Feminism, Women's Rights and Peace in the Mid-term Election
Hours remain until the polls open and Peace Action’s organizers, members and volunteers are knocking on doors, making phone calls and doing last-minute campaign work for peace-minded Congressional candidates across the country. In the past week, however, Peace Action has drawn critical attention and much needed resources to five candidates running in close Congressional and Senate races in Arizona, New Hampshire, California, Washington and North Carolina. These candidates, whom Peace Action endorsed, are Suzan DelBene (D) in Washington’s 8th Congressional District; incumbent Raul Grijalva (D-Az. Dist.7); North Carolina’s Democratic Senatorial candidate Elaine Marshall; Ann McLane Kuster (D) running to represent New Hampshire’s 2nd Congressional district; and Steve Pougnet (D) running for California’s 45th District.
As Judith LeBlanc, Peace Action field organizer, wrote last week from the Grijalva campaign in Arizona, losing peace-minded candidates like Grijalva will be a setback not only for the country but also for the peace movement. But as a feminist activist and scholar working on peace issues, I argue that losing any of these five candidates will be a further blow to the peace movement and the feminist women’s movement in the U.S. Aside from the fact that three of these Peace Action-endorsed candidates are women, all of them support feminist issues of pay equity, improved health care access for women, reducing unintended pregnancies and protecting abortion rights. DelBene, Marshall and Kuster also support an end to “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” a policy that disproportionally affects female soldiers in our military. In 2008, The New York Times reported that 46 percent of Army soldiers discharged under this policy in 2007 were women, although women make up 14 percent of Army personnel. Although many feminists vigorously debate the issue of women in the military, the high number of women discriminated against on the basis of sexual orientation deserves swift attention and action.
As Representative of Arizona’s 7th Congressional District, Grijalva co-sponsored the Security and Financial Empowerment (SAFE) Act to promote the economic security and safety of victims of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, or stalking. Violence against women within our own borders is a huge problem that is ignored in our national consciousness and often portrayed as something that happens to other women in war zones like Iraq and Afghanistan. Meanwhile, 1 in 6 American women will be a victim of sexual assault, according to RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network).
As the economy struggles to get out from the grip of the Great Recession, the stakes couldn’t be any higher for American women, who now comprise nearly 50 percent of the workforce but still earn 77 cents for every dollar a man makes for the same job. Depending on a woman’s race or ethnicity, her share of earnings could get smaller. So what do these feminist issues have to do with peace?
Peace is more than just the absence of war, the withdrawal of American and foreign troops in Iraq and Afghanistan and the beginning of diplomatic and humanitarian solutions. For American women in this mid-term election, peace is also about ending economic and social violence that subordinates women to a lower paycheck, targets them for rape and sexual assault and discriminates on the basis of sexual orientation. Peace begins at home and in our relations between men and women. Feminism is the goal of challenging and changing women’s subordination to men, which is often embedded in larger macro-political and economic structures like war, militarism, poverty and globalization. For women, the fight for gender justice is inherently a part of the broad, humanistic goals of the peace movement that seeks to end war, outrageous military spending and the development of nuclear weapons.