic exploitation that make working in the sex industries seem a viable choice for any woman. (A rational society will also eliminate the abuse, isolation, and loneliness of young boys that create distresses on which the sex industries depend.)


The sex industries include prostitution (part of which is the international trafficking in women), strip joints, pornographic movies and publications, pornographic web sites, paid phone sex, and any other business that profits from restimulating sexual distresses. Entertainment and advertising also capitalize on society’s distressed preoccupation with sex in order to sell products. Our society takes advantage of sexual interest to manipulate our distresses rather than simply to offer us good information.

Historically, women were the property of men and were forced to accept their often-patterned attitudes toward sex. There has almost always been a class of women used as concubines, prostitutes, comfort women, and so on. Many wives have been forced into subservient sex as well.

Today, under advanced capitalism, sexual objectification of women has gone to new extremes. Sex-industry profits have soared as these multibillion-dollar industries manipulate men’s (and to a lesser extent, women’s) distresses. Because of their oppression, men have often been deprived of closeness to the extent that compulsive sex seems to be the only possibility for achieving intimacy and contact.

The sex industries dehumanize both women and men and damage their sense of self-worth and goodness. They damage men-women relationships. They distract both genders from pursuing liberation and other rational activities, including real closeness. They promote sexual violence.

Internalized Oppression


In a non-oppressive society, it will be understood that all women are complete, precious human beings. It will be understood that the inherent relationship between women is one of caring, cooperation, and active celebration of each woman’s full humanness.

Contemporary Situation

Distress recordings resulting from external oppression act to force victims of oppression to submit to that oppression. This is true whether or not the oppressive events are happening in the present. The oppression of women combines economic exploitation with the continual reinforcement of distress recordings. The recordings that we define as internalized oppression—feelings and attitudes resulting from systematic mistreatment and invalidation—are installed on every female.

Women direct these recordings of internalized oppression at themselves and at each other, and rehearse them in their relationships with men.

Internalized oppression operates as strongly, and sometimes more strongly, than external oppression. Particularly in the economic “north” (where sexism is often not as overt as in the economic “south”), women are misled into believing they are more liberated than they actually are. Deception and misinformation play prominent roles in female oppression.

Women can be a powerful force for change. In the 1970s and through much of the 1980s, women were an emerging force for basic change throughout the world. The Fourth World Women’s Conference in China in 1995 demonstrated that this potential is still there. However, the efforts of women to make change are hampered by the effects of internalized oppression. For example, hurtful divisions among women keep them from unifying, backing each other, and speaking out for each other. Women tend to act out their own oppression on other groups of women rather than fight together against their common oppression. Internalized oppression, particularly the divisions it causes among women, along with systematic attacks on feminism, have impeded women’s efforts to make change. Because of internalized oppression, women have not been able to agree on certain important issues, make needed relationships, or speak up on behalf of women.

Racism is a major division among women. It is acted out in conjunction with internalized oppression. It operates at the level of individual relationships and between groups of women. It particularly separates groups of women in the economic “north” from seeing and acting on the interests they hold in common as women with their sisters in the economic “south.”

One form of internalized oppression is the internalization of an identity. “Female,” “girl,” “woman,” and “female with particular sexual preferences” are examples of identities defined by our societies. Identities are rigid and limiting. They are imposed by oppression or adopted in response to oppression. Identities are not inherent in humans. In reality, “female” is just a biological fact. It does not distinguish a female from a male in terms of human qualities. Our birthright is to have loving relationships (free of compulsive activity) with a wide range of humans of both genders. Oppressive societies magnify insignificant differences in order to limit and divide people.

Violence Against Women


In a rational world, all violence, and the distresses and oppressions that cause violence, will have been eliminated. Women and girls will be safe with all people. They will be free to explore, enjoy, and inhabit every place that humans like to be.

Contemporary Situation

Wide-world, violence is a major tool of oppression against all oppressed groups. Violence varies in form from oppression to oppression. Violence against women is usually inflicted on an individual basis. Many women are subjected to physical beatings, often at home—by fathers, brothers, husbands, or lovers. Many women are targeted with emotional abuse as well as physical violence. It is likely that a majority of women live with the fear of emotional and physical violence, every day. Women are also primary victims of war and other military occupations.2

Sexual violence is violence that involves sex or unwanted sexual attitudes or actions. It is one category of the violence inflicted on all oppressed people, with women and young people as its primary victims. It often occurs within the context of another oppression, such as the oppression of girls, young women, women targeted by racism, Lesbians, and older women. It has been used to keep women subordinate. Sexual violence occurs in the home (incest, wife and child abuse, domestic rape), in the streets, in schools, in workplaces, and elsewhere. It takes the form of rape, sexual molestation, and sexual harassment. Invading military forces often use it to achieve the submission of the population.

