Hollywood wants us to believe that we can separate the reality of a horribly violent culture from the choices men make on a daily basis affecting the lives of women everywhere. In a world where men assault a third of all women, and commit over 90% of all violent crimes; where a man battering a woman is the most commonly committed crime; and where ever-increasing war and militarism devastates communities on every continent, we can no longer afford to sidestep the hard truths of what it will take to end violence and realize a peaceful world.
Nevertheless, our media, our governments, our law enforcement agencies and corporations continue to perpetuate violence at the expense of all life on the planet. We are supposed to believe that violence is sexy, and that as long as people believe they are making informed choices then it should be beyond public discourse. We have to ask ourselves the obvious question: what does it mean to inundate the dominant culture with the elements of violence, sell it to us as desirable under the capitalist paradigm, and still claim to be contributing to the empowerment of women?
War is an atrocity; it is a crime against humanity, against all life. But there is more than just one war happening in our world. War goes beyond the sickness of militarism, the death and destruction on the battlefield. For thousands of years the hyper-masculine culture has meted out the subjugation of women worldwide. Male-dominated cultures for the large part have failed at achieving true peace and justice. Every generation has suffered through war and repression, and it is women and children who have suffered the most.
As peace activists dedicated to exposing the true costs of war and militarism, it is high time we are honest about the reality of violence in our culture. Speaking and acting against the use of war as an instrument of foreign policy is the bare minimum for socially conscious people. To further the goals of peace, we must begin to include a critique of domination and control at all levels.
Domination and control are among the primary elements of all oppressive institutions. The lies of masculinity teach our young boys and men to use violence to solve problems, and this culture rewards us for such behavior. What results is generation after generation of men socialized to dominate women, children, even the earth. An emphasis on treating others as objects to be used rather than living beings with whom to cultivate equal relationships is part and parcel of training boys to become good soldiers for the war machine. It is no wonder rape and sexual harassment of women are so high in the military. Feminists have been expressing these truths - and dying for them - for longer than men have even had the heart to admit it.
We peace activists have resolved to oppose war and advocate for the reparation of effected communities and to hold the warmongers accountable. We are not hesitant to call out the politicians, corporate executives and military generals who send our women and men to kill and die in the name of profit and imperialism. This resolve must extend to violence against women and children as well, and we cannot be hesitant to call it like it is. Male violence is at the root of the violent culture, and women’s struggles against patriarchy must become all of our struggles, or else we risk the same dishonesty of the warmongers themselves. Every two minutes a man batters, rapes or kills a woman. The war is being waged on many fronts, and a comprehensive approach to achieving peace in this world must include a dedication to solidarity with all oppressed communities.
There are no grey areas in the struggle to end violence against women. If we listen to the propaganda of the dominant culture, it will have us making excuses for glamorized violence. If we listen to Hollywood - the same industry that sells war as entertainment, the same industry that works directly with the military to influence public opinion on war - it will have us believing that we can normalize violence in our personal relationships without consequence. We must resist this just as strongly as we resist the war economy. World leaders of every stripe have stated time and time again that ensuring full autonomy and equality of women is how we achieve the highest social justice in our societies. We need to start taking this challenge seriously.
As men who benefit from patriarchy, we must begin to question what it means to be men in a violent world. There is more joy, more connection, more sanity in cultivating the positive qualities of peace, love and anti-violence. There is more to life than just being a man. We can emphasize the qualities of being good people, of being good human beings.
I call on all veterans in the peace movement, on all of our allies, to oppose the violence of hyper-masculinized culture and to act in defense of women and children. Let us resist the imposition of sexual violence in our relationships, and become critical of any ideology that justifies subjugation, domination and control. Extend our critique of militarized culture to the hegemonic discourse of violent manhood. Listen to women - hear their stories, their experiences, and their calls for solidarity. The peaceful world will not be achieved until we do so.
Author, Kourtney Mitchell, was recently elected to the VFP Board of Directors in January.