Women and girls are the central target during conflict, they bear the brunt of harmful consequences of armed violence. Women are discombobulated into propaganda warfare, depicted as victims/warriors, associated as a cause for the continuation of violence or the reason for the cessation of hostilities. This is the second full blown war I’m witnessing, and I’m baffled by how women have little or no say over the initiation or cessation of hostilities. And yet, women and girls are continuously mentioned as reasons for more violence and suffering.
On this blog I would like to acknowledge the agency of women and girls implicated in the ongoing conflict, unpack how belligerent parties, media outlets, tweets, retweets use women in the political arena. I am making an active effort to stop fixating on would haves and could halves. We cannot undo the damage that’s done, nor criticize the bellicose rhetoric plunging women and girls further into precariousness, without getting dirty of political machinations. I have summoned all the courage to address my own biased views that deprives women and girls of agency.
- Violence is a theatrical exhibition of masculinity. It’s the chorus of machismo, a verse chanted loudly during the unfolding of war and conflict.
- Violence is embodied by men to showcase their control over women and girls.
- Violence is inflicted to humiliate/dehumanize women and girls and the threat of violence is used to further marginalize them.
- Violence is also used in the ideologies of nationhood, to prove patriotic sentiments of belongingness to the political realm of a nation
There isn’t a universal interpretation for agency that cuts across cultures and identities. The diverse political geographies, ethnic identification, customs, and social norms affect women’s experience and agency. Nonetheless, women summon the will and embark upon a treacherous journey to navigate these barriers and express a language of resistance and empowerment. The networks of violence in a militarized landscape and the top-down impositions for political entanglements has pushed for an understanding of agency as constrained.
At this moment in time, I don’t believe constrained agency encapsulates fully the bravery, courage, of the women and girls who decide to take up arms and join a struggle. The women who do not allow their spirit to break, after having experienced so much violence and turmoil for the sake of those who rely on them for survival. The women shoulder the burden of survival in a predatory and exploitative culture of the politicized, where they’re used for the glorification of one belligerent counterpart over the other, or where their scars are exposed to incite retaliatory sentiments.
Women are not only a tool for the amusement of the ideological and physical aggressor, they’re warriors, soldiers, instigators, perpetrators…..survivors. Women are a threat, they resist conflict and turmoil by rebuilding themselves and the broken core institutions of their community, by refusing to fight, and dismantling the power imposed on conflict. They spearhead the process for constructive peace, through informal socio-economic schemes that ensures their survival, the survival of their community, their children……even their enemies.
Before collapsing into the sombre prism of hopelessness and admitting to myself that chaos shall ultimately prevail, let me allow myself to surrender in the innocence of intention. The intention of the other women, the social media influencer, the urban trotter, the diaspora; that have followers, friends, family they can influence. Those who capitalize over ideological gains, to normalize the violence imposed on women and girls.
I call upon all the women who are involved directly/indirectly in this war to demystify the allure of violence over others for the purpose of the greater good. Let’s ask ourselves what are we really supporting? Decisions made by men in power which are affecting women and girls everywhere in the country? Are we disempowering the women that are bearing the burnt of the conflict, under the pretext that war will save them from evil? Who are we to make such assumptions, and what gives us the right to make such decisions for them? By supporting more violence are we not indirectly supporting more restrictive gender norms? Isn’t it ironical that we’re advocating for freedom from violence with violence?
I do not want to delve into the scolding hot topic of sovereignty, currently depicted as a myopic patriotic banter. Let’s talk about social justice – efforts towards women and girls securing the decision-making power in the political and economic sphere and increase their ties with the community. Sovereignty entails the empowerment of the people: women and girls of any race, class, ethnicity, national origin, ability and Religion. Unfortunately, we are living in a society where rape and sexual violence is excused as a ceremonial expression of masculinity. The normalization of sexual violence in conflict is accentuated by the state’s inaction to address it and provide the necessary reparative mechanisms to secure justice. Whenever we excuse the act of rape as tool for men to punish/threaten women under the aegis of sovereignty we are indirectly normalizing the prevalence of sexual violence.
Women brought up in an urban setting scream their longing for more solidarity among women to dismantle the clasp of patriarchy. I’m not saying there’s a quick fix to it, but can we at least try and see beyond the platter of one-sided deception that’s presented to us. Can we try and unravel the nuances to identify who’s bearing the brunt of our ideological strife? Can we choose peace to mobilize and finally display a shred of solidarity to fight for our seats at the peacebuilding table? Let’s attempt to undo history and decimate the sentiment of inferiority imposed on us and fight for each other and not one another!