[Excerpt below is from Chapter 5 of War and Gender]

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War and Gender: How Gender Shapes the War System
      and Vice Versa

Joshua S. Goldstein
(Cambridge University Press, September 2001)

Photo, peace sculpture
Peace Sculpture, National Children's Museum

A third and final variant of Hypothesis 5 (5C) proposes that women do not participate in combat because their peaceful nature makes them oppose wars. This hypothesis cannot explain gendered war roles, given the evidence, just reviewed, that many women actively support wars. Nonetheless, a sizable number of women in many societies – generally somewhat more women than men, and often women acting in the name of their gender – do oppose wars and work for peace. At the local level, many individual women, such as the Somali woman in Figure 5.11, buffer intermale violence in myriad ways.178

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Figure 5.11 Woman separates husband and US Marine, Somalia, 1993. [AP/Wide World Photos.]

In some simple societies, women tend to restrain the men from war or play special roles as mediators in bringing wars to an end. For instance, Andamanese Islands women “tried to settle quarrels and bring fighting to a conclusion.” (However, this pattern is not universal. The Ibibio of Nigeria did not permit women to witness peace-making rites lest they upset them.) Among the Kiwai-Papua, after both sides signal a desire for peace, “a number of men accompanied by their wives make their way to the enemy village. The women walk a few paces ahead. It is taken for granted that bringing their wives is a demonstration of peaceful intentions … During the night, the hosts sleep with the visitors’ wives – a practice known as ‘putting out the fire.’” After peace is declared, “[g]irls are married to close relatives of the dead, as a means of compensation.” This is not women’s peace activism, but it does code women with peace. Perhaps some similar idea motivated a Syrian general in 1983 to instruct Lebanese “resistance” forces to direct their attacks at US or British forces but not to hurt any Italian soldiers, because he had a crush on movie star Gina Lollobrigida. In both cases, anyway, women’s sexuality seems to cast a protective aura over their menfolk.179

History of women’s peace movements In the nineteenth century, a time of relative peace in Europe, women organized both for women’s rights and for peace, sometimes connecting the two in the form of women’s peace societies. In 1852, Sisterly Voices began publication as a newsletter for these societies. Bertha von Suttner, the author of Down with Weapons in 1894, persuaded Alfred Nobel to create the Nobel Peace Prize (which von Suttner won in 1905). The initial 1870 proposal for a “Mother’s Day” was to set the day aside for women’s advocacy of peace. It did not catch on, and a more generic and commercial version was instituted fifty years later instead.180

In the twentieth century, the exemplary women’s peace organization is the Women’s Peace Party (WPP), founded during World War I and later renamed the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF). The WPP grew out of the international women’s suffrage movement. It was catalyzed by a US tour in Fall 1914 of a Hungarian woman and a British woman (from enemy sides in the new war). The WPP women “turned a good deal of their energies, in the midst of the suffrage campaign – which they did not abandon – to address the causes and cures of war.”181

The WPP held an International Conference of Women at the Hague (Netherlands) nine months into World War I in 1915 (three months after the WPP’s founding). The conference called for mediation to end the war. Jane Addams chaired the conference, and the WPP. In spite of travel problems and government obstacles, 1,136 voting delegates from 150 organizations in 12 countries attended. The conference brought together women from enemy and neutral countries, a feat that one delegate contrasted with the failure of others: “Science, medicine, reform, labor, religion – not one of these causes has been able as yet to gather its followers from across dividing frontiers.” The participants were “a quite extraordinary group of gifted, courageous, and altruistic pioneers.” Critics, however, found “conspicuously absent … representatives of English, French, German, and Russian feminism.” Theodore Roosevelt called the meeting “silly and base.” Winston Churchill closed the North Sea to shipping, preventing most British delegates from attending. The British Admiralty also detained the US delegation’s ship – which the British press called a “shipload of hysterical women” and “feminine busybodies” – until the last minute.182

When the United States entered World War I, some feminists remained antiwar activists, but faced difficult challenges as most of their colleagues supported the war effort. The YWCA’s work supporting soldiers in World War I “strained against – and temporarily overwhelmed – its historic pacifism.” Addams’s efforts to galvanize US opposition to World War I backfired as she “alienated American public opinion by daring to question the ‘heroism’ of war.” She was “instantly accused of besmirching the heroism of men dying for ‘home, country, and peace itself.’” She argued, based on visits to military hospitals in Europe, that soldiers were not natural killers and were victims of the sheer horror of mechanized war. Her critics took this to mean she thought men incapable of heroic self-sacrifice. After 1917, Addams “was increasingly isolated” in opposing the war. She admitted moving “from the mire of self-pity to the barren hills of self-righteousness and … hat[ing] herself equally in both places.” After the war, she was branded a traitor, Communist, and anarchist. However, she won the 1931 Nobel Peace Prize.183

