|Gender Policy Review
|Current Issue - Best Of Gender Policy Review
| Gender Aspects of Conflict Resolution: A View From The European Parliament |
|Global Masculinities: Restoration and Resistance|
|Cultural Relativism – This Era's Fascism ||
Gender Aspects of Conflict Resolution: A View From The European Parliament
By Maj Britt Theorin
The end of the cold-war, has moved the majority of conflicts from between states to within states. The battlefield has moved to villages, streets and homes.
As has been the case since World War II, the majority of victims are women, children and the elderly. Similarly, the majority of refugees are women and girls who, all too regularly, suffer from gender specific violence.
They are raped, assaulted, abducted and kept as sex slaves. When the conflict has ended widows are forced to care for the elderly and the young on their own, and the economic needs of women are ignored for those of demobilized soldiers.
Despite this reality, the concerns and priorities of women in conflict resolution are ignored in most peace-talks as well as in the development of post-conflict reconstruction programs. A situation, which is all the more ridiculous, given the success of the cases where women have partaken in formal peace negotiations as in Cambodia, South Africa, and Guatemala.
In addition to these examples of formal participation, women have been involved in non-official peace making throughout history. In the latter part of the nineteenth century women organized annual 'Women's Peace Festivals' in the United States. World War I witnessed the birth of the Women's International League for Peace and the Geneva based International Peace Bureau. Subsequently, the sixties produced a number of peace organizations, including Women Strike for Peace, in the US, and the Greenham Common Women, in England, which both organized around military issues. Women have continued to cross battle lines to discuss peace in recent conflicts, from Ireland and the Middle East, to the Sudan and Somalia.
In practical terms, according to the United Nations Development Fund for Women, gender-based discrimination in conflict resolution has meant that in the Commission for the reconstruction of Tajikistan only one of the twenty-six delegates was a woman, despite the fact that the war had created twenty-five thousand widows. Similarly, at the first peace negotiations to end the conflict in Burundi only two of the one hundred and twenty-six delegates were women. No Bosnian women partook in the peace negotiations that ended the war in that country, despite the fact that the world was well aware of the systematic rape that women and girls had suffered there. Subsequently, in the negotiations that proceeded the NATO bombings of Kosovo there was only one woman in the delegation. And when the stability pact for South Eastern Europe was created, women were not mentioned at all despite their unique experiences in peace building from the grass-roots level.
Even when women are included in peace efforts they are often forced into silence. Two former employees of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) in Kosovo told me how they were fired after too vigorously pointing out that women were being systematically excluded from the democratization process. One of them described how she "soon realized that all high UN and OSCE posts were held by men who liked to discuss the proportion of Serbs and other ethnic groups in various political and legal bodies, but refused to take action to promote the participation of women in the reconstruction of Kosovo." She emphasized that "leaders of women's groups and organizations are angry that the international organizations ignore them". It is no wonder we see a lack of progress in democratization efforts in Kosovo.
Similarly, Human Rights Watch reports that in Bosnia and Herzegovina "women were typically overlooked and in some cases deliberately excluded from the benefits of this assistance" and found that "preferences for demobilized soldiers significantly decreased women's employment opportunities." It is clear that we need mechanisms to make sure that both women and men have equal access to reconstruction funds. As the Rapporteur of the European Parliament on Women and Conflict Resolution I will seek to ensure that the funds invested in this area do not further marginalize women.
This negligence toward including women in the peace process, is not only found in the field, but at the highest ranks within the European Parliament. This can be seen from the response I received while proposing to write an EU Resolution on Women and Conflict Resolution. I was told by a senior politician, "women should not participate in peace-work. Don't you understand that we men fight for our women?"
Discrimination against women, however, is not limited to peace negotiations and reconstruction, but also in the area of providing justice to victims of war crimes. The mass rapes of between twenty five and fifty thousand women in the former Yugoslavia received a great deal of attention in the media, but when the victims sought justice through the international war crimes tribunal, in the Hague, they did not receive witness protection of psychological support. In fact, only two of the eleven judges were women. As a result, few women dared to become witnesses for the prosecution. Thus, despite pleasant sounding speeches and commitments little was done in practice to help these women. The resolution I am submitting to the Parliament will lay out clear and concise measures that must be taken to truly mainstream gender into peace-building.
One of these measures is to ratify the new permanent International Criminal Court (ICC), a court that treats sexual violence as a war crime. A crime that is considered equal to torture and terrorism. This type of Court has long been needed to help end the use of rape as a strategy of war.
