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Militarised masculinities and alternatives

Image Credit: Pete Muller

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Power on patrol

New documentary spotlights the men working with female activists in conflict societies around the world to challenge notions of militarised masculinities and advance feminist peace

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Confronting Militarized Masculinities to Achieve Peace and Justice

A visual photographic exploration of the relationship between masculinities, conflict and peace, violence and care.
Winner

Carolina Navas Gutiérrez for her series of images portraying the vulnerabilities of young men living in the Tumaco region of Colombia’s Pacific Coast

About Carolina Navas Gutiérrez

Carolina Navas Gutiérrez is a photographer and audiovisual producer. She was born in Cali, Colombia and graduated from the School of Social Communication at the Universidad del Valle. Carolina has been a still photographer in several Colombian films such as Calicalabozo, La Sirga, Sal, Los Hongos and Dark Animal. In August 2018 and 2019 ‘Nos miran’ (They gaze upon us) was included as part of an exhibition at the Centro de la Imagen in Mexico and the Museo Amparo in Puebla by curator Claudi Carreras, and the Spanish publisher Muga published the work under the title Tumaco3, a series of photographs taken in this Colombian Pacific municipality.

In 2019 Carolina was also selected for the New York Times Portfolio Review and was one of the winners of the Latin American Photo 8 contest in New York.  Her audiovisual work includes the television series Anónimas Extraordinarias which she directed in 2014 and documentary film Fullhachede (2018), which toured several festivals, including the Colombian Film Festival in Paris, Lakino Latin American Film Festival in Berlin, International Film Festival of Cali, Festival Cinélatino Rencontres de Toulouse and Festival Filmar in Latin America. In 2021 ‘Nos miran’ (They gaze upon u)s was presented as part of the Pacífico Ritual y Resistencia exhibition at the Friedrichshain Gallery in Berlin. Carolina currently lives in Cali.

Carolina says, My series of portraits of young Afro-Colombians reveals how, through dance and music, they confront a reality charged with violence, lack of opportunities and abandonment. I fixed my gaze on the men, because they are the ones who mainly make up the armed groups such as the army, the paramilitaries, common criminals or the guerrillas who have a strong presence in Tumaco, one of the most violent municipalities in Colombia.  In this hostile context, these young artists are like flowers in the desert. Much is said about the problem of drug trafficking worldwide and the damage that drugs do to young people in first world countries. Little or nothing is said about the thousands of young Colombians that suffer from violence, poverty and fear related to the drug trade. For me it is important to contribute in some way to making this problem visible, and to remember the communities that find their own ways of resisting the hostile contexts where they have lived.”

Honourable mention

Pedram Pirnia for his single image entitled ‘Gun In Classroom’ taken in Afghanistan.

About Pedram Pirnia

Pedram Pirnia PhD has travelled to the far corners of the world. In his humanitarian style of photography, he attempts to capture human rights issues faced by people across the globe. His images highlight those basic human elements that comprise the fabric binding all cultures together in our rapidly homogenizing but divided global community. Peering well beyond the surface of unfolding stories, Pedram’s photographs reveal the heart-wrenching truth. His images offer viewers intimate glimpses into the beauty of the world, the challenges people face on a daily basis and provide an opportunity for us to reflect upon, and understand their strengths, personal struggles and triumphs. With a keen awareness and reverence for human dignity and human rights, Pedram does what he can to cultivate positive change through art. 

Pedram says, “I was drawn to this competition about militarised masculinities and alternatives because my work is focused on elevating human rights and because I use my camera as a tool to educate and to cultivate positive change. Arms proliferation around the world, not only among military parties but also amongst civilians is entrenching community vulnerability in a structural way perpetuating an impunity of perpetrators and has contributed profoundly to undermining the rule of law. The dissatisfaction with imposed solutions keeps growing. People, especially women are demanding change, as they are fed up waiting for equality, equity, peace and wellbeing. Art plays a vital role in the development process and permits us to tackle social issues, think and take into account the structural implications that undermine human rights. Through art, especially photography we can question the status quo, educate and broaden the scope of the international discourse on the effects and consequences of human rights and prevent abuse especially violence against women and girls.”

