By Prof. Geordie Armstrong
The other day a young woman in one of my classes raised her hand in response to a question regarding the economic origins of marriage: “Sorry, I’m not a feminist, but…..why are women always the ones who are told what to wear?”
I was struck by her introduction more than her statement. Her statement began with an apology. Why does her contribution to class require an apology? Was she apologizing for taking up space in the classroom, excusing her presence and qualifying her statement as unnecessary?
When I think about the challenge of committing to a year without war a major concern is how voiceless some of us feel in our life and how that will affect our global, unified, peaceful front.
She is not a feminist, but….. her statement had everything to do with feminism. The word “feminist” simply means a person who thinks that men and women are equal. So, why the disqualifier? I’ve come to learn that our college students today find the term is dated; it throws back to a generation of women now old enough to be grandmothers who fought for the right to work outside the home. My SBCC students find this fight is obsolete. For most of my current students, it is. However, many women in the world do not have the privilege we have due to our location. Women today are sold into marriage when only 6 years old, sold into prostitution, sold to pay their father’s debts; their bodies are mutilated in an attempt to control their sexuality. Their virginity is traded upon or used as a weapon of war. They have children they can’t care for or protect. They have no control over their education. They have no control over their livelihood.
Two third’s of the world’s labor is done by women; however, we control 1 percent of the world’s assets. When women are uneducated and incapable of controlling their lives, they are left vulnerable and exploitable. The countries most vulnerable to war are also typically the countries where women have little access to education, where their sexuality is oppressed, where they have no voice. If we want to see a year without war, we can’t ignore the role women play in an economy, a culture, or as part of a war zone. If we would like to see our year without war go beyond one year we need to focus more of the world’s resources on the education of women. Why? When women have education and a stake in the economy they are empowered to make demands for themselves and their children. This leads to further education, lowered vulnerability to disease, fewer children per woman, and less vulnerability in an economy to civil war. Currently this known trend is ignored as evidenced by the amount of aid given to women’s programs throughout developing economies (approximately 1%).
Whether feminism is a dated term is a question central to the commitment to live without violence. If we don’t feel good about labeling ourselves as a person who supports the equality of men and women how can we assert ourselves in demanding the world commit to one year without war? So let’s say we change the F-word itself. Call it what you like, the word is not what’s important. What matters is that we present an impenetrable, unified front in our dedication to 2020 A Year Without War. Please take a stand! JOIN, RECRUIT, DONATE, EDUCATE. WE can make 2020 a year without war.