Decades of peace feminism and feminist ecology in and around the UK
By Toban Black at Sep 17, 2009
A post that I put together for the Waging Nonviolence blog -
"Glimpsing a history of anti-nuclear activism"
Below, there is some more writing that adds to that piece. First, here are some remarks about the Waging Nonviolence post -
That post revolves around a monument which is dedicated to women in a campaign against nuclear cruise missiles at a military base in the UK (at the Greenham Common, in Berkshire). I've provided some background and context -- while highlighting a history of wider campaigns.
The nuclear issues foregrounded in the title actually are just part of the post; feminism, anti-militarism, and ecology all are raised in there as well.
There also is a little writing about me. One of the editors suggested that I should write about my personal experiences at the monument site. I mainly wrote myself in there like that to convey what it is like to see the monument. Basically, I've communicated what it's like to see it without a grasp of the inside references there. It's more likely that the monument would resonate with people from the UK, but there must be a lot of people over there who don't know anything about the Greenham Common networks and peace camp.
The Pentagon Action later was discussed in the book Rocking the Ship of State: Toward a Feminist Peace Politics -- which also covers the Greenham Common campaign, and some other related initiatives and perspectives. Ynestra King, the co-editor, and a key participant in the Women's Pentagon Action, wrote their Unity Statement and their mobilizations. The book also includes essays from Gwyn Kirk, who was involved in the WomanEarth Feminist Peace Institute, with Ynestra King. In the Rocking the Ship of the State collection, Gwyn Kirk focuses on the Greenham Common Woman's Peace Camp —- as a protest site, as a focal point of a wider campaign, and as a potential source of inspiration for others, well beyond the UK.
Kirk's connections with Ynestra King (via the WomanEarth Feminist Peace Institute, for example) linked the various organizing and writing I've mentioned to an explicitly "ecofeminist" perspective associated with the Institute for Social Ecology. (Chaia Heller has situated the Women's Pentagon Action and Ynestra King in a history of wider ecofeminism in her book Ecology of Everyday Life.) Although there was no "ecofeminist" language in the Pentagon Action Unity Statement, a comparable perspective still is evident in some of their language. Those Pentagon Action activists asserted concerns about endangered life -- beyond human beings, per se (as I've noted in the Waging Nonviolence post). A preceeding "Women and Life On Earth” conference (which I also mentioned in that post) actually was presented as an "ecofeminist" gathering. To some extent, the Pentagon Action developed out of that conference, so it is linked back to the same perspective and issues.
Given how the Cardiff monument and the associated campaigning and critiques I've raised revolve around women, I'm going to touch on pertinent gender issues -
Of course, men have been part of anti-nuclear struggles, and various other campaigns for peace and ecology. Men can be -- and should be -- agents of those societal changes. Yet, talk about "ecofeminism,” as well as other discourses with similar messages (in the Women's Pentagon Action Unity Statement, for instance), can suggest that men have no constructive contributions to offer. Although women-centred approaches reach out to half of humanity, those messages and strategies rule out much wider collaboration -- between women, men, and everyone else. That broad collaboration certainly should be explored and cultivated. Even if women also gather separately, at times, wider collaboration should be more of a priority.
Regarding other gender issues at the monument site -
The Cardiff City Hall Visitor Information Guide states that the statue of the adult protestor "wears ribbons in her hair that signify the green, purple and white worn by the marchers to honour their great grandmothers -- the suffragettes." Yet, I think it's a huge stretch to suggest that those particular feminist references are apparent at the monument. (It seems like those ribbons are hidden at the back of the statue; and all of the ribbons would be brown.)
Parenting issues certainly are foregrounded at the monument though -
The Visitor Information Guide states that "many young children were on the march with their mothers" -- whereas the statue implies that all of the protestors were acting as mothers. There actually was more diversity among the Greenham Common campaigners -- as Gwyn Kirk indicates in her second Rocking the Ship of State write-up, where she tells us that -
"Some [of the female Greenham campaigners] look to women's tradition as nurturers and mothers, perhaps with a belief in women's spiritual insight and connectedness to the earth and forces of life. Others reject any definition of themselves as caretakers and see the peace camp as part of a wider opposition to all forms of male violence. Some believe that women have innate good qualities that make them better qualified than men to take up the issue of peace, whereas others feel that if women are less aggressive and more caring, this is due to conditioning and experience."
That last sentence wasn't about mothering issues per se, but it's certainly relevant and important here.