BY ALISON DELLIT
"This is a crucial time for all feminists to take a stand. Now more than ever we need to come out against this most unjust and cruel war, which poses the biggest threat to peace and security for communities across the Earth... War is not the solution to women's oppression in Iraq, the Middle East or here at home in Australia." — from the Canberra International Women's Day (IWD) call to action.
For a century, protests, marches, toasts and festivals have been held on March 8, International Women's Day, to further women's struggle for liberation. This year, across the world, IWD will be marked by large protests against the US war on Iraq.
In Canberra, protest organiser Kerryn Williams has been circulating the IWD call to action. "Within an hour of emailing it out, people were getting in touch to say it was a fantastic idea", she said.
Those who have endorsed it include: Helen McCue, from the Women's Refugee Action Network and Southern Highlands Residents Against War; Greens ACT MLA Kerry Tucker; Women's Electoral Lobby ACT convenor Merri Andrew; Australian Democrats ACT MLA Roslyn Dundas; Muslim Arab activist Dianna Rahman; and Erin Killion from the Socialist Alliance and the 2002 International Women's Day Collective.
Williams told Green Left Weekly that there is a need for feminist anti-war actions in Australia, referring to the success of Code Pink in the United States, which has been holding a vigil outside the White House for months.
Prominent US feminist activist Starhawk has published an influential article on Z-Net and the Code Pink web site that argues for women-led actions against the war. She presents many of the ideas behind the emerging feminist anti-war movement.
"When we stand for peace as women, it is not to make a case for our special victimhood, but to represent a different vision of strength. Women-initiated and women-led actions have a special energy and power. That power comes not from excluding men — most of these actions welcome men as participants", Starhawk explains.
"We need not just women's voices against the war but specifically feminist voices. For feminism allows us to analyse patriarchy, the constellation of values, ideas and beliefs that reinforces male control over women.
"Wise feminists do not claim that women are innately kinder, gentler, more compassionate than men. If we did, the Margaret Thatchers and Condoleezza Rices of the world would soon prove us wrong. We do claim that patriarchy encourages and rewards behaviour that is brutal and stupid.
"We need raucous, incautious feminist voices to puncture the pomposity, the arrogance and the hypocrisy of the warmongers."
Starhawk argues that patriarchy, like racism and other forms of prejudice, "keeps our eyes trained downward, looking at those we see as beneath us, instead of looking upward and seeing clearly how we are being manipulated."
Williams also argues that a feminist voice against the war is particularly important because the US is claiming that war will liberate Iraq's women. "The US government helped bring the Taliban to power in Afghanistan and Saddam Hussein to power in Iraq, without a word about women's rights."
"In Afghanistan, after the war, we know little has changed for women", Williams pointed out. "The oppression of women exists in Muslim and non-Muslim countries. Women cannot be liberated by the bombs of their exploiters, only by real political solidarity and struggle."
In Melbourne, Resistance member Vivian Messimeris is also involved in organising a IWD anti-war rally on March 8. "The first organising meeting for the peace rally was attended by women representing groups that included the Islamic Society of Victoria, the YWCA, Women for Peace, the Committee in Defence of Iraqi Women, the Turkish-Kurdish Human Rights Association, Resistance and the Socialist Alliance. Emily's List, the Arabic Council of Victoria and the Global Sisterhood Network sent apologies.
"We decided unanimously to organise the anti-war protest, open to all who support the rally's demands. We think this protest could be huge — lots of people want a feminist anti-war protest."
In Sydney, the International Women's Day march will have the theme "Peace, justice, solidarity, diversity — women against war and racism".
In Brisbane, women have begun to organise for a March 8 protest around the slogans, "Women demanding peace and justice: No to war, violence, racism and sexism", "Funding for living not for killing", "Money for jobs not war", and "Social justice not war".
Williams and Messimeris urged GLW readers to get involved in organising March 8 feminist anti-war protests, wherever they are. For details of what is happening near you, check the activist calendar on page 23. For more information, drop in at, or phone, your nearest anti-war organising centre (see page2).
From Green Left Weekly, February 12, 2003.
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