Gender and militarism: International Seminar


Today it is becoming increasingly clear that consistent feminism cannot do without a thorough analysis of militarism and that consistent antimilitarism cannot do without a deep understanding of gender issues in both theory and practice.

On the one hand, patriarchy and male dominance crucially rely on militarism, on the way militarism and war shape what is considered to be security, what is considered to be part of the public, rather than private, sphere, and on the constant dangers generated by weaponry and war. On the other hand, manipulating notions of masculinity and femininity is central in motivating people to support war in word and deed, and to take part in it. Gender awareness is also indispensable for effectively resisting war and injustice. The continued marginalisation of women in movements of conscientious objectors to military service around the world gives a living example of how important it is to foster gender awareness in ourselves as anti-militarist activists.

The Gender and Militarism Seminar, to be held in Israel in August 2007 will bring together activists and academics from all over the world to study the mutual connections between militarism and gender. The seminar is organised by War Resisters' International together with the Israeli feminist antimilitarist movement New Profile. This project builds on a long history of work on issues of gender and militarism by both organisations, and continues and deepens the long-standing cooperation between them.

Since 1976 WRI has organised a number of international women's conferences, alone and in cooperation with other organisations[1]. Since1986 the WRI women's working group is a place of debate and support among women within WRI, and publishes an irregular newsletter. In 1998, the WRI Triennial conference adopted a strategic plan, which states as one of WRI's over-arching objectives the incorporation of a feminist perspective into all of WRI's work[2 ]. Consequently, a critique of militarised masculinity is an integral part of WRI's work on conscientious objection.

The Israeli group New Profile was established in 1998. It grew out of the work of two feminist study groups discussing the state of women in the highly militarised Israeli society. New Profile's work has always been focused on the connection between gender and militarism. As Israel is one of only two countries in the world practicing mandatory conscription for women, this has included a special emphasis on women's refusal and conscientious objection: from the publication in 1999 of a guide for women conscientious objectors, through the Women Refuse project in 2002, through the documentation of the experiences of women conscientious objectors since 2003 and up to the special campaign in support of feminist objector Idan Halili in 2005-6. Needless to say, all other aspects of New Profile's work - on militarism in education and child recruitment, on supporting and counselling people who avoid military service, etc., are based on a gender analysis of the militarised Israeli society.

The cooperation between WRI and New Profile, which goes back to 2001, first focused on the issue conscientious objection.[3] It has included a joint seminar on conscientious objection in Tel Aviv in 2003. Ever since, Israeli women COs have participated in WRI's annual events to mark International Conscientious Objectors' Day. A woman CO and New Profile activist from Israel was also part of the WRI delegation to the World Social Forum in Nairobi earlier this year. Presently, both organisations cooperate on the production of an Anthology on women conscientious objectors, which is planned to be launched at the seminar.

The seminar


The seminar schedule, which appears below, is not final yet. Some of the themes may change, some of the speakers are not yet decided and not all speakers listed are finally confirmed. Nevertheless, it gives a good understanding of the planned structure and scope of the seminar.

Note also that it is a long-standing tradition in WRI seminars not to prepare in advance all the workshops in workshop sessions, but to leave room for spontaneous initiatives by the seminar's participants.

Day 1 - Thursday, Aug 23rd


Registration and opening


Panel: Gender and the militarization of culture around the world

This session presents a variety of cultural and gender contexts in which militarization takes place. It is meant to give the participants an overview of the range of issues that the subject of gender and militarism brings up.


Ayşe Gül Altınay (Sabanci University, Turkey)

Chesterfield Samba (Gays And Lesbians of Zimbabwe, WRI Council)

Diana Dolev, (New Profile, Israel)

Adriana Castaño Román (Red Juvenil, Colombia, WRI Council)

Day 2 - Friday, Aug. 24th


Panel: Antimilitarism and gender analysis

This panel is meant to make explicit the linkage between antimilitarism and gender analysis. On the one hand it will present the crucial place of militarism in creating and maintaining male dominance in society, and on the other hand it will present the crucial place of gender analysis in any attempt to account for militarism.


