Women are agents of their own political and military destinies

Yesterday morning I read Maia’s excellent post about the “women and children” rhetoric being used about Gaza in which she reminds us it’s not just the innocent who deserve protection. Later I walked past a pro-Israel rally outside Parliament in which someone held a banner saying “Hamas uses women and children for terror!”

The point about the phrase “women and children” is that they’re implicitly helpless. Women and children are people things happen to, bombs fall on them, soldiers shoot them, men rape them – they are powerless in the face of others.

In reality there are many women in the world who choose to engage in political or military struggle. There are women fighting for both Palestine and Israel, then there’s Rwanda, Eritrea and Iraq. There are women politically involved in determining their own destiny in every corner of the world. 

I take no pleasure, no pride, no secret feminist joy in reading those articles or watching those videos. But my horror is not because they are women, it is because they are human. When I see stories of women killed in bombings, women raped in ethnic cleansing and women forced to be soldiers my horror is because they are human – nobody of any gender or age should have those lives. 

Women, like men, can be victims of violence, and women, like men, can be be agents of their own destiny: they can fight for armies and they can struggle for peace. We are not the epitome of helpless, powerless vulnerability.

6 thoughts on “Women are agents of their own political and military destinies

  1. In Oman I visted a large sinkhole called Tawi Attair situated in the Dofar ranges near the Yemen border.

    At the bottom of the 100 metre sinkhole were a number of stone cairns covering the bodies of women who had fallen into the cave while attempting to descend or carry goat skins full of water back to the surface.

    The steep stone walls of the sinkhole had deep grooves cut where ropes were used to haul the water and the woman up and down. What intrepid woman I thought, and how sad that some had died.

    Woman were selected to go down into the cavern because although the outcome was often a fatality, the loss of a woman’s life was considered far less damaging to the tribe overall than the loss of a man/ warrior.

  2. The women and children thing is pretty archaic and actually started when HM Troop Ship Birkenhead sank in 1852. The commanding officer of the 73rd foo ordered the men to stand fast so that the lifeboats didnt get swamped. All the women and children lived and most of the men drowned.

    Though Hamas do make a point of using human shields. The also aired childrens television show “Fafur the Mouse” where children were taught to kill all the Jews.

  3. The idea Maia presents is absolutley correct. Every widow, every sister who has lost a brother, every wife who has lost her husband, and every mother who has lost a son shall become the new force.

    Will it be peace or will it be war?

  4. It ignores how hundreds of men have been killed illegally, and are as much victims and innocents as others.

    Womenandchildren. It helps if you just say it as one word, an indistinguishable mass of maternal and infant innocence.

  5. While not as serious as the Israeli invasion of Gaza, there is a similar discussion about the use of the term ‘women and children’ over at Jezebel

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