On, Women, Revolution and LoveJune 5, 2009 Leave a comment
I’ve never been much of a feminist. In the crucible of my political coming of age, I internalized a strong message. I could either be a ‘race woman,’ devoting myself to improving the conditions of black people, or I could ally myself with bourgeois white feminists. There were no other choices, and clearly only one was acceptable. A small group of female African American seminary students was working out a ‘wymist’ theory that took gender, race and poverty seriously but I didn’t take them seriously at the time. I constructed my identity primarily around race. Like many African American women who’ve played a prominent role in the struggle for freedom and justice, I would advocate for the community as a whole—no particular emphasis on women. Focusing on women, and especially highlighting sexism and misogyny within the black community, was an especially hard row that I didn’t want to hoe.
In the past two years, I’ve begun to take women’s work – organizing among and on behalf of women – more seriously. Why? Because I’ve begun to see a unique source of power I had missed before. I’ve worked with incredible African American and Sudanese women in the Sisterhood for Peace who working toward peace for the whole of Sudan. I’ve wept as I watched documentaries about the horrors facing women in Darfur and as I read A Thousand Splendid Suns, set in late 1980s Afghanistan. I’ve learned with great pride about Liberian organizer, Leymah Gbowee, who catalyzed the Women in Peacebuilding Network—a movement of women who were sick and tired of losing sons, brothers, and husbands to a 14 year civil war—and whose actions led to the war’s end.
I have met Kenyan activist, professor, parliamentarian, and Nobel Peace Prize winner Wangari Maathai who founded the Greenbelt Movement – a women’s movement which was launched to call a repressive government to account, to protect the environment, and to build peace. I’m reminded of the mothers of the Disappeared in Argentina who held vigil and insisted their government answer for the lives of their loved ones. I’ve come to understand the unique role women play in building peace. A Darfuri woman put it simply. “The men [who are engaged in the conflict] are our brothers, husbands and sons. If we cannot influence them to seek peace, who can?!”
Che Guevera once said “At the risk of seeming ridiculous, let me say that the true revolutionary is guided by a great feeling of love.” It seems to me that there is no greater love than a woman for her children and family to set the wheels of a peace-producing revolution in motion. Where have you seen this love in action? What stories can you share?