Addams believed that mothers would be the first to protest the slaughter of their children in war, and that “women of civilization” could help end this senseless killing. However, she did not hold a polarized gender conception of war and peace. In 1915, she dismissed the “belief that a woman is against war simply because she is a woman … In every country there are women who believe that war is inevitable and righteous; the majority of women as well as men in the nations at war doubtless hold that conviction.”184

The first woman to serve in the US Congress, Jeannette Rankin, was a pacifist who voted against US participation in both World Wars. The War Resisters League was founded in 1923 by three women. The works of German sculptor Käthe Kollwitz – such as her 1938 Tower of Mothers (Figure 5.12) – embody “maternal antimilitaris[m]” based on mothers as protectors of children against violence. Denounced by the Nazi regime, she worked in seclusion from 1933 until her death in 1945.185

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Figure 5.12 Käthe Kollwitz’s “Tower of Mothers,” 1938. [Kathe-Kollwitz-Museum, Berlin. © 2001 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn.]

By contrast, US women who participated in the conscientious objector movement during World War II did so most often in traditional feminine roles, primarily as wives/girlfriends or as workers in CO camps performing traditional feminine work (nurse, dietician). Many called themselves “CO girls.” Their participation most often derived from their affiliation with a pacifist religious community (Mennonite especially), rather than from connecting women with peace, unlike the women peace activists of World War I or the Vietnam War.186

The 1962 anti-nuclear movement Women Strike for Peace (WSP) helped achieve the 1963 Limited Test Ban Treaty, according to President Kennedy’s science advisor. Although Newsweek called the strike participants “perfectly ordinary looking women, with their share of good looks,” the right-wing press warned that “the pro-Reds have moved in on our mothers and are using them for their own purposes.” WSP members played up their feminine appearance and demeanor as a tactic when testifying before the House Un-American Activities Committee afterwards, thereby winning the battle for public opinion.187

During the Vietnam War, the US group Another Mother for Peace agitated against the war. In Australia, similarly, mothers protested their sons’ conscription to fight in Vietnam (see Figure 5.13). Gender-integrated peace organizations, however, although drawing in many women participants, neither embraced feminism nor gave women many leadership roles.

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Figure 5.13 Australian women protest conscription for the Vietnam War. [Union of Australian Women, courtesy of Noel Butlin Archives Centre, Australian National University.]

The United Nations Decade for Women began in 1975 with little attention to war and peace, but developed a strong pro-peace theme by 1980. Women played leading roles in the not-especially-feminist anti-war movements of the early 1980s. In this wave of activism, for example, Randall Forsberg authored the nuclear freeze resolution, Women for a Meaningful Summit agitated for US–Soviet cooperation, and Ruth Sivard compiled data showing the economic burden of military spending on social needs. Helen Caldicott reinvigorated Physicians for Social Responsibility to spearhead a campaign against nuclear weapons. The 1980s also saw new efforts to mobilize women as women to seek peace. Caldicott founded Women’s Action for Nuclear Disarmament (WAND), and ascribed to war an inherently masculine nature. Among 19 US national women’s peace organizations in the 1980s, a wide variety of motivations, strategies, and attitudes prevailed. However, of 27 new international women’s networks founded in 1979–87, only three concerned peace issues (fewer than in earlier peace movement traditions). The focus of feminist activism shifted to violence against women, away from “men’s wars,” even as a subset of women reaffirmed women’s peace activism.188

The anti-nuclear Greenham Common air base protests in England in the early 1980s, against US cruise missiles, became an exemplar of women’s peace organizing, emulated at Seneca Women’s Peace Encampment in New York and the Puget Sound Women’s Peace Camp. The Greenham women created feminist symbolism designed to contrast with the masculinist war-culture of the air base. For instance, they wove into the base’s perimeter fence various objects representing things they would lose in a nuclear war (such as pictures of loved ones). A Greenham newsletter reminded participants that women “are the guardians of life itself and of our future.” These creative tactics captured public attention, though they made little impression on military and political officials.189

