“Sexism and the War System”: An Anniversary and a Translation

From the cover of the recently published Korean translation of "Sexism and the War System."

Editors’ Introduction

This third post in our short series on “Updates on Women, Peace, and Security,” introduces the Epilogue of the recently published Korean translation of “Sexism and the War System” by Betty Reardon (dowloadable via the link below).  This is the first of two posts celebrating the translation of this landmark publication.

Download the Epilogue to the Korean translation of “Sexism and the War System” [in English]

The same rationalizations [the hierarchical gender order of binaries] uphold racism, colonialism, heterosexism, the anthropomorphism that despoils the planet, and all the manifestations of the hierarchical worldview patriarchy has spawned. It manifests in: claims such as white supremacy and the “righteous” violence committed to restore it; in the denigration and persecution of women political leaders and human rights activists; in the denial of the climate crisis and the return to nuclear terrorism. The gender imperative has become an Earth Imperative. The survival stakes were never higher, never was there greater need of gender equality, and the urgency of a comprehensive response to human and planetary survival never more evident.

Patriarchy as manifest at the beginning of the third decade of the 21st Century may be seen as more complex than we understood it to be in 1985. Feminism now accords equal significance to environmental restoration as it does to ending war and achieving gender equality, and some now see the Earth imperative to be as integrally related to the abolition of the war system as is gender equality. Feminist frameworks now comprehend all human oppressions that originate in patriarchy. Racism, colonialism, heterosexism, anthropomorphism, all the noted “isms” that impose structural and systemic vulnerability on particular categories of living beings, are within the bounds of feminist concern, as these oppressions are more vigorously cultivated by patriarchal elites in seeking to define and control the “real” world.

-Betty A. Reardon.  (From the Epilogue of the Korean translation of “Sexism and the War System.”)

Sexism and the War System: An Anniversary and a Translation

Among the anniversaries observed in the video panel that launched this series on “Updates on Women, Peace, and Security,” three are especially relevant to this post of the Epilogue to the newly published Korean translation of Sexism and the War System published in Seoul by Wood Pencil on the 35th anniversary of its first publication by Teachers College PressThere is, of course, the much mentioned 20th anniversaries of UNSCR 1325 and the 25th of the Fourth World Conference on Women. Yet there were also three relevant events that have received less attention: the 70th anniversary of the start of the Korean War, on the very day the panel was recorded, June 24th; the 20th anniversary of the “Comfort Women” tribunal that established moral if not fully recognized legal responsibility for sexual enslavement of women in the nations occupied by the Japanese military during World War II; and the 5th anniversary of the first crossing of an international feminist initiative to bring the Korean War to an official close with the conclusion and signing of a treaty, “Women Cross  DMZ,” in which video panelist Kozue Akibayashi participated. Each of these last two on this list of events represents significant, if very limited, progress toward the feminist goal of a more just, less violent world.

The cover to the 2020 Korean translation (left) and the original cover of “Sexism and the War System.”

In light of those goals, and the changes in thinking and policymaking needed to progress toward them, I found it heartening to read, “The Left is Remaking Politics,” in the opinion pages of The New York Times, (Amna A. Akbar, July 12, 2020, p. 2). Long an advocate of remaking politics, I tend to recoil from the terms “left,” “right” and “center’, because I believe they originate in the dominant mode of political thinking that I find antithetical to the perspectives and goals of feminist thinking about peace and security, tending to limit the range of modes of thinking that remaking politics will require. However, the term, left, the main descriptor for political actors committed a broad range of justice issues, was invoked by the author to celebrate a potentially transformative convergence of American civil society movements, catalyzed by the mobilization to denounce and eradicate systemic racism, now so absolutely undeniable in the visual and ubiquitous evidence of police violence against people of color.  So I rejoiced at seeing the piece in this “establishment” newspaper. The essay vividly articulated the hopes I have harbored through these weeks of multiracial, multigenerational, multi-sectoral, mass street demonstrations, continuing daily, even as current politics, propel us closer and closer to the potential abys to which I refer in this “Epilogue.”  Amna A. Akbar’s opinion cogently explicated that this convergence was the result of a practical envisioning of alternative possibilities, and of recognizing and factoring into activists’ demands and strategies, the functional interrelationships among the multiple issues of violence and injustice represented by participants in the mobilization.  They are acting on the promise articulated years ago in the Rio conference on the environment, that out of a practical strategy to achieve a comprehensive vision, “Another world is possible.” That is the promise we seek to illuminate in this series as we explore a range of concerns and possibilities integral to the feminist peace problematic.

The NYTimes opinion piece also demonstrates how rapidly and profoundly the political context of the problematic has changed, even in the year since this Epilogue was written. Indeed, the purpose of the epilogue was to reflect on significant developments in the movement for peace through women’s political participation that had unfolded since the 10th-anniversary publication of Sexism and the War System by Syracuse University Press, 25 years ago.

I hope the readers of this post will reflect upon the developments outlined in this Epilogue, and on the ways in which the positive possibilities among them might become practical probabilities should this current convergence and cooperation among activists and “[Their] capacious demands create the grounds for multiracial [and multi-issue] mass movements, our only hope for a just future.”

-BAR, 7/13/20

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