Gender and Militarism

15 May – International Day on Conscientious Objection with a focus on Women Conscientious Objectors

15 February 2010: Blockade at AWE Aldermaston in Britain. Nobel Peace Prize winner Mairead Maguire being removed from the blockade by police. Photo: Cynthia Cockburn15 February 2010: Blockade at AWE Aldermaston in Britain. Nobel Peace Prize winner Mairead Maguire being removed from the blockade by police. Photo: Cynthia CockburnWomen and conscientious objection is the theme War Resisters' International chose for 15 May 2010 – International Day on Conscien­tious Objection. To coincide with International CO Day, WRI also publishes an important new book on the issue: Women Conscien­tious Objectors – An Anthology (see more on page 8). As Howard Clark writes in his pre­face: "In several senses, an anthology such as this is long overdue. First in the sense of acknowledging this part of the relatively hid­den history of antimilitarism. Second for War Resisters' International organisationally. Founded in 1921, WRI has for much of its history been male-dominated, despite the prominent role of women in various affiliates and with certain exceptions at the interna­tional level such as long-serving WRI General Secretary Grace Beaton. Since 1972 con­scious efforts have been made to change this — first the introduction of inclusive language (s/he, etc), and then, beginning in 1976, the organisation of special women's gatherings, usually in conjunction with WRI's “elder sister” the International Fellowship of Reconciliation. The second gathering in Scotland served as a prelude to the resurgence of an international women's peace movement in the 1980s, and produced a forceful statement on Women as Total Resisters. The British women involved in these gatherings formed the Feminism and Nonviolence Study Group and WRI later co-published their book Piecing It Together (now online at Then in 1986 the WRI Women's Working Group was formed to take this work forward and to pro­vide a welcoming entry point for women acti­vists, while WRI's 1987 seminar on Refusing War Preparations: Non-cooperation and Con­scientious Objection was a response to femi­nist prompting to look at 'the wider implica­tions of conscientious objection'. That semi­nar reflected new interest in the Anti-War Plan presented to WRI in 1934 by Bart de Ligt, but it took a decidedly more feminist approach. Activities central to war refusal — war tax resistance, refusing war work and opposing cultural preparations for war — are all areas where women have been and remain at the forefront."

With this publication, and a focus on wo­men and conscientious objection for 15 May 2010, War Resisters' International stresses its understanding "that to omit gender from any explanation how militari­sation occurs, is not only to risk a flawed political analysis; it is to risk, too, a perpe­tually unsuccessful cam­paign to roll back that militarisation" (Cynthia Enloe). Consequently, agendered perspec­tive on war and militarism – and on antimilita­rism – is at the core of WRI's work in support of conscientious objectors, and to remove all causes of war.