Calazza - Why Gender Matters - Functionalist Perspective

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Unformatted text preview: 266 Social Problems and Inequality ver since the Taliban claimed victory and sovereignty over Afghanistan in 1997, it has waged war against Afghan women. The Taliban’s radical fundamental- ist form of sharia, Islamic rule, banned women’s education, activism, and even physical presence in Afghan society. Women have been beaten and put to death for violat- ing these rules. Under a system of legalized hatred for women, women are subject to increasing, so-called ”private” forms of vio— lence, including rape and domestic violence, with little recourse (Human Rights Watch 2001). Arab and other Muslim feminists in Pakistan, Bangladesh, Malaysia, India, and Turkey have publically criticized and taken organized action against the Taliban's and From ”Why Gender Matters in Understanding Sep- tember 11: Women, Militarism, and Violence" by Amy Caiazza. Reprinted with permission of Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR), Washington DC, 2001. others’ use of religion and state power to repress women (Afkhami 1995; see websites for the Revolutionary Association of Women in Afghanistan and Women Living Under Muslim Law). In the United States, the Femi- nist Majority and other women’s advocates have repeatedly called attention to the Tal- iban's antiwomen activities. Until recently, few Americans paid at- tention to the Taliban’s actions. Men and women on the left and the right dismissed Taliban policies as culturally specific, or as an internal political situation in which the United States or the United Nations had no stake (in contrast, there was global uproar over the destruction of Buddhist statues by the Taliban; Pollitt 2001). In our ignorance of Islam, the Arab world, other Muslim soci- eties, and Afghan society in particular, most Americans assumed that Afghan women never enjoyed independence or autonomy. In fact, there was an Afghan women’s movement as early as the 1920s. By the 1970s, two decades before the Taliban, Afghan women benefited from relatively high levels of education and leadership in Afghanistan. Perhaps our collective neglect of the treat- ment of women in Afghanistan was a missed op- portunity to foresee or even prevent the events of September 11, 2001. Societies that condone and even promote violence against women have shown over and over again that they tend to be violent in other ways as well. Even if we dismiss the claim that women’s rights are central to human rights, there are centuries of evidence that physical, political, and economic violence against women is a harbinger of other forms of violence. Few societies that are plagued by it are otherwise peaceful. The United States should pay particular at- tention to women when attempting to counteract terrorism and encourage more peaceful and dem- ocratic political systems in Afghanistan and throughout the world. In our foreign and do- mestic policies, we should look at both the victims and perpetrators of violence and ter- rorism. We should pay particularly close at- tention to the work of those who are effective opponents of violence against women. By doing so, we are more likely to address the root causes of terrorism and vio- lence at home and in the wider world. This chapter analyzes women’s roles as victims, supporters, and opponents of vio- lence, terrorism, and militarism and pro- poses policy recommendations from its findings. It outlines important links be- tween economic development, violence, women’s activism, and peace—building ef- forts. Economic instability, combined with patriarchal views of women’s roles, breeds Conditions that lead to violence against women and undermine their capacity to build peaceful societies. In turn, violence against women heightens economic instabil- ity—as a result it sows the seeds of other forms of violence committed worldwide by Why Gender Matters 267 men. In reaction, women sometimes resort to violence themselves, although more often they become activists for peace. Under~ standing why and when women fight for peace—and including them in peace build- ing efforts—is crucial to guaranteeing higher levels of peace and security through- out the world. Women as Victims of Militarism and Violence ”What has happened to us—our properties have been damaged, our bodies have been damaged. Everything—our life has ab- solutely changed. . . . The spirit has been damaged. ” —MOZAMBICAN WOMAN AND VICTIM OF CIVIL WAR (quoted in Turshen 2001, 60) Where institutionalized violence and terror- ism exist, women are often singled out as targets. Like men, they are victims, innocent bystanders, loved ones of victims, or refugees displaced by war. Because men are more likely to be involved in violence as sol- diers and militants, women are more often displaced by their absence. The UN. Human Rights Commission reports that two thirds of all people who have been turned into refugees in recent years have been women and their