Ideas

Women and Peacemaking

Women are peaceful. On this basis, women have worked for peace as mothers and moral guides to the world. But this stereotype limits women - and their peacemaking - as much as it empowers them. In 1986, psychologist Adrienne Harris first brought this to light for IDEAS. In conversation with producer Sara Wolch, she now sees what's held up, what hasn't and how feminists and peace activists view their roles today.
Protesters wave signs and shout anti-war slogans during a women's anti-war march and rally at the Westwood Federal Building March 8, 2003 in Los Angeles, California. ( Ringo C.W. Chiu/Getty Images)
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Women are peaceful. On this basis, women have worked for peace as mothers and moral guides to the world. But this stereotype limits women  - and  their peacemaking  - as much as it empowers them. In 1986, psychologist Adrienne Harris first brought this to light for IDEAS.  In conversation with producer Sara Wolch, she now sees what's held up, what hasn't and how feminists and peace activists view their roles today. **This episode originally aired April 28, 2015.
 

Woman as nurturer, woman as mother, tied to her body: supervisor of the moral sphere. At the core of this vision was the idea that women are innately, instinctively peaceful. But was this entirely true?  Or even helpful for women and for the cause of peace?     
 

"I don't think women are 'naturally peaceful'. Or that peace is a 'genetic  trait'.  I don't think there's anything "natural" about gender roles like masculinity or femininity. I think you can take this even further: and that is that women's politics based on 'innate female peacefulness' could be dangerous.  It limits how we think of ourselves as women - and it limits the cause of peace."

-- Adrienne Harris


 


Participants in the original 1986 program:

​Tana Dineen, psychologist.

Lori McElroy, psychologist.

Ynestra King, peace activist and feminist scholar.

Kay MacPherson, feminist, pacifist, political activist and founder of the Voice of Women (1913 – 1999).

Sally Ruddick, philosopher, Professor  of Women's Studies, New School University (1935-2011).

Ann Snitow, Associate  Professor, Literature and Gender Studies, New School University, New York.

Amy Swerdlow, historian (1923-2012).

Jo Velacott, historian.  

 

Further reading: 

Bringing Peace Home: Feminism, Violence, and Nature. Hypatia Press by Karen J. Warren (Editor), Duane L. Cady (Editor).

Reweaving the Web of Life; Feminism and nonviolence. P. McAllistair (Ed.) New Society Publications,1989.
Jo Vellacott's essay Women, Peace and Politics is in this book.

Ecological Feminism, Ynestra King,  Zeta Magazine. (1988)

Maternal Thinking: towards a politics of peace, Sally Ruddick, Beacon Press (1989).

Rocking the Ship of State: Towards a Feminist Peace Politics, Ynestra King and Adrienne Harris, Westview Press (1989).

Ecofeminist Philosophy: A western perspective on what is it and why it matters, Karen J Warren, Rowan and Littlefield, (2000).

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