October 2011


Why Wartime and Peacetime Are One in the Same

 

Penelope Howes
usmvaw.com

When discussing wartime practices and the institutionalized and/or direct violence against the people living in militarized lands, we often contrast this with peacetime – as if, the violence and damaging effects do not live on past the “event” of war. This is what Chris J. Cuomo argues in his, War Is Not Just an Event: Reflections on the Significance of Everyday Violence. Cuomo emphasizes the importance of an “omnipresence of militarism” (31) by examining the long-term physical, psychological, emotional, and ecological effects that militarism has on the environment and its people; particularly women.

Cuomo argues that feminists should adopt the issues of “everyday effects of militarism on women, on people living in occupied territories, on members of military institutions, and on the environment” (31). This is where ecofeminism plays a very important role in the deconstruction of military violence against women. The on-going institutionalized violence that women in these occupied terror-tories endure on a daily basis, limits their ability to properly function in their society and provide for their families. Because women are largely responsible for cultivating the land and providing food for their family – and sometimes the larger community – the destruction of their surrounding environment can lead to the ultimate genocide of their people.

This on-going destruction of an ecology system provides proof against a long-standing theory of war, called “just-war theory”… “developed by St. Augustine, Thomas Aquinas, and Hugo Grotius” (Cuomo 33) in which the assumption is that, “wars are isolated from everyday life and ethics” (Cuomo 33). Cuomo critiques this theory for its lack of acknowledgement of the continuous omnipresence of militarism. Cuomo argues that “Just-war theory assumes that war is a separate sphere of human activity having its own ethical constraints and criteria” (33). With the help of feminist perspectives, Cuomo believes that we will be able to break-down the “just-war theory” and provide much needed attention to the women who are suffering even in times of “peace”. Feminist theory values the experiences of the individual as an epistemological advantage in examining and understanding the greater scope of gendered violence. So, by adopting these values when analyzing various forms of violence through militarism, we will be able to create a more complete picture.

Cuomo goes on to explain the over-arching commonalities that bring together women and the environment by acknowledging that, “cultural constructions associate women with nature and help justify the mistreatment of both” (38). The author emphasizes the importance of dividing our attention when looking at “military ecological destruction” into both wartime and peacetime. The problem with only focusing on wartime destruction is that it takes away the ecological and social violence that takes place long after the “event” of war. To illustrate just how much militarism negatively impacts the environment, here are some facts compiled by Cuomo:

• “The military is the largest generator of hazardous waste in the United States, creating nearly a ton of toxic pollution every minute…” (41).

• “…nine percent of all the iron and steel used by humans is consumed by the global military” (41).

• “Virtually all of the world’s thirty-five nuclear bomb test sites, as well as most radioactive dumps and uranium mines, occupy Native lands” (41).

The disconnection that arises when evaluating militarism through strictly environmental effects creates an invisibility of the people who are dealing with this destruction daily. Cuomo offers that, “Military practices…are often a result of cost-benefit analyses that pretend to weigh all likely outcomes yet do not consider nonhuman entities except in terms of their use value for humans” (42).

What the author concludes in this article is that, “…war is a presence, a constant undertone, white noise in the background of social existence…” (Cuomo 42) and in order to understand this complex system, we must expand our analysis to focusing on the human injustice that is ultimately present in occupied territories. The author suggests that we should continue to keep militarism and “state-sponsored violence” separate in our attempts of deconstructing and understanding each of their complexities. It will only be in practicing this separation that we will be able to construct a more complete analysis of deeply-rooted violence that women endure over long periods of time due to militarism environmental damage.

Works Cited

Cuomo, Chris J. “War Is Not Just an Event: Reflections on the Significance of Everyday Violence.” Hypatia 11.4 (1996): 30-45.

Chris J. Cuomo Selected Bibliography:

Feminism and Ecological Communities : An Ethic of Flourishing

The Philosopher Queen : Feminist Essays on War, Love, and Knowledge

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A Summary of Ecofeminism According to:

Engendering a Peaceful Planet:
Ecology, Economy, and Ecofeminism in Contemporary Context

by Ynestra King

Penelope Howes
usmvaw.com

According to King, ecofeminism links peace and ecology that strives for “societies free of violence, with nature-friendly technologies and sustainable economies that are respectful of place and culture” (p.15). The author directly links militarism and its effects on the environment surrounding it, including: “its production of weapons and waste in the ecological devastation of war” (p.16). There is a movement in the ecofeminst realm to bring visibility to these issues along with assessing the long-term effects that war has on people and nature.

