The Bernard and Audre Rapoport Center for Human Rights and Justice

Women's Search For Peace

In 1988, Sissy Farenthold gave the speech "Women's Search For Peace" to the Houston Federation of Professional Women. She detailed her journey as a feminist and peace activist throughout the 1980s, outlining her travels to peace movement events and discussing the use of masculine language in the nuclear arms race. Her engagement with feminist theory, particularly to analyze public dialogue over weapons and war, offers an excellent overview to her personal philosophy and is the basis for this website.

Here is a transcript of the speech. Download a PDF of the original document.

"For twenty years, we have been exhorting women to plan their education, enter the professions, and participate fully in society. But, basically, there was little examination of gender roles in the issue of war and peace. Such an analysis of those gender roles, which are society's underpinnings, offers us a beginning rather than a panacea to the most pressing issue of our time-one that is seemingly the most abstract, yet the most personal. Will we as a species and life system remain extant or become extinct? For me, these subjects have converged in the international peace movement.

It was not until I heard Helen Caldicott speak in 1979 that I moved past what has been called "psychic numbing," the reaction many of us have to the subject of nuclear war. We can’t do anything about it, so we leave it to the experts and hope for the best. Caldicott was speaking about the impending deployment of cruise and Pershing II missiles in Western Europe. She had the facts, and she used them. For example, the cruise, 15-feet pilotless aircraft, would have the capacity to destroy 15 towns the size of Hiroshima. But she went behind the euphemisms to describe these deadly new weapons. It was not an abstract rational presentation. It was clearly an example of feminist logic that utilized intuition and imagination to expose reality.

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