September 22, 2019 | 69° F

Panelists discuss impact of militarism on women

Photo by Yingjie Hu |

Panelists come together at Alexander Library on the College Avenue campus yesterday evening to shed light on the history, technology and impact of militarism and violence against women.

Companies have begun to address sexual harassment only because their profitability is threatened by such acts, said Joanna Regulska, vice president of the Rutgers Centers for Global Advancement and International Affairs.

Violence against women still persists and is one of the most common violations of human rights today, Regulska said. 

At yesterday’s International Symposium, “Rethinking the Asia ‘Pivot’: Challenging Everyday Militarisms & Bridging Communities of Women,” a panel of Rutgers professors discussed the histories and technologies of militarism.

Artists from across the country also joined the Rutgers panel to speak about the visual representations of militarism. A discussion on the impact of militarism and violence followed the panel at Alexander Library on the College Avenue campus.

Keynote speaker Cynthia Enloe presented her talk, “How Asian Feminists are making us all Smarter about Militarism.”

Enloe is a research professor in the Department of International Development, Community and Environment at Clark University in Massachusetts.  She has written 14 books focused on the interactions of feminism, women, militarized culture, war, politics and globalized economics. 

Violence against women takes many forms, but one common thread is that it happens all over the world, said Regulska, also a Rutgers professor of Women’s and Gender Studies. This kind of violence is the main obstacle that holds women back from being empowered, she said.

Last year, the World Health Organization indicated that 35 percent of women have experienced some form of physical or sexual violence, Regulska said. Sixty percent of women will experience violence by a male at least once during their lives. 

“This is a statistic that we should all reflect on,” she said. “[Violence against women] is all around us.”

It is also one of the least-reported crimes, Regulska said. Only 13 percent of women report violence from males to the police. 

There are drastic parallels between invisibility of women’s labor and the continued violence against women, Regulska said. Although efforts have been made to make such violence visible, it remains largely unacknowledged.

“Violence against women remains a major threat to our economic, political and social well-being,” she said. 

In 1930s Vietnam, there was an attempt by underground Vietnamese women’s activists to take up the question of violence against women in building a post-colonial nation, Enloe said. The Vietnamese men said, “not now, later.” 

This is one of the most dangerous promises in an otherwise progressive historical movement, Enloe said. The presumption was that the well being of women would be held in suspense until post-liberation. 

“By that time in 1955, people had really constructed whole new gender hierarchies,” she said. “The roots of patriarchal assumptions have now gone down so deep that they’re much harder to uproot.”

Enloe started out looking at ways in which military strategists considered race and ethnicity. She looks back on the years she spent trying to understand militarism without asking feminist questions and found that she was missing part of the equation. 

“You need to be able to ask questions about the politics of men and the politics of women,” Enloe said. 

The only people in the world that have insisted on gender impact analysis in the military are the Inuits of Canada, Enloe said. It turned out a big difference existed between men and women’s experiences. 

The reason it took Enloe so long to start asking feminist informed questions about militarism is because she was looking only at men in the military, she said.

“I didn’t see the politics of masculinity, which are deeply involved in the politics of the military,” Enloe said. 

Once Enloe brought feminism into the question, she realized she had to look at the ideas that made up feminism. She concluded that she needed to track power.

Feminists are explicitly interested in power, Enloe said. 

Meryem Uzumcu, a School of Nursing sophomore, said we should look at militarism within our own University and ways to “demilitarize” those spaces. Certain spaces exert masculine power, such as the ROTC.

“Spaces such as the Women’s and Gender Studies don’t hone enough attention as feminist spaces,” Uzumcu said. 

When examining the causes of militarization in governments, institutions and universities, Enloe said it is important to look at the micro-processes within the overall process of militarization. 

This involves a feminist-informed analysis of the militarization of silence, national identity, security, fear and nation before tracking the gendering of such aspects.

Nationalism is a broad concept for women, Enloe said. 

“The idea of the nation becomes a tool to either corrupt, silence or marginalize women,” Enloe said. “It’s a way to bring them on board, but not in a way that they can assert their own theories, rights and interests.

Carley Ens

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