Honourable mention

Lauren Justice, for her series interview series, ‘What Would I Have Done If I Would Have Killed Her that Night?’ with perpetrators of domestic violence and their female counsellor, a survivor of domestic abuse, in the United States

Originally published in The New York Times in 2019.

“If you’re in that kind of relationship, man, you’ve got to get out. Out immediately, out before something bad happens — you know, you kill somebody.”

I worked at a domestic violence shelter for two years in part because of my own history. I’d been in an abusive relationship when I was younger; I wanted to help other women, but I also wanted to understand how unhealthy dynamics of power and control come to exist in relationships, and how they can be stopped. So, for 10 months in 2017, in addition to working at the shelter, I observed state-certified batterer intervention classes.

“What Would I Have Done If I Would Have Killed Her That Night?” is a portrait and interview series with perpetrators of domestic violence and their counselor, a survivor. In the interviews and photographs, I wanted to understand them, but not valorize them. Most who agreed to participate said they did so because they wanted their words to reach younger men.

Domestic abuse is a choice. Every time they called their partners names, hit them, or used intimidation, they were making a choice to do so. Yet some of them feared they wouldn’t be able to stop.

About Lauren Justice

Lauren Justice is a photographer based in Los Angeles, California. Her work has varied in scope and subject matter, but certain things remain consistent: an emphasis on human connection, immersive experiences, curiosity, and a desire to understand. She has worked regularly with news outlets such as The New York Times and The Washington Post as well as with brands and international non-profits.

Lauren says, “I am grateful to the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom for recognizing this work. I am hopeful it will contribute to conversations addressing the root causes of violence in addition to the ways in which we can foster accountability and move towards a healthier future.”

Exhibition

We were honoured to receive a huge number of outstanding submissions that, along with our winners, will form part of a dedicated exhibition later this year. A sneak preview of some of the images below.

Jesse Burke

Intertidal is an investigation into the delicate balance that exists between the heroic idea of masculinity and the true reality of men. It explores the presence of vulnerability and sensitivity that act as forces against the mythology of male dominance and power. The idea of masculinity is so incredibly fragile, so sought after and lusted for, because of what it stands for, because of the history of men. The presence of vulnerability and sensitivity that acts as forces against this mythology of male dominance and strength. My work is an autobiographically driven investigation into these notions of masculine identit

My notions of what it means to be a man are romantic. I believe an innate part of our psyche needs us to be the Iron John of Robert Bly, yet we are responding to that primal urge in a new way. We have grown into a new fragility. We identify and illuminate within ourselves what it means to be men through the examples we see in our families, in the media, and in our peers. We are bombarded by images defining what it means to be male, and we are helpless but to give in part way to these campaigns. We are fragile.

I photograph my life and the lives of the men in my social and family circles in an attempt to understand from where our ideas of masculinity originate. As the author I act as an interpreter of a specific culture and mythology. I am most drawn to the moments that are representative of vulnerability or emasculation; where there is a presence of a rupture or wound inflicted in some way, whether it be physical, emotional, or metaphorical. I employ concepts such as male bonding and peer influence, masculine rites and rituals, homosocial desire, physical exertion, and our connections to one another as well as the landscape that we interact within to expose these instances.

Andy Richter

On the day of the presidential inauguration in 2017, we drove our newborn son home from the hospital and into an unknown, anxious future. This series is an ongoing visual meditation on our walks through “Northeast,” our multi-faceted, working class Minneapolis neighborhood, since his arrival.

As we walk, I respond intuitively to all that we encounter—nuances in the light, changes of the seasons, evidence of tension, my own subjective experience. We wander together in a state of grace, attentive, and absorbed by it all, each in our own ways. I witness him encounter the world and imagine the experience as it unfolds for him. In my role as a father, I wrestle with how best to guide him in the face of limited freedoms and unforeseeable responsibility. And there are realities that lie beneath the surface: COVID-19, the disruption of work, economic and political uncertainties, injustice, a divisive election, a vaccine. Our actual experience, however, is more than this. Our walking allows us to slow down and appreciate subtlety. While we acknowledge the tempestuous world of our time, we remain present and see life anew as we walk through it.