The court must be able to prosecute offenders regardless of whether they belong to a warring faction or a peacekeeping force. Already, UN peacekeepers, from the European Union, have been dismissed following accusations of sexual violence in Mozambique and Somalia. Few of these soldiers were tried in court and almost none convicted of any wrongdoing.
Before, the ICC can begin to provide disincentives to future rapist, the decision to create the Court must first be ratified by sixty countries, unfortunately only 19 states have ratified to date, only four of which are EU Member States. Why are so many nations lagging behind? Particularly the United States. The resolution I have written will send a clear message to America that it can not claim to be a world leader while at the same time cower behind concerns of US troops being falsely accused of atrocities.
Just as including women in peace negotiations and reconstruction has been successful, the same holds true for women in peacekeeping forces. Women should make up at least forty percent of all peacekeeping and peace-building activities, and we are calling for this minimum in the resolution. Although the proportion of women in peacekeeping has been limited, the studies available suggest that women's participation in peacekeeping forces improves relations with local populations, a pre-condition for successful peacekeeping,and improves the general morale. As important, female peacekeepers help in the fight against sexual violence in armed conflict, as their presence reduces male gang behavior, which all too often leads to the abuse of local girls and women.
There are a number of other policies that the resolution calls for, but there is one main point we are trying to hammer home, women must be involved in every aspect of conflict reconciliation and reconstruction. Peace is too heavy a burden to be placed on one government, one organization or one sex. Sustainable peace can not be created if you ignore half of human kind. Peace can only be created if women participate fully in the peace process.
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Global Masculinities: Restoration and Resistance
By Michael Kimmel.
This is the first of three sections of an article that will appear in the coming issues of Gender Policy Review.
It has become almost axiomatic that gender is inextricably implicated in the development process. "Human development, if not engendered, is endangered" was a central message of the 1995 Human Development Report.
The pioneering efforts of feminist scholars over the past three decades have established that development is an uneven process, not only within and between nations, but also between the sexes. Women and men are differently situated culturally and economically, with unequal access to material and cultural resources, different and unequal relationships to the provision and consumption of material goods, and different and unequal access to the political process that guides economic development.
Thus we read, for example, of the global "feminization of poverty," that women represent approximately 70% of the 1.3 billion poor people in the world (Beneria and Bisnath, 1996, p. 6). We examine the impact of women’s fertility and marital status on their access to economic and political power, the ways in which women’s unpaid domestic labor remains statistically invisible in efforts to reduce or eradicate poverty.
It is still the case that when we think or read about gender, we think and read about women. In part, of course, this is as it should be. It was women scholars and policymakers who first brought gender to our attention, through the hidden costs and statistical invisibility of women’s participation. It was women who made gender visible as a category of analysis, as a variable that must be factored into any discussion of development. Today, although we understand that development is a gendered process, the impact of development on men remains relatively less well-understood.
This "invisibility" of masculinity in discussions of development has political dimensions. The processes that confer privilege to one group and not another group are often invisible to those upon whom that privilege is conferred. Thus, not having to think about race is one of the luxuries of being white, just as not having to think about gender is one of the "patriarchal dividends" of gender inequality.
The invisibility of masculinity reproduces gender inequality, both materially and ideologically. Thus any initiative to improve the condition of women must include efforts to involve men. In fact, I believe that any effort to further gender equality that does not include men is doomed to failure. Of course, most initiatives towards gender equality must, and will continue to focus on women’s empowerment. But achieving the vision of gender equality is not possible without changes in men’s lives as well as in women’s.
If our first task is to make masculinity visible in the development process, this necessitates that we recognize the ways in which definitions of masculinity vary. The various social and behavioral sciences have elaborated the differing meanings of masculinity over time (history), across cultures (anthropology), over the course of a man’s life (developmental psychology), and within any one culture among different social groups (sociology).
Masculinity, in this view, is not a constant, universal essence, but rather an ever-changing fluid assemblage of meanings and behaviors that vary dramatically. Thus we speak of masculinities, in recognition of the different definitions of manhood that we construct. By pluralizing the term, we acknowledge that masculinity means different things to different groups of men at different times.
Speaking specifically about the American case, for example, we understand that within any one society at any one moment, there are multiple meanings of manhood. Simply put, not all American men are the same. Our experiences depend on class, race, ethnicity, age, and region of the country. Each of these axes modifies the others. For example, what it means to be an older, black, gay man in Cleveland is different from what it means to a young, white, heterosexual farm boy in Iowa.
