Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Women and War

Posted by Sima Shakhsari*

On International Women's Day, I thought it would be appropriate to post this brilliant piece which was published in Meridian 2.2, 2002. Although it is not directly about the threat of military action on Iran, it discusses the "war on terror," and was written in response to post-September 11, 2001 events. It captures many nuances to which one needs to be attentive in discussing the gendered effects of war and militarism. Click on the text to read the whole thing.

Transnational Feminist Practices Against War

A Statement by Paola Bacchetta, Tina Campt, Inderpal Grewal, Caren Kaplan, Minoo Moallem, and Jennifer Terry (October 2001)

As feminist theorists of transnational and postmodern cultural formations, we believe that it is crucial to seek non-violent solutions to conflicts at every level of society, from the global, regional, and national arenas to the ordinary locales of everyday life. We offer the following response to the events of September 11 and its aftermath:

First and foremost, we need to analyze the thoroughly gendered and racialized effects of nationalism, and to identify what kinds of inclusions and exclusions are being enacted in the name of patriotism. Recalling the histories of various nationalisms helps us to identify tacit assumptions about gender, race, nation, and class that once again play a central role in mobilization for war. We see that instead of a necessary historical, material, and geopolitical analysis of 9-11, the emerging nationalist discourses consist of misleading and highly sentimentalized narratives that, among other things, reinscribe compulsory heterosexuality and the rigidly dichotomized gender roles upon which it is based. A number of icons constitute the ideal types in the drama of nationalist domesticity that we see displayed in the mainstream media. These include the masculine citizen-soldier, the patriotic wife and mother, the breadwinning father who is head of household, and the properly reproductive family. We also observe how this drama is racialized. Most media representations in the US have focused exclusively on losses suffered by white, middle-class heterosexual families even though those who died or were injured include many people of different races, classes, sexualities, and religions and of at least 90 different nationalities. Thus, an analysis that elucidates the repressive effects of nationalist discourses is necessary for building a world that fosters peace as well as social and economic justice.

Sima Shakhsari is a Ph.D. Candidate at Stanford University and teaches at SFSU.