The Bernard and Audre Rapoport Center for Human Rights and Justice

Women's Search For Peace

At the time, I was president of Wells College, having been ensconced as the first woman president in the 112-year existence of that woman's college. Some changes had come; women were now in all but one of the top administrative positions, and women were being promoted in the faculty, pay scales were being made more equitable, etc. But what I wasn't aware of at the time was that patriarchal structures were in place and in part I adapted to them. More than adapting, I had been trained to adapt, as we all have. Later, I found in the peace movement the same pattern as in academia. First, women are ignored; once recognized, denigrated and trivialized; and then sometimes grudgingly accepted.

Before speaking more of the international women's peace movement, perhaps we should pause for some definitions: The definition of feminism I will take from Winston Simplified Dictionary, (1930):

The belief that men and women are mentally and socially equal and that women should be given every social freedom, advantage, and opportunity enjoyed by men.

Patriarchy we have accepted without question, for it has defined our society. When I speak of patriarchy, I am speaking of a system we are all part of-a system that is as harmful to one sex as to the other. The underlying problem is not man as a sex. The root of the problem lies in a social system in which the power of force is idealized, in which both men and women are taught to equate true masculinity with violence and domination, and to see men that don't conform as soft.

Patriarchy describes any kind of group organization in which males hold dominant power, in which males determine what part females shall and shall not play, and in which the capabilities assigned to women are relegated generally to the mystical and esthetic, excluding them from the practical and political.

In examining that definition, we can see that it has been somewhat eroded in the recent past. However, the habits of thought that are basic to our functioning as a society have not been dislodged. We can see this in four areas of our lives that are fundamental to our functioning and pivotal in the making of peace that have not changed a great deal. Each of these areas of life, when dominated by the male ethos, serves against peace. The four areas are language, logic, power, and relationship. I will come back to this later.

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