However, to pluralize the term does not mean that all masculinities are equal. Typically, each nation constructs a model of masculinity against which each man measures himself. This hegemonic image of manhood is constructed often through articulation of differences with a variety of "others"-- racial or sexual minorities, and, of course, women. The hegemonic definition of masculinity is "constructed in relation to various subordinated masculinities as well as in relation to women," writes sociologist R. W. Connell (1987, p. 183). As the sociologist Erving Goffman (1963, p. 128) once wrote,
In an important sense there is only one complete unblushing male in America: a young, married, white, urban, northern, heterosexual, Protestant, father, of college education, fully employed, of good complexion, weight, and height, and a recent record in sports. . . Any male who fails to qualify in any one of these ways is likely to view himself - during moments at least - as unworthy, incomplete, and inferior.
In each society, then, there are multiple definitions of masculinity, some more valorized than others. In all cases, masculinities are constructed in relation to femininities and express the multiple ways in which gender identity is articulated through a gender order, in which gender is not only a property of individuals but a process of institutions and a dynamic of power relations between groups. That is, the gender order expresses men’s power over women (male domination) and the power of some men over other men (by race, sexuality, ethnicity, age, able-bodiedness).
Masculinities and Power
Any discussion of gender necessitates such a discussion of power. Men’s power over women is expressed in two arenas:
Public patriarchy refers to the institutional arrangements of a society, the predominance of males in all power positions within the economy and polity, both locally and nationally, as well as the "gendering" of those institutions themselves (by which the criteria for promotion, for example, appear to be gender-neutral, but actually reproduce the gender order).
Domestic patriarchy refers to the emotional and familial arrangements in a society, the ways in which men’s power in the public arena is reproduced at the level of private life. This includes male-female relationships as well as family life, child socialization and the like.
Both public patriarchy and domestic patriarchy are held together by the threat, implicit or explicit, of violence. Public patriarchy, of course, includes the military and police apparatus of society, which are also explicitly gendered institutions (revealed in their increased opposition to women’s entry). Rape and domestic violence sustain domestic patriarchy.
These two expressions of men’s power over women are neither uniform nor monolithic; they vary enormously, are constantly under flux. Equally, they are not coincident, so that increases or decreases in one invariably produces increases or decreases in the other. Nor are they so directly linked that a decrease in one automatically produces an increase in the other, although there will be pressures in that direction.
Thus women’s entry into the work force or increased representation in legislatures undermine public patriarchy and will likely produce both backlash efforts to reinforce domestic patriarchy (covenant marriage, tightening divorce laws to restrain women’s exit from the home, increased domestic assault) or even a virulent resurgence of domestic patriarchy (the Taliban). At the same time, increased public presence will also undermine domestic patriarchy (shared parenting and housework).
The Global Context
Equally crucial for our understanding of the integration of masculinity into the study of development, however, is to recognize the ways in which globalization reconfigures and reshapes the arena in which these national and local masculinities are articulated, and transforms the shape of domestic and public patriarchies.
Globalization disrupts and reconfigures traditional, neocolonial, or other national, regional or local economic, political and cultural arrangements. In so doing, globalization transforms local articulations of both domestic and public patriarchy. Thus, for example globalization includes the gradual proletarianization of local peasantries, as market criteria replace subsistence and survival. Local small craft producers, small farmers, and independent peasants traditionally stake their notions of masculinity in ownership of land and economic autonomy in their work; these are increasingly transferred upwards in the class hierarchy and outwards to transnational corporations. Proletarianization also leads to massive labor migrations - typically migrations of male workers - who leave their homes and populate migrant enclaves, squatter camps, labor camps.
Globalization thus presents another level at which hegemonic and local masculinities are constructed. Globalization was always a gendered process. As Andre Gunder Frank pointed out several decades ago in his studies of economic development, development and underdevelopment were not simply stages through which all countries pass, that there was no single continuum along which individual nations might be positioned. Rather, he argued, there was a relationship between development and underdevelopment, that, in fact, the development of some countries implied the specific and deliberate underdevelopment of others. The creation of the metropole was simultaneous and coordinated with the creation of the periphery.
As with economic development, so too with gender, with the historical constructions of the meanings of masculinity. As the hegemonic ideal was being created, it was created against a screen of "others" whose masculinity was thus problematized and devalued. Hegemonic and subaltern emerged in mutual, but unequal interaction in a gendered social and economic order.
