Feminists Across Conflict Zones

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Feminists Across Conflict Zones

I saw the image below at Mary Ann CP and was once again hopeful about the power of women to unite across difference in some of the worst conflicts or perceptions of insurmountability in our world.

jvphope-israel1jvphope-palestine2

These posters were designed shortly after the election of President Obama, during the recent bombardment of Gaza by Israeli forces and ultimately, the counter attack by Hamas.  It was a part of petition supported by both Israeli and Palestinian women in the Middle East and the U.S. asking for peace, equality, and diplomacy. It charged Pres. Obama with making good on his promises to handle interntational affairs differently and with the goal of reasoned discussion and hope for an end to longheld cultural and socio-political conflicts. It was also a call by women, and their allies, to put women and children first in conflict zones and recognize that their safety and right to flourish outweighed any conflict.

Often here at the blog, I focus conflict. I am not of the “sisterhood is powerful” mentality b/c far too often sisterhood extends only so far as perceptions of sameness. Especially in the U.S. we often bogged down in the intersections, having the same old fights about the same old things. And seems as tho not matter how much we write, read, or discuss oppression there is still a prevailing since that many women’s issues are “in addition to” rather than “part of” feminism.  Thus looking at this image, which is meant to symbolize connection between Palestinian and Israeli women against the occupation of Gaza and the establishment of peace across Israel (ie no bombing in anyone’s territory by any group), I can’t help but wonder why it is that some women dare to work toward equality for all women and others stay bogged down in their own identity politics?

I teach all day (well, you know, for 4 hours twice a week . . .) about women’s social movements in which global economic inequalities and conflict mobilize women to fight for equality in real life or death struggles. My message is pretty simple: women are powerful and amazing. And women can do anything. I especially love the days that I teach material where one woman stands up to goliath – be it big pharma, a pandemic, a war zone, or a multinational. I love that moment when my students look up with big grins and realize that they too can change the world just by trying.

Yet, experience or hegemonic interests often divide us. So that, for instance, while all women are impacted by global capitalism in Latin America, class divides how many of these women will be impacted and what kinds of praxis they will engage in to rectify gendered economic inequality.  Some times, this means that one groups efforts impedes that of another, and more often than not it is the group with the most resources that impedes the work of the group with the least. When you ask them, about gender, they are salient on the issue of gendered oppression but those who call themselves feminists are often not interested or not connected to those who are struggling with multiple barriers; those who are struggling think “feminism is for los ricos [the rich].” This is the other side of the message I teach my students. The side that says awareness has to extend beyond one’s own oppression to that of women you may never have met or been taught to distrust, fear, or feel uncomfortable around.

I tell them, in a nation and a world where comfort and politeness trump equality, they must commit to discomfort. If the ground comes out from beneath you and you feel like you are free falling and sick, know that is a sign that you are doing the heavy lifting. Look around, reach out, and touch the hand of the woman free falling beside you. With a little faith, you can cushion each other as the world reassembles around you in a new and better way.

When I think about women in Israel and Palestine, women who have lost their lovers, their children, their friends to violence , reaching across the barriers to defend each others right to safety, sustenance, and peace, I think of how powerful feminism really is.

What makes you dare to believe? (Or have you given up?)

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