It is now generally recognized that women and young girls are often victims of sexual violence. It is not yet so well know that young boys are, too. Male perpetrators of sexual violence were victims of similar violence when they were boys. Institutionalized oppression reinforces this process: men’s oppression (military training, being pressured to compete and fight in general, and systematic installation of compulsive sexual recordings) lead men to replay their sexual victimization, but in the more powerful, or aggressor, role. Women tend to internalize sexual violence in the victim role rather than the aggressor role (although they may play the aggressor role, for example in relation to young children).

No human being would hurt or oppress another human being unless he or she had first been hurt or oppressed. No person would commit an act of violence, sexual or otherwise (except in self-defense), unless she or he had first been hurt physically or emotionally in a similar way. For a girl or woman to be targeted with violence or sexual abuse has a damaging effect on her functioning. Fortunately, complete recovery of relaxed functioning is possible.

Sex and Sexual Victimization


In a world without sexism, each woman will have many close relationships and she will take full initiative, whenever she chooses, to make each relationship just the way she wants it. There will be many ways to meet her needs for closeness, touching, and loving. Every woman will find sex an enjoyable way of being close and will choose (free from inhibition or compulsion) when and if it makes sense to add this activity to a relationship. Sex will most likely occupy a small part of women’s attention and will never limit women’s lives or their other activities.

In a world without sexism, there will be no sexual mistreatment. No woman (nor any human) will ever be victimized by the oppressive rehearsal of someone’s sexual distresses. Each woman will be in sole charge of her ability to have sex.

Contemporary Situation

Sexual victimization of women (along with fear of sexual victimization) has been, and is, a major part of female oppression. It is a key tool in keeping women powerless and subordinate. Sexual mistreatment has included rape, incest, and other forms of sexual abuse and harassment. Sexual victimization can include threats and pressures within socially acceptable relationships.

Because of early hurts, most women carrydistress recordings of victimization. These recordings make it difficult to tell if victimization is also going on in the present. Some women can feel that no victimization is going on, when it actually is. Others can feel that victimization is occurring when it isn’t in the present. Added to this confusion, even in well-intentioned sex, a tremendous amount of sexism gets played out. It has been difficult for women to face and work on sexism in sexual relationships. Recordings of sexual victimization also leave women feeling like passive victims—without the ability to take full initiative—not only with regard to sex, but also in many other areas of their lives.

Racism has subjected women who are targeted by racism to sexual exploitation. Sexual exploitation often accompanies poverty, slavery, and other hardships that racism inflicts on them. Stereotypes that say particular groups of women targeted by racism are exotic, sexually permissive, more sexual, submissive, and so on, contribute to sexual victimization.

There is a long history of sexual degradation, not only in the actual treatment of women, but also in the images of women—in religion, art, literature, and the popular media. In recent decades, imagery that sexually degrades women has become more and more acceptable in visual media, in the music industry, and in some workplaces (sometimes in the name of women’s liberation).

Other Institutions

As mentioned, we plan to look at the following institutions and mechanisms of oppression in more detail in the future.


In a non-oppressive society everyone will consume only that food, drink, clothing, materials for houses, and so on, that is rational for them to consume. There will be no manipulation of people’s distresses by advertising or pressure to consume. All entertainment will enhance the enjoyment of living and reflect the increasing intelligence of humans as a species.

Education Systems

Without sexism, education systems will provide all that is necessary both for male and female minds to develop and flourish. Humans will be able to develop their full capacity to take charge of the planet and interact intelligently with all aspects of the universe.

Health Care Systems

In a rational future, human beings will be assured adequate provision of all their basic needs, such as food, shelter, health care, and a clean, safe environment. From early in their lives, women will be physically active and strong. They will be aware of and value both their minds and their bodies. There will be easy access to information, attention, discharge, and care for addressing health problems. The discharge process and a commitment to human liberation will be integrated into all aspects of the health care system.

The “Mental Health” System

In a cooperative, non-oppressive society, “mental health” oppression will cease to exist, as will the “mental health” system as we know it. Discharge, re-evaluation, and the exchange of listening will be integrated into society at all levels and in all groups.

Political Systems

In a rational society, women will lead cooperatively with men. Men and women together will make the organizational decisions affecting this planet and its people.


In a non-oppressive society, all religions will enable humans to get an undistorted, unlimited picture of benign reality and human capabilities. In all religions, women will play powerful roles and be appreciated and respected as women.

Other Mechanisms of Oppression

Sexism in Relationships with Men

In a rational future world, humans will create societies in which men and women are equal. Their relationships will be close, caring, cooperative, and satisfying. Women will lead along with men.

Reprinted from Sisters No. 11, 2002, pp. 7-16 

1 A strong movement in the United States opposes such right of choice.
2 The “rewards” of war (a particularly institutionalized form of violence) have always included not only conquest of land, but also conquest of women and legitimized rape. Peacetime military occupation, oppressive to civilian peoples, brings crimes of violence against women and expansion of sex industries near military bases. (Women have long comprised a majority of those actively speaking out against war, but usually they have done so without putting forth a policy of complete disarmament and demilitarization.)

Last modified: 2023-04-15 09:24:12+00