Thus, for example, colonial administrations often problematized the masculinity of the colonized. Thus, for example, in British India, Bengali men were perceived as weak and effeminate, though Pathas and Sikhs were perceived as hypermasculine – violent and uncontrolled (see Sinha, 1995). Similar distinctions were made in South Africa between Hottentots and Zulus, and in North America between Navaho or Algonquin on the one hand, Sioux, Apache and Cheyenne on the other (see Connell, 1998: 14). In many colonial situations, the colonized men were called "boys" by the colonizers (see Shire, 1994).
Today, although they appear to be gender-neutral, the institutional arrangements of global society are equally gendered. The marketplace, multinational corporations and transnational geopolitical institutions (World Court, United Nations, European Union) and their attendant ideological principles (economic rationality, liberal individualism) express a gendered logic. The "increasingly unregulated power of transnational corporations places strategic power in the hands of particular groups of men," while the language of globalization remains gender neutral so that "the ‘individual’ of neoliberal theory has in general the attributes and interests of a male entrepreneur" (Connell, 1998, p. 15).
As a result, the impact of global economic and political restructuring is greater on women. At the national and global level, the world gender order privileges men in a variety of ways, such as unequal wages, unequal labor force participation, unequal structures of ownership and control of property, unequal control over one’s body, as well as cultural and sexual privileges. What’s more, in the economic south, for example, aid programs disproportionately affect women, while in the metropole, the attack on the welfare state generally weakens the position of women, domestically and publicly. These effects, however, are less the result of bad policies or, even less the results of bad - inept or evil - policymakers, and more the results of the gendered logic of these institutions and processes themselves (Enloe, 1990; Connell, 1998).
Hegemonic Masculinity and its Discontents
In addition, the patterns of masculinity embedded within these gendered institutions also are rapidly becoming the dominant global hegemonic model of masculinity, against which all local, regional and national masculinities are played out and increasingly refer. The emergent global hegemonic version of masculinity is readily identifiable:
He sits in first class waiting rooms or in elegant business hotels the world over in a designer business suit, speaking English, eating "continental" cuisine, talking on his cell phone, his laptop computer plugged into any electrical outlet, while he watches CNN International on television. Temperamentally, he is increasingly cosmopolitan, with liberal tastes in consumption (and sexuality) and conservative political ideas of limited government control of the economy. This has the additional effect of increasing the power of the hegemonic countries within the global political and economic arena, since everyone, no matter where they are from, talks and acts like they do.
These processes of globalization, and the emergence of a global hegemonic masculinity has the ironic effect of increasingly "gendering" local, regional and national resistance to incorporation into the global arena as subordinated entities. Scholars have pointed out the ways in which religious fundamentalism and ethnic nationalism use local cultural symbols to express regional resistance to incorporation (see especially Jurgensmeyer, 1995; 2000; Barber, 1995). However, these religious and ethnic expressions are often manifest as gender revolts, and include a virulent resurgence of domestic patriarchy (as in the militant misogyny of Iran or Afghanistan); the problematization of global masculinities or neighboring masculinities (as in the former Yugoslavia); and the overt symbolic efforts to claim a distinct "manhood" along religious or ethnic lines to which others do not have access and which will restore manhood to the formerly privileged (white militias and skinhead racists in Europe).
Thus gender becomes one of the chief organizing principles of local, regional and national resistance to globalization, whether expressed in religious or secular, ethnic or national terms. These processes involve flattening or eliminating local or regional distinctions, cultural homogenization as citizens and social heterogenization as new ethnic groups move to new countries in labor migration efforts. Movements thus tap racialist and nativist sentiments at the same time as they can tap local and regional protectionism and isolationism. They become gendered as oppositional movements also tap into a vague masculine resentment of economic displacement, loss of autonomy, collapse of domestic patriarchy that accompany further integration into the global economy. Efforts to reclaim economic autonomy, to reassert political control, and revive traditional domestic arrangements thus take on the veneer of restoring manhood.
To illustrate these themes, one could consider several political movements of men, in North America or elsewhere. Indeed, PromiseKeepers, men’s rights and fathers’ rights groups all respond to the perceived erosion of public patriarchy with an attempted restoration of some version of domestic patriarchy. The mythopoetic men’s movement responds instead to a perceived erosion of domestic patriarchy with assertions of separate mythic or natural space for men to experience their power – since they can no longer experience it in either the public or private spheres. (For more on the movements of men, see Kimmel, 1996, Kimmel, ed., 1996, and Messner, 1998).