As Julien grows into a speaking, walking, conscious boy who interacts guilelessly with others, I too continue to grow. His curiosity and openhearted engagement with our compact neighborhood have emboldened me to delve deeper into the innumerable intangibles that bind us with our place.

Beyond our perambulations, I consider ways that patriarchal culture relates to our current social divisions and sense of alienation, as well as ongoing cycles of violence (both seen and unseen). I reflect on my personal experience as a man and a father, and more broadly about the need for men to take personal responsibility for their emotional development and actions, and ways of being in the world.

If men can be present to our own suffering, our own feelings, and the ways in which we have betrayed ourselves in order to uphold notions of “manliness”, “fitting in” or “not rocking the boat”, as well as other socially reinforced norms, change is possible. This internal (and interpersonal) work is for a lifetime, and is a process—one that brings significant discomfort and resistance. Yet, it is from this commitment that a transformation can happen and alternatives can be pursued. We can know intimacy and love, and ourselves. We can live more fully with each other and in community.

At home and in the world, we aim to raise our son so that he can be himself in the fullest sense. So that he may express and feel, follow his own internal compass, and know his own true nature. It is a never-ending process of growth and relearning, falling short of our ideals, and continuing again. The work begins here, with me—being willing to change, living an examined life with honesty and vulnerability, and stepping away from many of the ways in which I was raised in order to chart a new course.

Lance Robert Henderstein

The National High School Baseball Championship of Japan, known simply as Koshien, is the biggest amateur sporting event in the country. Each August 52 teams —one from each of Japan’s prefectures — partake in the summer Koshien tournament. In 2018 I was given permission to photograph Chiben Wakayama High School’s baseball team during an unsuccessful tournament bid. During my time with the team, I witnessed fraternity, conformity, and hints of Japan’s militant past. At a pep rally a young man in uniform fainted in front of his classmates while standing at attention on stage. He was whisked off stage and the ceremony continued without comment. In an era of strict pitch counts for professional baseball players, ace pitchers at Koshien are regularly asked to throw beyond healthy limits of growing boys as a sign of masculinity and dedication to the team. They are often asked to pitch every game in the tournament without rest. In the stands of Koshien Stadium, the school cheerleaders and band members support their teams with continuous cheering in the summer heat. Volunteers rush to cool them all down with wet rags from iced water buckets but heat stroke and fainting is common. At its best, the tournament is a pure distillation of youth sports. Underlying that image of innocence and purity, Koshien is an overt display of conformity, masculinity, and national pride.

Miki Jourdan

1. First Interview: A young man is interviewed in Black Lives Matter Plaza in Washington, D.C. shortly after Joe Biden is announced the winner of the presidential election. Nov. 7, 2020.

2. Old Glory: A masked protester carries a flag at the U.S. Supreme Court three days after the insurrection. Jan. 9, 2021.

Mikkel Hørlyck

In Northwestern Bosnia, around 10.000 refugees and migrants have gathered. When trying to cross the border to the EU, they face 6,500 Croatian police officers who are standing side by side to keep them out.

The police beat, humiliate and abuse the refugees and migrants frequently. They destroy their phones, steal their money and property, reject the possibility of applying for asylum and send them back to Bosnia. The method is called ‘pushback’ and during the six years it has been going on, the EU has supported and strengthened the Croatian border police with €150 millions.

Across the border, thousands of refugees seek temporary refuge in abandoned buildings, old fabrics, homemade shelters and empty buses. From there, their main focus is to cross the border to Croatia. They call their border escape ‘The Game’.

