Gender and War From a Feminist Perspective Essay

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Gender and War From a Feminist Perspective

The classic notion that women are weak and unfit for battle riddles gender politics, and this has many times dictated the treatment of women over the course of time. Women, who, in history -- have traditionally been the purveyors of nurturing, providers of sustenance, and individuals who give life to children, both male and female -- are often victims of a worser fate in war, although some good can come out of bad situations. Women must deal with rape, and suffer savage inequalities; however, the one positive aspect that can be found within this context is the oral history of women in war (also known as testimonial literature or testimonial journalism).

Rape is possibly one of the most horrible experiences that can be had by anyone, and women are no exception. Rape is a "gender-specific weapon of war."

Women are raped by invading men of the opponents in war. This serves several purposes. Number one, it demoralizes the backbone of the workforce in a country's economy. Secondly, it sends a message that anyone who is going to go against the status quo as set forth by the enemy is worthy of rape.

Historically, men have been the ones who have been dominant over women. Militarism, therefore, favors men instead of women -- and women do not have the same kind of physical or social status as men do, usually, which puts most women in a compromising situation. "Men are the militarists and perpetrators; women are the pacifists and victims."

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Even worse, rape has now been sexualized. Usually, "…first-person accounts by people who underwent torture and rape are often laconic and euphemistic."

True, it is said that women are the "gentler sex," but this stereotype is perpetuated in the way that men and women are socialized while they grow up. Men are encouraged to act tough, are told not to cry, and are reprimanded for showing emotion.

Women, on the other hand, are generally coddled more as girls growing up than boys, who will turn into men. Women are more likely to internalize their suffering and less likely to reach out for help if abused.

Essay on Gender and War From a Feminist Perspective Assignment

It has been scientifically proven that the cries of a girl baby will always be responded to more quickly than the cries of a boy baby. The idea behind this is that boys are seen as having to fend for themselves and learn how to deal with problems on their own, while girls are immediately tended to therewith.

The psychology of this kind of training proves, at least from an anthropological standpoint, what is trying to be accomplished here. Boy babies would most naturally be assumed to have to grow up and thrive on their own as men, being the providers for their families.

Girls would need to develop traits of dependence on other people, building family relationships, and attracting other important people with all of their features. In essence, they would be -- simultaneously -- using sound, their looks, and their movements to shape human emotion. This is how young girls are socialized in order so they can manipulate their environments.

The development of this type of evolutionary psychology did not appear overnight. It occurred as a direct result of women being raised to be able to shape opinions by what they said, looked like, or did.

Men would have to grow up to be able to make it on their own in the wilderness, and thus they were raised as boys to have a tough outer exterior. That is why men are toughened into pillars of strength so that they can lead their communities and families -- supposedly.

Women have long had to suffer and struggle in order to make themselves known, both in war and in the workplace. Author Cynthia Cockburn states, "…cultures of the workplace…, cultures in which technologies are invented and put to work -- it isn't difficult at all to see the relations of capitalism and patriarchy being produced and reproduced simultaneously."

Many women have had to fight for their rights, and war changed their ability to have power in the economy. "American women went to work in increasing numbers after World War I. The Equal Rights Amendment [was] introduced to Congress in 1923, [passed in] 1972, [but never was ratified]."

Sometimes women retaliate against other women to move upwards on the ladder of power. At times, women have "…functioned to construct normative gender roles and definitions of heroism, at the expense of making invisible the actions of most other women."

Testimonial journalism, or testimonial literature, is becoming increasingly common as a way to document womens' struggles, especially in Latin America. The story of Rigoberta Menchu was highly publicized.

Philip Berryman has made a point of publicly mentioning some names which are quite widely recognized with respect among Latin America for their martyrdom for la causa ("the cause"): Archbishop Oscar Romero and Chilean President Salvador Allende.

These are scary destinies we face, whichever kind of commitment(s) we do make (martyrs or not), but very necessary choices we must make if we are to be intellectually honest in how we go about solving the problem of poverty in Latin America. Do we choose mercy, or sacrifice?

It is no longer enough for people who are part of the status quo, part of the dominant culture, to accept the "neither/nor" philosophy -- a conclusion many support.

What can the readers' response be to testimonial narrative? Obviously, not everyone who reads testimonial literature is going to want to become an activist. However, it is the luxury of an unoppressed First World Euro-centric elite class that has the leisure to read testimonial narrative whilst the real struggle of revolution is being lived out in the world on the ground. Literature itself may not be able to end oppression, but it might be able to change minds.

It is only when testimonial literature comes onto the scene that we understand how important both of these former points are. Testimonial narrative makes real the pain of poverty.

This is especially true for the plight of women who are at the mercy of people who mean to do no good to them in the context of war. Gustavo Gutierrez's preferential option for the poor definitely becomes a misnomer when testimonial literature is introduced into the picture.

The problem with preferential option for the poor is that it is a term specifically designed for the vocabulary of academics which seek to side with the poverty-stricken Other which they, the academics, most likely have little to no contact with on a daily basis. However, they wish to have some type of a language which bridges that crevasse-like gap, and thus chose preferential option for the poor.

And now we turn to the question, "What is the agenda of the person telling testimonial narrative?" It is often multifaceted. In Rigoberta Menchu's case, it was probably to win the empathy of strangers, to have them care about the plight of herself and her people, and to make people aware of the situation in Guatemala.

In conclusion, whether it be the spiritualization of poverty in Latin America or the examination of testimonial literature in Guatemala -- one thing they all share in common is a story of victory over oppression.

Ultimately, that is what this paper has been all about. Poverty is a condition that all too many people have to struggle with throughout Latin America (especially women), and as has been mentioned here, the witnesses of testimonial narrative often have had to face that as well as numerous other obstacles in order to have their story heard.

Rigoberta's narrative serves as a leitmotif of the same struggle for survival. However, people all over the world may suffer at the hands of a different people… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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