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 â€“ 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’sÂ Rwanda,Â Eritrea and Iraq. There are women politically involved in determining their own destiny in every corner of the world.Â
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 â€“ nobody of any gender or age should have those lives.Â
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.