In the following sections of this paper, I will examine two types of movements of men in contemporary North America – one hegemonic movement which seeks to use a variety of ideological and political resources to re-establish and reassert hegemonic masculinity, and another set of counter-hegemonic movements which seek to further dismantle both public and domestic patriarchies.
Michael Kimmel is a Professor of Sociology at the State University of New York at Stony Brook. He has written and edited numerous books on masculinity and lectures widely on gender issues. Some of Kimmel's works include Manhood: The American Quest (1996), he is also Editor of Changing Men (1987), Men Confront Pornography (1990), and with Michael Messner, Men's Lives (1995).
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Cultural Relativism – This Era's Fascism
By Maryam Namazie
The following are excerpts from a speech given on cultural relativism given at a forum organized by the International Campaign in Defense of Women’s Rights in Iran (ICDWRI).
- In Germany, in August 1997, an 18-year-old woman was burnt to death by her father for refusing to marry the man he had chosen. A German court gave him a reduced sentence, saying he was practicing his culture and religion.
- In Iran, women and girls are forcibly veiled under threat of imprisonment and lashes, and cultural relativists say that it is their religion and must be respected.
- In Holland, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs states that Iran’s prisons are “satisfactory for third world standards," allowing the forcible return of asylum seekers.
Cultural relativism serves these crimes. It legitimizes and maintains savagery. It says that people’s rights are dependent on their nationality, religion, and culture. It says that the human rights of someone born in Iran, Iraq, or Afghanistan are different from those of someone born in the United States, Canada or Sweden.
Cultural relativists say Iranian society is Muslim, implying that people choose to live the way they are forced to. It's as if there are no differences in beliefs in Iran, no struggles, no communists, no socialists, and no freedom-lovers. If so, why have 150,000 people been executed for opposing the Islamic Republic of Iran? If it’s the entire society's culture and religion, why does the Islamic regime need such extensive tools for repression? If it’s people’s beliefs, why does the regime control their private lives - from their sexual activities, to what video they watch, to what music they listen to?
If the entire society is Muslim, why did Zoleykhah Kadkhoda enter a voluntary sexual relationship for which she was buried in a ditch and stoned? If it is people's culture, why did the residents of Bukan revolt against the stoning and save her life? Why are thousands of women rounded up in the streets for “improper” veiling if it's their culture and religion?
How come, after two decades of terror and brutality, the universities are still not Islamic, according to an official of the regime? Though it's untrue, even if every person living in Iran had reactionary beliefs, it still wouldn’t be acceptable. If everyone believes in the superiority of their race, does that make it okay?
Cultural relativists say that we must respect people's culture and religion, however despicable. This is absurd and calls for the respect of savagery. Yes, human beings are worthy of respect but not all beliefs must be respected. If culture allows a woman to be mutilated and killed to save the family “honor,” it cannot be excused. In the Islamic Republic of Iran, religion rules and has become the mass murderer of people. If religion says that women who disobey should be beaten, that flogging is acceptable, and that women are deficient, it must be condemned and opposed.
The struggle against misogynist and reactionary governments is inseparable from the struggle against reactionary and misogynist beliefs. Of course individuals have the right to their own beliefs, however offensive, but freedom-lovers are duty bound to expose and condemn reactionary beliefs and relegate them to the garbage cans of history.
Cultural relativists go further to say that universal human rights are a western concept. How come when it comes to using the telephone or a car, the mullah does not say it is western and incompatible with an Islamist society? How come when it comes to better exploiting the working class and making profits, technological gains are universal? But when it comes to universal human rights, they become western. Even if rights are western, it is absurd to say that 'others' are not worthy of them.
Some, even among the 'left' say that exposing reactionary beliefs serves racism. Opposing the rape of a nine-year old girl who is forcibly married does not serve racism. Opposing the sexual abuse of a child even though the Islamic Republic of Iran's court says the father was forced to abuse the child because his wife did not satisfy him, does not serve racism. Culture for the sake of culture is not sacred.
Racism and fascism also have their own cultures. Struggling for universal human rights means condemning and disrespecting reactionary beliefs. The defeat of Nazism and its biological theory of difference largely discredited racial superiority. The prejudice behind it, however, found another more acceptable form of expression in this era. Cultural relativists are defenders of this era's holocausts. Anyone who respects humanity must immediately struggle for the abolition of all backward and reactionary beliefs which are incompatible with human freedom.
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