dependent children. Women are also targeted directly through deliberate murder, rape, and injury. In Christian, Muslim, and Buddhist societies, especially in modern ethnic and religious conflicts, male fighters have used rape to impregnate ”enemy” women as a form of genocide. Terrorists’ sperm ”dirties” an eth- nic line, and raped women may be rejected by their own societies. Such rape tactics are also designed to demoralize enemy men (Stiglmayer 1994; Turshen 2001). The recent 268 Social Problems and Inequality genocidal movements in the former Yu- goslavia and Rwanda saw rape used as a method of terror on a grand scale (Human Rights Watch 1996; Stiglmayer 1994). Even in relatively peaceful societies like the United States, women are targets of vio- lent acts such as rape and domestic violence. Elected officials, judges, and public policies in many states ignore or dismiss the right to freedom from violence as impractically complicated to enforce. Such acts of violence are often treated as private matters with lit— tle public consequence. But this purportedly ”private” form of violence has important political ramifications. It stops women from being involved in their communities, and it reinforces the notion that they are second- class citizens (Caiazza 2001; Caiazza and Hartmann 2001; Enloe 1993; Sapiro 1993). This kind of violence is a form of daily ter- rorism against women as a class of citizens (Fineman and Mykitiuk 1994). Whenever women are the victims of violence that goes unaddressed socially or politically, their victimization indicates that violence is an ofi‘icial, popular, and acceptable strategy for achieving po- litical, social, or economic power. Violence is self-perpetuating: sons watch and do; daughters watch and submit and often ‘do. In the United States, neglected and abused children are nearly twice as likely to commit crimes and be arrested as are other children (Harvard School of Public Health, Division of Public Health Practice, Violence Preven- tion Programs 2001). Similarly, men who beat, rape, or kill women are likely to be vio- lent in other areas of their lives. They are likely to abuse children and to use violence to achieve a variety of goals in addition to subordinating women, such as achieving po- litical power (Friedman 1994). Simply stated, violence against women and other forms of violence are inextricably linked. In addition, where violence against women is particularly endemic or ignored, women are often less able to care for their families, thanks to their increased physical and, often, economic insecurity. This, in turn, contributes to insecurity and instabil- ity in society as a whole Giriedman 1994). Where violence of any sort is an acceptable strategy for achieving power, societal insta~ bility only encourages its further use. Finally, even without considering vio- lence per se, ”non-violent” forms of repress- ing women's rights also contribute to a country’s economic and political instability. Across the globe, when women have more rights and equality, national standards of living also rise—life expectancy is higher, incomes and education levels are higher, and birthrates are lower. As countries more fully include women in political, economic, and social rights, standards of living im- prove as Well (crossette 2001). A country With little violence, but relatively few op- portunities for gender equality, is unlikely to achieve high levels of economic and polit- ical development. " ' Women as Terrorists and Supporters of Militarism ” Violence is the only way to answer violence! ” —GUDRUN ENSSLIN, FEMALE LEADER OF GERMANY’s 19705 BAADER—MEINHOF GANG (quoted in Huffman 1999) Women are not only passive victims of terrorism and violence. Some women, al- though a relatively small number, partici- pate in or encourage terrorism. Women have committed acts of terrorism, including sui- cide bombings, in India, Palestine, and other countries.'In one of the few cases when a world leader was killed during an act of ter- rorism, a woman assassinated India’s Rajiv Gandhi in 1991. In Norway, a right-wing group has a ”women’s wing” of terrorists (Fangen 1997). In the United States, there has been a deliberate policy by the KKK’s male leadership to recruit women as racist activists (Blee 1992). But it is men who comprise the over- whelming majority of individuals who prac- tice terrorism. In part, this is because of sexist and patriarchal norms that preclude women from militaristic action and limit their public or activist roles. Since many ter- rorist groups are rooted in diverse religious fundamentalist or right-wing ideologies, their male leaders often refuse to let women assume men’s traditional roles as soldiers, terrorists, martyrs, or so-called freedom fighters. Their terrorist actions are often jus- tified as defending a social order that is de- pendent on women’s ”purity” and requires the exclusion of women from many facets of public life. , Some women take part in terrorism when there are few perceived outlets for gender