The "Old boys' network" (Yana Knopov - Coalition of Women for a Just Peace, Israel)

"Be a man": willingness to serve and masculinity (Andreas Speck - WRI)

Empowering women under military occupation (Shireen Khamis, Palestine)

Whose Security Is It Anyway? (N.N. - New Profile, Israel)



Mothers for peace and mothers for war (Adina Aviram - New Profile, Israel)

Redefining and demilitarising economic priorities (N.N.)

Gender issues in the "UN 'peace operations'" (Howard Clark - War Resisters' International)

Women in charge of Armed Forces (Kai-Uwe Dosch, DFG-VK, Germany)


Panel: Militarised masculinities and femininities

This panel explores the interrelation between socially perceived notions of femininities and masculinities and various forms of militarization in society.


Militarism and masculinities (Chen Nardi - Movement for New Masculinity, Israel)

Militarised femininities (Orit Kamir, Hebrew University, Israel)

Militarism and heterosexism (Mehmet Tarhan, Turkey).



Homophobia (Chesterfield Samba - GALZ, WRI Council)

Women in a militarized society (Hanna Aviram - New Profile)

Men in a militarised society (Lotahn Raz - New Profile)

Rape - weapon of war and tool of hate propaganda (Zoriča Trifunović - QPSW, Serbia)


Social event

Day 3 - Saturday, Aug. 25th


Panel: Gender, sexuality and military service

This panel looks at the reality of gender and sexuality within the military, be it based on conscription or "voluntary" recruitment.


Sexual harassment of women in the military (Gal Haramat, Israel)

Gays and Lesbians in the military (N.N.)

Abuse in the military - gender aspects (Olga Miriasova - Autonomous Action, Russia)

Women in the military (Orna Sason-Levy, Bar-Ilan University, Israel



Gay/Lesbian/feminist antimilitarist response to discrimination in and exclusion from the military (Tali Lerner - New Profile, Israel)

Human rights in the military and an antimilitarist response (N.N. - War Resisters' League, USA)

Domestic violence after military service (Howard Clark - War Resisters' International)


Panel: Taking gender analysis serious in our movement work


Gender in nonviolence training (Isabelle Geuskens, International Fellowship of Reconciliation)

Gender in the refusal movement (Mirjam Hadar - New Profile, Israel)

Palestinian women in political movements in Israel (Abir Kobti, Coalition of Women for a Just Peace, Israel)

Women only organising (Ferda Ülker, Turkey)



Working with gender in nonviolence training (Joanne Sheehan, War Resisters League, USA, WRI Council)

The conscientious objection movement - a gender perspective (N.N.)

Putting Nonviolent direct action & Gender
in context: An "intersectional" perspective (Stellan Vinthagen - WRI Council, Sweden)

Women only organising (Ruth Hiller - New Profile, Israel, Ferda Ülker and Hilal Demir, Turkey)

Gender, sexuality, cross-cultural sensitivity in transnational nonviolent action (Christine Schweitzer - Institute for Peacework and Nonviolent
Conflict Transformation, Jorgen Johansen - WRI Council, Sweden)


Panel: Women refuse (including launch of the Anthology of Women Conscientious Objectors)

Speakers: Majken Sorensen (WRI Women's Working Group, co-editor)

Hilal Demir & Ferda Ülker (Women COs from Turkey)

Idan Halili (Israeli woman CO)

Extracts from other women CO stories

Day 4 - Sunday, Aug. 26th


Recapitulation of subjects raised in the seminar and Coordinating future action together.

This session will be a mix of plenary parts and small groups part, to exchange experience and impressions from the previous days of the seminar, and identify possible future activities.


Evaluation, summing up and closing


[1] WRI organised a first international women's conference in 1976 in France. A second was held in 1980 in Scotland, a third in 1987 in Ireland, and a fourth in Bangkok at the end of 1992. WRI co-organised with IFoR's Women's Peacemaker Program a consultation on gender and nonviolence training, which took place in Thailand in 2004.

[2] See the WRI Strategic Plan,, Item H. "Gender perspective integrated into WRI's antimilitarism work, drawn from different cultures and traditions"

[3]See Broken Rifle issues for Prisoners for Peace 2001 and International Conscientious Objection Day 2003