King refers to this movement as the “ecofeminst theoretical project”, which is divided into four different focuses that all interrelate to one another to gain a comprehensive view of what ecofeminism seeks to uncover and make sense of. The first is, a “critique of modernity as well as capitalism and of the relationship between the two” (p.17). In this element, there is a strong resistance to “sameness”, being the poisoning factor to the evolution of humanity and the environment. The second focus is, to “critique and redefine ‘reason’ and ‘science’ to include ways of knowing other than those of modern Western science” (p.18). This calls attention to the ways in which a “decentralized science” would benefit our understanding of the world around us and shine the light on the important and ever present impacts that militarism has on our “peaceful planet”.

The third is, the “argument for why women worldwide are (often) the source of the knowledge on which the future depends and are therefore subjects of this revolution because of the socially assigned work…” (p.18). This “source of knowledge” is referred to by the author as the “science of the people”, because it is in fact the individual beliefs, experiences, and customs of women that create this greater knowledge that no form of science can embody. This third point is a great example of how feminism and ecology have a direct link to one another. The last focus of the “ecofeminst theoretical project” is by acknowledging “non-violence as a theory and practice of social change” and therefore linking “peace and ecology” (p.18). It is because of this acknowledgement that ecofeminism is able to critique and mobilize at the same time within this social movement.

King also disassociates ecofeminism from “feminist spirituality”, because ecofeminism directs its focus towards politics and does not seclude itself from a wide collective of knowing that feminist spirituality and religion can often do. The author also accounts for the fact that ecofeminism is actively critiquing and challenging the male-dominated ideologies of religion that play out in “social and political arrangements” (p.20). Overall, King offers that social justice, ecology, democracy, and peace are the interlinking qualities that ecofeminism offers in creating change within politics and theory.

King, Y. (1995). Engendering a Peaceful Planet: Ecology, Economy, and Ecofeminism in Contemporary Context. Women’s Studies Quarterly, 23(3/4), 15-21.

Ynestra King — Selected Bibliography:

Dangerous Intersections : Feminist Perspectives on Population, Environment, and Development : A Project of the Committee on Women, Population, and the Environment

What is Ecofeminism?

Rocking the Ship of State : Toward a Feminist Peace Politics 

Understanding Militarism’ Environmental Damage as Violence Against Women

 

Penelope Howes
usmvaw.com

U.S. military violence against women can be found in many different forms. The most talked about forms of violence against women are physical and sexual violence. So, what happens when the “violence” is indirect, but still inflicts harm? Is it still considered a form of “violence”? I would argue that, indeed, it is. Through the lens of an ecofeminist perspective, one could say that a military’s presence on foreign soil (or domestic, for that matter) is harmful to its inhabitants. I would go further to say that women, in particular, are indirectly affected by militarism. In societies outside of the Western culture, women in rural areas rely on the land for survival. These rural areas are overwhelmingly the unsuspecting victims of military presence.

According to the article, “Women’s Relationship with the Environment”, Joan Davidson asserts that, “Women are the centre of subsistence food production” (p. 5), and “…women are ‘invisible’ water managers, responsible for supplying the water needs of the family, domestic animals, and sometimes agriculture” (p.6). These facts support my earlier claim of women’s indirect link to their surrounding environments via domesticity. It is clear that women’s responsibility in many rural areas is to the private sector, which includes cultivating the land and supplying water. When a rural area such as this is inflicted by war or military presence, in general, the natural and sometimes traditional practices, of caring for the land and surrounding environment, are destroyed. When the environment is altered or destroyed by militarism through buildings, infrastructure, and/or bombs, this disallows or hinders the safe and proper land cultivation. Dorothy Goldin Rosenberg writes in “Health, Peace and the Environment: Intagrating Relationships in Women’s Health Movement”, that “The military is the single largest polluter and waster of resources in the world” (p.26). This statement is not hers alone; it is a well-known, but sometimes not well-accepted fact in our global community. Rosenberg also notes that, “According to The Research Institute for Peace Policy…it is estimated that 10 to 30% of all global environmental degradation is due to military related activity” (p.26). These statistics go to show what a profound impact militarism has on the local and global environment, and furthermore, the “violence” that indirectly affects women in this way. If not victims of war-related sexual assault, rape, or prostitution – the women who rely on the land to feed and support their families are violated in a more subtle ways. This phenomenon has overwhelmingly long-term effects on women’s lives, their families’ and their own well-being.

