For the past two weeks, I’ve been reading the news reports about the escalating violence in Israel and Lebanon with dread and despair. I am struck by how unavoidable the violence seems to be, and yet how unconstructive it is, destroying lives, homes, businesses, and hope, while sowing further seeds of hate.
After seemingly endless reports of destruction and death, it was heartening to read about Israeli and Palestinian women who are urging an end to the violence. And I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised: women have historically been leaders in peace activism. Through organizations such as the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (of which Lillian Wald was a founder) and Women Strike for Peace (of which Bella Abzug was a founder), women have drawn on their authority as mothers and wives to demand peace in protection of their sons and husbands.
I’ve always been intrigued by the phenomenon of women’s peace activism. First of all, it’s an example of women using their traditional roles to justify non-traditional work and involvement in global issues – a little subversive trick I appreciate. But I have mixed feelings about the implicit assumption that women are more empathic than men – why, after all, should this be? Is it because of some deeply rooted maternal instinct? And anyway, shouldn’t fathers care as much about their sons’ lives as mothers do? Is it because women have historically been less involved in politics and therefore better able to think “outside the box” when it comes to conflict resolution? Is it because gender identity is so important to women that some are able to develop relationships and coalitions with women across borders?
As a woman, I do feel proud of the legacy of women peace seekers, but I also wonder what it says about our world that the mantle of peace activism is so often carried by women.
How to cite this page
Rosenbaum, Judith. "Seeking peace." 21 July 2006. Jewish Women's Archive. (Viewed on June 7, 2023) <https://jwa.org/blog/seekingpeace>.
I was looking up my blog on Google and ran across your post. I know I'm a bit late in responding, but this is a topic that's really important to me. I am not a mother and I strongly detest the notion that I might be more naturally inclined towards peace than my brother activists. In fact, I just wrote an email to the Women's Working Group of the US Social Forum that sort of explains my perspective:
I'm 28. I went to a women's college. And I still had to figure out why to do my activism with a women's focus. Part of this stems from thinking it was enough to go to a women's college. But mostly, I've learned it from popular culture: I was born in '78, so by the time I came of age, the battles had been won. Women were working, they had college degrees, and the wage gap was either a figment of radicals' imagination or due to the choice women make to leave the workforce for long periods of time to have kids. Since my identity is not wrapped up in my ability to procreate, and since my thoughts on gender-identity go far beyond the dichotomous norm, I really had a hard time understanding why I'd ever choose to do my activism through a women's lens. (For awhile, I researched creating an independent major in Gender Studies b/c I was convinced Women's Studies was too archaic for what I wanted to do. I ended up with a degree in Peace & Justice Studies.)
And yet, I joined WILPF during my senior year of college. I came to the realization that the only way to create a space in mainstream society for all gender identities is to stand up and be counted as a female activist. Similarly, I realize that every problem in the world can be helped by including a gender perspective in analysis and solution-creation. I believe that a women's focus is the first step towards gender-mainstreaming. Because for me, this is about more than just women's issues or national issues from a women's perspective.
Your blogroll includes Feministing, so I imagine on some level y'all are interested in the feminist perspective. WILPF began in 1914 before that term was popular, and we've always accepted male members. For me, this is about making sure that half the population is included in all aspects of politics.
Please note the weblog item below, by C. J. Minster, Program Chair on the US WILPF National Board, blog administrator, At Large member in Chicago, Youth Caucus member. The links cannot be found below, but if one goes to the website below, they will be visible/usable. The WILPF weblog, cited below, also has relevant information. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
August 8, 2006 Petition for US Jews Sign the Petition for U.S. Jewish Solidarity with Muslim and Arab Peoples of the Middle East
Below is the comment I left with my signature:
As a Jewish woman I find the actions of the US and Israeli governments unconscionable. I am the Program Chair of Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, US Section (WILPF US). WILPF has sections in Palestine, Lebanon, and Israel and the US Section has a national campaign - Women Challenge US Policy: Building Peace on Justice in the Middle East, which focuses on US policy regarding Israel / Palestine. It is not for me to decide whether a one state or two state solution is ultimately chosen. It is my duty as a US citizen to denounce US collusion in Israel's current war of aggression, murder of civilians and destruction of civil infrastructure in Lebanon and Gaza. Israel's war on its neighbors is also causing Israeli civilian deaths. It is past time for the US to stop its unconditional support of Israel.
WILPF US homepage http://www.wilpf.org
WILPF US blog http://wilpf.blogspot.com
WILPF International homepage (includes updates from the region) http://www.wilpf.int.ch