“Where are the women, where are the women”? This was the chant reverberating throughout a stadium holding several thousand participants just two months ago. It was the NGO closing ceremonies at the World Conference Against Racism in Durban, South Africa and Fidel Castro was the honored speaker. As five dark suited dignitaries–all males–took their seats at a table behind him, a lone voice shouted the question from the vast crowd.
Within seconds the mantra rumbled through the masses with an intensity that crossed lines of race, gender and nationality. The entire stadium echoed the chorus “where are the women?”
Little could anyone have predicted that less than a month later the United States would stage a war in which few voices of reason or sanity are audible. Let’s face it, the feminine perspective–which does not necessarily have to come from women–has been scarce throughout this entire crisis; if not altogether absent.
What is the feminine perspective? Generally it is the perspective that values life above all else and one that is most adept at negotiations and communication. A feminist perspective weighs humanitarian issues along side of the political–rather than in place of it. It is the feminine which experiences the excruciating pain and the rapturous joy of creating life. And historically, it is primarily the masculine who destroys human life through war, aggression and greed.
This explains why women (and those with feminine perspective) are generally excluded from the discussion in matters of politics and war. It’s not because they are not intelligent enough or not qualified to offer insight and perhaps a solution. In the current situation it is because the United States–and most of the world–views women as a detriment to social and political self-interest. Hence, women are generally overlooked in such heady matters.
If you are skeptical about the lack of feminine perspective or influence, pick up a daily newspaper or tune into the news. How many images feature women negotiating with world leaders or signing bills that violate civil rights or target immigrants for the greater good?
This weekend’s edition of the countries most widely read newspaper was jam-packed with authoritative voices espousing war-wisdom. Not one of them questioned the U. S. position on the bombing in Afghanistan or the devastation of innocent people. They were all written by men.
These days voices of dissent are roundly criticized, discredited and dismissed. It takes a lot of courage (and maybe a death wish) to stand up and confront U.S. leadership about the current crisis–especially if you are black and a woman.
In spite of all the intimidation, there is one woman who spoke out early on in this crisis. It was the Honorable Barbara Lee, the African American House representative from the Ninth District of California.
Way back in September (before the war) Ms. Lee opposed the resolution giving the President free reign to spend a $40 billion budget on the military to retaliate against the terrorist attacks. In a vote of 420-to-1 she was the lone dissenting voice that said no, we should not go to war.
Lee also proposed that a review of U.S. foreign policy is necessary in order to reverse the current war trend. As a result of speaking out Ms Lee was ostracized and rewarded with death threats that have required her to secure police protection.
Like many Americans, Ms. Lee has the audacity to believe that the annihilation of civilian men, women and children abroad isn’t an appropriate response to the terrorist attacks in the U.S.
During an interview in September Ms. Lee said “We don’t know the real nature of terrorism in the true sense of the word. We have not invested in combating terrorism the way we should have, which involves many issues. I am convinced that military action alone will not prevent further terrorist attacks.”
This isn’t “women’s intuition”. It is a perspective based on a broader and more honest viewpoint of American foreign policy.
It appears Ms. Lee was right. After weeks of bombing, the military strikes have produced few results while extinguishing numerous lives. And now our leaders inform us the war must expand rather than end.
Why are we so afraid to talk about the contributing factors of this ugly war? Is it really so traitorous to discuss the fact that Osama Bin Laden is a creation of the U.S. intelligence forces or ponder the ramifications of our actions? Is it a betrayal to speak of the U.S. recruitment and arming of right wing Islamic fundamentalists during the Cold War in order to defeat the Soviet-backed democratic regime in Afghanistan? Or to question whether or not decimating a war torn country will do anything to make us safer or feel better about the loved ones who died on September 11th?
Before the bombing even started, the Women’s Alliance for Peace and Human Rights in Afghanistan (WAPHA) noted, “The tragedy that has hit the innocent American people is deeply felt by the suffering people of Afghanistan. The people of Afghanistan have been tortured, terrorized and massacred on a daily base by the international terrorists such as Osama Ben Laden, his followers, the Taliban, the Pakistani ISI, the Pakistani religious extremist groups and other foreign extremists.” And now these very same people are being killed at the hands of Americans.
There are numerous voices of reason absent from the mainstream current debate. Voices of dissent who are advocating for a political and a peaceful resolution. The voices of women (and men) who offer a social and political viewpoint based on historical accounts of American foreign policy. These are the voices of Howard Zinn, Alice Walker, Noam Chomsky, Cynthia McKinney, and of course, Barbara Lee.
There are many voices of reason to shed light on this war. We just dont get to hear them.
Molly Secours is a writer, videographer and racial dialog facilitator in Nashville TN. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org