The first steps in protecting women and their families from this type of violence, is to recognize how an effect the damaging of environments by militarism can have on women. Once this is acknowledged, we will be able to move toward more environmentally conscious and peaceful practices. Also, in acknowledging women’s, we must advocate for women’s voices to be heard in these communities when the time comes for restoration, if such is possible. Only then will environmental practices represent women’s best interests and the overall well-being of the ecological system. Joan Davidson supports this notion that, “Women’s efforts to resist environmentally damaging policies and to restore and protect the status of women will be decisive for the protection of the environment and natural resources” (Women’s Relationship with the Environment, p. 10).

Works Cited

Davidson, Joan. “Women’s Relationship with the Environment.” Focus on Gender 1.1 Feb. (1993): 5-10. Women’s Studies International.

Rosenberg, Dorothy G. “Health, Peace and the Environment: Integrating Relationships in Women’s Health Movement.” Women and Environments International Magazine 2003: 25-27. Women’s Studies International.

US Navy Commander Jailed for
Three Years After Pleading Guilty
to Rape of Two Female Sailors

 

Jessica Satherley
Mail Online
October 29, 2011

Jay Wylie will serve more than three years behind bars. A US Navy commander will serve more than three years behind bars after admitting sexual assault and raping two of his female sailors. A military judge ordered Jay Wylie’s dismissal and sentenced him to confinement. Navy spokeswoman Sheila Murray said Wylie was sentenced to 10 years, but would serve 42 months as part of a plea deal.

To read the full story at the Mail Online web site, click here 

 

 

To read additional reporting on this story, follow the links below:

Navy Commander Accused of Sex Assault   San Diego Union-Tribune   October 27, 2011

In This Rape Center, the Patient Was 3

 

Nicholas D. Kristof
The New York Times
October 8, 2011

 

In a rape treatment center here, I met a 3-year-old patient named Jessica, who was cuddling a teddy bear.

Jessica had seemed sick and was losing weight, but she wouldn’t say what was wrong. Her mother took her to a clinic, and a doctor ferreted out the truth. She had been raped and was infected with gonorrhea.

As I stood in the rape center corridor, reeling from the encounter with Jessica, a 4-year-old girl was brought in for treatment. She, too, turned out to have been infected with a sexually transmitted disease in the course of a rape. Also in the center that day were a 10-year-old and a 12-year-old, along with older girls.

Sexual violence is a public health crisis in much of the world, and women and girls ages 15 to 44 are more likely to be maimed or killed by men than by malaria, cancer, war or traffic accidents combined, according to a 2005 study. Such violence remains a significant problem in the United States, but it’s particularly prevalent in countries like Sierra Leone, Liberia or Congo that have endured civil war. The pattern is that after peace arrives, men stop shooting each other but continue to rape women and girls at staggering rates — and often at staggeringly young ages.

 

To read the full piece in The New York Times, click here.

 

 

President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Leymah Gbowee and Tawakul Karman Photo: Los Angeles Times

Liberia’s Leymah Gbowee: The Power of the Powerless

Carol Mithers
Los Angeles Times
October 9, 2011

Friday morning, Liberian peace activist Leymah Gbowee — along with her country’s president, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, and Yemeni activist Tawakul Karman — was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. A decade ago, this moment would have seemed unthinkable. But Gbowee’s triumph, like last spring’s Arab uprisings, is a powerful reminder that in the 21st century world, change often comes from the bottom — not from a country’s armies but its people.

In 2001, Liberia was in the grip of a civil war that had been going on for years and that had decimated the country. More than 100,000 people had died, many of them children, and countless women had been raped. As many as a third of Liberians had been displaced. Much of the country’s infrastructure — its sewage and electrical system, roads, hospitals and schools — lay in ruins. Thousands of boys had been pressed into fighting for one side or another, fed liquor and drugs and turned into killers.

To read the full column in The Los Angeles Times, click here.

Carol Mithers is a Los Angeles Journalist and the coauthor, with Leymah Gbowee, of the memoir “Mighty Be Our Powers: How Sisterhood, Prayer, and Sex Changed a Nation at War.”http://www.mightybeourpowers.com

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