equality. Frustrated with a lack of outlets for their public activism, women turn to the kinds of strategies that many alienated groups have adopted: to fight against mainstream political institutions using extreme tactics (Fangen 1997). When not playing the role of terrorists directly, some women support men’s mili- tancy in their traditional roles as mothers by nurturing families committed to militarist or terrorist causes (Ibanez 2001). In many I societies, women have been traditionally charged with passing on the cultural norms and expectations of their communities to sons and“daughters. When those norms in- clude the use of violence for political ends, women encourage the radicalism and mili- taristic self-sacrifice that lead to terrorist acts. Notably, women’s roles perpetuating these values are not unique to non- governmental terrorist groups: the values of ”feminine sacrifice,” in which mothers give their sons to militarist causes, are promoted by many military policymakers who would Why Gender Matters 269 loathe being compared with terrorists (Enloe 2000a). Women’s support for militarism has been a resource that sustains both terrorist and formal military conflict. Such support can bring moral weight to militarist move- ments and encourage involvement in them. In some cases, women are moved to provide active logistical support for militarism and terrorism (i.e., by feeding and clothing mili- tants, delivering messages, and providing other resources). Women have played all these roles prominently in recent decades in areas as diverse as El Salvador, Nicaragua, Northern Ireland, Palestine, and Israel ,(see Hammami 1997; Sharoni 1997 and 2001). For many women, participating in and supporting (though rarely planning) acts of terrorism are ways to ”protect” their fami- lies, homes, and communities. As mothers and wives, many women accept their tradi- tional roles as protectors of their husbands’ and children’s well-being. In times and places of violent conflict, political disjunc- ture, and economic insecurity, women may feel unable to do so. When women live in op- pressed or alienated communities, they may also have few formal ways to work for political change. Being allowed inside small, elected, se- cret terrorist organizations may allow some women to see themselves as fighting for the promise of a more just and stable way of life (Hammarni 1997; Ibanez 2001). Men’s support of and participation in terrorist or militarist activities can also stem from a desire to bring about justice in the face of economic or political insecurity. However, their goals and aspirations are justified more often by the rhetoric of build- ing a society based on religious or political ideals than in explicitly protecting or better- ing the lives of their children and families. These ”private” concerns are considered women’s realm. And, because of traditional gender roles, women approach these con- cerns through different activities than men. 270 Social Problems and Inequality Women as Peacemakers ”[ We should] cease to be silent . . . protest against those who bear the responsibility for this cursed war . . . [and not] relinquish the struggle until our sons come home. ” —SHOSHANA SHMUELI, FOUNDER OF THE ISRAELI PARENTS AGAINST SILENCE (quoted in Sharoni 1997, 152) Not all women who react to terrorism or militarism support it. In many cases, women respond by becoming activists for peace. Again, they often do so because they accept their traditional responsibilities for guaranteeing their families’ private social, economic, and physical well-being, but feel unable to fulfill them. They are moved to fight the circumstances, including condi- tions of violence, causing their uncertainty. They hope to build a society that will allow them to ensure their families’ safety. In the Middle East, Latin America, and Northern Ireland, for example, women have fought state-sponsored and non-state-sponsored terrorism through their activism (Aretxaga 1997; Fisher 1989, Sharoni 1997). Their ef- forts are not based on an inherently ”femi- nine” predisposition toward peace but result from their desire to fulfill their tradi- tional responsibilities as mothers and wives. In many cases, women act on behalf of peace because they moved from wanting to protect only their own families to protecting all children. At some point, they recognize that to address their own political and eco— nomic insecurity, they need to address a larger set of conditions facing their commu— nities (Fisher 1989). In Russia, Israel, Serbia, Italy, and Spain, mothers have come to- gether to protest militarism precisely be- cause they first felt a need to protect their children. They have resorted to protests and other highly visible and disruptive tactics in the absence of democratic mechanisms for change. In part, because they have the moral weight of motherhood behind them, they have, at times, been very effective (Caiazza forthcoming). Many women ’s peace movements demand greater accountability and more responsiveness from