Saturday, May 14, 2011

Feminism and violence

Are women more violent than men? Less violent? More nurturing or less? How do we treat the questions of war and women?

It's complicated.

Some women regard it as a victory that women are now allowed in combat. Some of us who are pacifists believe that with such victories, who needs losses?

Women and children are overwhelmingly the victims in war, even though the male mystique still holds that men are the parties who nobly volunteer to sacrifice themselves for war.

Any lawyer will tell you that numerous studies show that criminal defense lawyers prefer fewer women on juries, since women tend to convict at higher rates.

Many women have written about the social contract between men and women that developed over thousands of years so that women don't oppose violence and men provide for women. Certainly all the dire warnings from men who opposed women getting the vote in the US about our country becoming soft and easily conquered if women were allowed to vote have proven exactly backward. Women have had the right to vote across the US for 90 years and war is just as prevalent as ever.

Is there hope for peace from women? There are certainly signs.

Kriesberg (2007) writes of studies showing gender influence on polling or voting patterns and hot conflict. "Analyses of numerous surveys reveals that women are more sensitive to the risk of casualties and tend to withhold support for military action more than do men, particularly as casualties mount" (p.130).

So the next step is to convince women that other ways to wage conflict, ways that reduce bloodshed, are also effective. Then, we hope, women will provide a tipping point away from war and toward defense by other means.

This is a primary challenge to peace educators and by educators I mean all of us. Every time you write a letter to the editor or have a conversation promoting peace with anyone, you are a peace educator. Learn about nonviolence and you can energize the majority--women--toward a new world of nonviolent conflict management.

Kriesberg, L. (2007). Constructive conflicts: From escalation to resolution. Lanham MD: Rowman & Littlefield.

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