Some Israeli and Palestinian women struggled against the occupation of Palestinian land and the 1982 invasion of Lebanon. Weekly vigils of Jewish “Women in Black” (clothing) called attention to their opposition to war (critics called them “black widows”). In Israel, feminists’ solidarity for peace was disrupted by divergent reactions to the Gulf War, however. By the 1990s, right-wing Israeli women in the militant Jewish settlers’ movement began imitating tactics of women peace activists from the 1980s. Israeli feminists in 1994 “defended Israeli women for helping their draft-age children face military service proudly and cheerfully.”190

Violent conflicts that followed the collapse of the Soviet Union and former Yugoslavia mobilized women on several occasions to demand peace. In 1989, the Committee of Soldiers’ Mothers (renamed “Mother’s Heart” a year later) formed in the Soviet Union. In 1991, “250 women from fifty-six towns in Russia held a hunger strike” to demand a say on issues affecting military families. In the former Yugoslavia, Croatian and Serbian women in 1991 “united around their identities as the mothers” of soldiers, and staged protests against the war. However, these protests were quickly put down by authorities, and women were coopted into their nations’ war efforts. Nonetheless, in 1999, Serbian women protested against the war in Kosovo. Thus, the women’s peace movement worldwide has persevered over decades, with mixed results.191

175 Braybon and Summerfield 1987, cage ii, strain 2, 6; Tylee 1990, 7; Enloe 1989, 22.

176 Kent 1993, 4–6.

177 Braybon and Summerfield 1987, 2–7, mundane 5; WWII: Bruce 1985; Pierson 1986; Damousi and Lake eds. 1995; Edmond and Milward eds. 1986; Ayers 1988; Fishman 1991; Ås 1982; Shukert and Scibetta 1988; Winfield 1984.

178 Boulding 1995, 408; Pettman 1996a, 107–25; Washburn 1993; McAllister ed. 1982, 416–18; Oldfield 1989; Thompson 1987; Schott 1985; Norris 1928; McLean 1982; McAllister ed. 1982; Gioseffi ed. 1988; Cambridge Women’s Peace Collective 1984.

179 Goldschmidt 1989, quarrels 23–24; Turney-High 1971, witness 161; Kiwai: Eibl-Eibesfeldt 1979, 213; Syrian: Tlas 1998.

180 Washburn 1993, day 136–37; Chmielewski 1995.

181 Degen 1939; Foster 1989; Bussey and Tims 1965, grew 17; Alonso 1996; Adams 1991, 210–13, cures 211; Pois 1995; Washburn 1993, 139–42; Wiltsher 1985.

182 International Women’s Committee of Permanent Peace 1915; Costin 1982; Addams 1922; Bussey and Tims 1965, frontiers 17; Oldfield 1995, gifted 159; Stites 1978, absent 281; Oldfield 1995, busybodies 159.

183 Boulding 1992/II, 225–47; Berkman 1990; Kuhlman 1997; Jeffreys-Jones 1995, 1, 11–64; Schneider and Schneider 1991, strained 139, 139–48; Oldfield 1995, besmirching 161, isolated–places 162, 162–65; Pois 1995.

184 Oldfield 1995, 165, 167.

185 Sewall 1915, xi, xv; Albert 1982, founded 139; Kollwitz: Ruddick 1989, 159; Pierson 1987, 217.

186 Goossen 1997, 41, 129, girls 101–5, 42, pacifist 130.

187 Swerdlow 1989; Swerdlow 1990, 9, 11.

188 Stephenson 1982; Thompson ed. 1983; Solo 1988; Gioseffi ed. 1988, summit 66–67; Sivard 1996; Caldicott 1986; Jones ed. 1983; Washburn 1993, 142–43; Kelly 1995; McGlen 1987, variety 2; Boulding 1992/II, networks 322–27.

189 Kirk 1989; Cataldo et al. 1987; Krasniewicz 1992; Puget Sound Women 1985; Jones 1987, future 198.

190 Sharoni 1995; Sharoni 1996a, 1996b; Lentin 1996; Ferguson 1996; Scheper-Hughes 1996, cheerfully 354.

191 Enloe 1993, heart 12, hunger 13; Yugoslavia: Nikoli-Ristanovi 1996, united 359; Gall 1999.

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War and Gender: How Gender Shapes the War System
      and Vice Versa

Joshua S. Goldstein
(Cambridge University Press, September 2001)