The Broken Rifle

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Jungmin opening words at Antimilitarism in Movement
Issue number
112
Women, gender and antimilitarism

For this issue of the Broken Rifle we wanted to make the most of the opportunity that the International Women's Day offers us every year to reflect on how important feminist and women's struggle are in the analysis of all social movements. We believe that antimilitarism is not - and cannot be - alien to all these reflections, especially because its criticism of violence and oppressive values and practices that sustain militarism and militarisation. 

In these articles you will be able to find useful and insightful ideas and reflections on the role of women, and the connections between gender and our work for peace, which can be applied in our antimilitarist campaigns to make them stronger and fruitful.

This issue includes a brief reconstruction of the history of the WRI's Women's Working Group along with reflections from some of its members. An article written by Cynthia Cockburn in 2010 on women's activism and resistance nuclear weapons, and a statement from a woman conscientious objector. There are a number of articles that make an analysis of the relationship between hegemonic feminities, masculinities and militarism, as well as the relationship between antimilitarism and the role of women and their campaigns within our movements. You will also find a summary of research on violence against women by the army and the police in Colombia, an article that gathers the lessons of the trans ban in the US, a critique of the policies of guerrilla movements where women participate and finally a recent article, first published by WILPF, that from a feminist perspective reflects and invites us to resist the militaristic discourse when speaking of COVID-19.

The WRI Women's Working Group was formally established in 1985 at WRI Triennial Conference in India. From that moment on, a very important work continued, to which several anti-militarist and / or feminist women from WRI's network joined. The women's working group had an impact worth remembering, highlighting and continuing. This piece gathers the reflections of some of the women who were an active part of the working group, sharing their experiences and the impact they consider the group had on both WRI, and on their activism and personal life. Also, you can find at the end of this story a timeline assembled by Joanne Sheehan with help from Ellen, Dorie, Cynthia Cockburn, her files and memory, that briefly summarises WWG trajectory.

For many decades, feminists have criticized how power and control work in a patriarchal system, and coincidently antimilitarists has criticized these same things in a militarized society, resulting in different actions and “languages” to change and understand the same phenomenon. Looking at militarism, but through the lens of patriarchy, it is possible to see and understand how both share the same values and are based in hegemonic masculinities and femininities.

The different ways in which war is constructed and unfolds in terms of gender is perhaps one of the settings where the difference between the masculine and the feminine is most marked.

Tair Kaminer, who refused to serve in the Israeli military (IDF), spent more than 150 days in prison between January and July 2016. Following her repeated refusals, Israeli military court eventually exempted Tair from the military for 'bad behaviour'.

This article by Cynthia Cockburn was originally published in the April 2010 issue of the Broken Rifle. We are republishing it in memory of beloved Cynthia Cockburn who passed away on 12th September 2019.

The beating drums. The cadence in the marching. The slogans and chanting grow louder, and louder. The feeling of solidarity. The strength that can be felt in the presence of masses of people is truly tangible.

It’s not new for anyone that militarism has a huge impact on people lives. Sometimes it can be more obvious or easier to see, but sometimes it is not so clear. Last year, ACOOC, one of the antimilitarist organisations in Colombia, carried out research on violence against women by their husbands or partners that are members of police force or army.

Binary gender, white supremacy, heteronormativity and heteropatriarchy are the inevitable outgrowths of capitalism and colonization. For these reasons, it is a mistake to look at inclusion in the military as a milestone of what our movements can achieve.

Female violence has always attracted curiosity. From the Greek myth of Medusa to the black-widow phenomenon, for centuries men have asked what could possibly turn their lovely female companions into such violent aliens. From deviant sexuality, to irrationality and emotionality, many explanations have been offered to try to explain this weird phenomenon: violence committed by women.

As towns and whole countries shut down in order to “flatten the curve” of outbreaks of the coronavirus, we are at risk of choosing the wrong analogy for what we collectively need to do in these perilous times. “Waging a war” is the most deceptively alluring analogy for mobilizing private and public resources to meet a present danger. We should, however, resist that allure.