their governments and other institutions. They become activists for democracy. Because their activism is often rooted in their family roles, when women activists are included in building a country’s democratic systems and civil society, they are also more likely to pri- oritize policies that focus on building the well-being of families and overall systems of social welfare. This, in turn, can lead to more economic stability and political security. Policy Recommendations: Counteracting Terrorism by Addressing Women’s Concerns Throughout the world, violence and radical- ism are associated with political and economic disjuncture, alienation, and dys- function. Men and women who become ter- rorists do so because they see few alternatives for pursuing political change. They are frustrated by their economic and political insecurity. They have little trust in government or other institutions. As a re- sult, they turn to movements that promise them justice, power, and access to resources. These movements are often rooted in a de— sire to return to a more conservative culture and win greater independence from West- ern hegemony. In many cases, they are based on extremist right- or left-wing ideas. The men and women involved in them see violence as a justified, or even the only, way to achieve their goals. These conditions politicize both men and women—both in support of and against militarism. For women, radicalism often stems from a desire to protect their homes and communities in times of economic and po— litical insecurity. They turn to political movements that promise safety, better living conditions, and broader economic opportu- nities, as well as political or religious justice. These conclusions point to a set of pol- icy implications that the United States and other industrialized democracies should heed if they hope to encourage democracy throughout the world. These recommenda- tions encompass a long-term strategy for developing women’s rights as a tool for building global peace and security. - U.S. international policy should un- equivocally oppose violence against women and regimes that condone it. Efforts to com- bat it should be as central to our evaluations of democracy as competitive elections and universal suffrage. While direct and indirect violence against women exists in virtually every country, we should not ignore it as inciden- tal to other forms of violence. In most coun- tries marked by political violence, violence against women is particularly rampant. Often, political institutions in those coun- tries treat women as second-class citizens by denying them the right to participate fully in all aspects of society. They officially or un- officially encourage violence against them. US. policy should use every available eco- nomic and diplomatic means to vigorously oppose these regimes. As part of its program to fight violence against women, US. policy should provide women with the resources that allow them to escape violent situations and achieve in- dividual autonomy. Such efforts can include providing educational and health care assis- tance to women, through legislation and policies like the Afghan Women and Chil- dren Relief Act of 2001, introduced in the US. Congress in November of 2001. This legislation would provide such assistance Why Gender Matters 271 through local institutions and nongovern- mental organizations, particularly women’s organizations, as much as possible (Feminist Majority 2001). Turning a blind eye to violence against women—at home and abroad———also needs to be publicly recognized as a sign that vio- lence is an acceptable part of a society that undermines a country’s stability. The seeds of terrorism are sown in violence against women and the repression of women’s rights. - Women need to be included as equal partners in implementing political and eco- nomic development. US. foreign policy should make women’s involvement in de- mocratization central to its international aid programs. Women’s concerns need to be taken se- riously and incorporated into development policies. As the United States and other countries pursue policies encouraging de- velopment, they should make including in- digenous women’s voices a top priority, not an afterthought. Incorporating women into development efforts offers many positive outcomes in ad- dition to improving women’s status. Be- cause of women’s central roles in caring for their families, and women activists' result- ing focus on social welfare, including women’s perspectives can also encourage more stability, growth, and well-being. Em- powering women to take part in political processes can be a successful way to encour- age democracy and stability (Enloe 2000b). Policies requiring women’s participa- tion in nation- and peace-building would mandate that any government established in Afghanistan with US. assistance respect and guarantee women’s rights; design re- construction programs to give women and girls access to health care, ...
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