Ms. Magazine

spring 2003
* * * *
this is what a feminist looks like

The Feminist To-Do List by Gloria Steinem
Ms. Poll Feminist Tide Sweeps In as the 21st Century Begins by Lorraine Dusky
Affirmative Action on Trial by Teresa Stern
Women on Death Row by Claudia Dreifus
In the Thick of Life at 70 by Jessica Chornesky

Special Action Alert
Women Take Action Worldwide
Listing: Coalitions and Groups
National Council of Women's Organizations Statement on War with Iraq
NCWO Partial Members List
Why Peace is (More Than Ever) a Feminist Issue
by Grace Paley

Writing of War and Its Consequences
Ghosts of Home by Patricia Sarrafian Ward
Tales from an Ordinary Iranian Girlhood by Marjane Satrapi
Snow in Summer: LA, CA, 1963 by Helen Zelon

Pat Summitt's 800th Victory
Augusta Golf Club's Red Face
National Map of Priest Abuse
Women Warriors
Lesbians with Strollers
Kopp Trial
Trouble in Herat, Afghanistan
Reproductive Rights in Poland
Health Clinics in Guatemala
Congolese Women for Peace
Global Good News Round-Up
The Opposite of a Nuclear Bomb

Lower Breast Cancer Risks by Liz Galst
The Making of an Activist by Gloria Feldt
Nature Conservancy Gains by Rachel Rabkin
Harvard Stumbles on Rape Rules by Lorraine Dusky
The Bush Overhaul of Federal Courts by Stephanie B. Goldberg
My Friend Yeshi by Alice Walker

Send a Letter to the Editor
>> click here

Code Pink Peace Rally, Washington DC (March 8)
Photo by Lisa Bennett, courtesy of NOW

No Time for Despair
Women Take Action Worldwide

Message from Robin Morgan, Ellie Smeal, and Gloria Steinem

Code Pink Peace Rally, Washington DC (March 8)
Photo by Lisa Bennett, courtesy of NOW
As Ms. goes to press, there's no way of knowing if, by the time you read this, the United States will be at war-- an elective war launched against Iraq, where 50 percent of the population is under age 15. Yes, they are oppressed by a brutal dictator, but it's also clear--from polls showing that some 70 percent of Americans oppose Bush's unilateral action against Iraq 7-- that a majority of us don't trust the judgment of our leader.

Yet every day now, Americans only a few years older than most Iraqis are being shipped to war zones. The heart cracks at how frightened these young men and women look. "We've got a job to do," they say, but a carefully fostered ignorance that defends "doing a job" for leaders who haven't done their job of statesmanship is not acceptable, post-Nuremburg. It is not an excuse for lacerated flesh and fragmented minds. Contorted logic to the contrary, the real way to support our troops is not to put them in harm's way.

After all, there are three prerequisites for a volunteer army. The first is practical, requiring that a segment of the population be economically disadvantaged. (In a society still racked by sexism and racism, this is why almost a third of U.S. forces in the first Gulf War-- and nearly half of the 27,000 women-- were African American.) Most people enter the armed forces for basics they can get nowhere else: guaranteed income, decent housing, free medical/dental care, a higher education; in effect, the Pentagon benefits from practicing its own form of socialism. The second prerequisite is political: the promise that equality and power are gained by military service-- yet those who do the killing and dying still aren't those who make the policies. The third prerequisite is psychological: the mystique created for war-- a mystique of manhood, weaponry, battle-- that eroticizes violence and glamorizes death. The only way the first incentive will disappear is by eradicating sex, race, and economic bigotry. The only way the second will evaporate is by redefining power and empowering ourselves. The only way the third will vanish is by refusing to support the masculine mystique. We need people with the courage to live, not die.

But here's the good news. While armies are marching, so are ordinary people. In this country and across the world, there are the largest peace demonstrations in history. The gender gap on peace persists, but when it narrows, it does so because men are shifting their opinions, closer to women's. During the Vietnam War, it took years to build demonstrations of millions. In the U.S., most organizing was based on the draft. This time, it took only weeks-- even without the draft. The difference? First, the power of Women's Movements across the globe-- strong, organized, networked women, going into action, leading; second, the radical tool that the Internet can be; and third, the work we've all been doing for so long, which has changed consciousness.

For decades, feminists have been advocating nonviolence at home and abroad. The United Nations' women's symbol of peace, development, and equality has been absorbed into the mainstream of women's organizations worldwide. Feminists have been proving the connections between patriarchy, violence, war, and the impact on women and children. Such groups as Womer's International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF), the National Organization for Women (NOW), and Women's Action for New Directions (WAND) have been advocating peace and no first strike for years. Moreover, feminists have been leaders in the environmental movement, advocating nonviolence to the earth and atmosphere. No wonder that this time, as the war drums began to beat about Iraq, the Feminist Movement was ready. Virtually every major women's group is involved, as are hundreds of thousands of individual activists. Never before has the Women's Movement been this unified and ready in its demands for peace.

So this is no time for despair. Ms. offers here a sampling of recent and ongoing peace activism, with resources to help us all become more involved in stopping this conflagration, or, if it has already begun, in acting together, swiftly and stubbornly, to end it. To protect ourselves at home, we need new definitions of security that fully comprehend the power of Virginia Woolf's great lines, written in another time of carnage: "As a woman I have no country. As a woman I want no country. As a woman my country is the whole world."

List of Coalitions and Groups Advocating Nonviolence >>

Copyright Ms. Magazine 2009