Sara Terry

“(Re)Thinking the Male Gaze” is my response to the contemporary conversation about gender, power and representation. I’m engaging as a photographer with some of the most famous paintings in art history, made by men of nude women, re-creating the paintings as gender-flipped photos. With that as my starting point, I research each painting, learning about its cultural context, reading feminist critiques, understanding each work’s place in art history. Then I re-stage the painting, assuming the creator’s role as a woman, choosing body types, objects, messages, backgrounds – grounding the work in my own female gaze, creating a new narrative and critique.

Zachary Krahmer

In 2017, the 18th front of FARC relocated into a transitory camp on the northern edge of the Andes as part of the demobilization and disarmament phase of the revised and ratified 2016 Colombian Peace Agreement. These wetplates were created over four months while living with the front before and during this transition.

This photographic process was chosen because it necessitates close collaboration and engagement. Sets of digital prints were created and distributed to those pictured. A common sentiment was gratitude, with many former combatants expressing how the image seemed to crystalize this identity as they had begun planning their postwar lives.

Many are wearing shirts memorializing peers and tapa pechos, beaded chest covers that were made in camp. This work was made possible because of friend and classmate Nico Bedoya, who returned home to Colombia, establishing the relationships and trust that the work is built upon. The images were created in conjunction with digital photography workshops for demobilizing combatants and existing community members in this specific transitory zone.

ABOUT THE COMPETITION

Across the world, violence and conflict continue to have a devastating effect on people and the planet. Very often rigid gender roles, and especially restrictive ideas about manhood, are centrally implicated in violence and war. But in every place where violence and conflict exists, so too do women and men who are working together to promote more flexible and equitable gender roles that enable non-violence and peace. With this photography competition we aim to explore and document the relationship between masculinities, conflict and peace, and violence and care.

Competition award categories

Documentary/
Photojournalism
Stories

Personal
Expression
Stories

Portraiture
Stories

The jury

Gael Almeida

jahi chikwendiu

Tasha Dougé

Donna Ferrato

Jehan Jillani

Paul Moakley

Pete Muller

Gael Almaida

Gael Almeida has over 20 years of experience coordinating initiatives for collective impact, conservation communication, development of financing strategies for projects, and strategic planning. She has a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science, a Master’s Degree in Conservation Biology at University College London, and a Diploma in Conflict Mediation and Resolution. She has worked with governments, academic institutions, and civil society organizations. In 2017, Gael joined the international team at National Geographic Society; as the Regional Lead for Latin America, she is responsible for following up on storytelling projects funded by National Geographic as well as working with regional partners and supporting regional initiatives that promote and generate collaborations between visual artists in the region.

jahi chikwendiu

jahi chikwendiu was born from and raised by what he considers a Queen of a Black Woman in Lexington, Ky. Experiencing such a woman navigate life against the struggles of racism and sexism in central Kentucky has valuably influenced his life-lens. His mother tinkered with numbers. His distant father, an amateur photographer, was the source of his first camera. After earning an undergraduate degree in mathematics and a master’s degree in math education from the University of Kentucky, jahi taught high school math for a year before being offered a photojournalist position at Lexington (Ky.) Herald-Leader. From the beginning, jahi pointed himself toward stories that explored the lives and struggles of “minority” peoples and cultures. Two years later, chikwendiu joined The Washington Post, where he has been a staff photographer since January 2001. Based in Washington, DC, jahi has worked on five of our seven continents to tell stories that focus on those who have been pushed and kept outside the margins of well-being.

Tasha Douge

Tasha Dougé is a Bronx-based, Haitian-infused artist, artivist & cultural vigilante. Her body of work activates conversations around women, advocacy, sex, education, societal “norms,” identity and Black pride. Through conceptual art, teaching, and performance, Dougé devotedly strives to empower and to forge broad understanding of the contributions of Black people, declaring that her “voice is the first tool within my art arsenal.”

She has been featured in The New York Times, Essence and Sugarcane Magazine. She has shown nationally at RISD Museum, The Apollo Theater & Rush Arts Gallery. Internationally, Dougé has shown at the Hygiene Museum in Germany. She is alum of the Laundromat Project’s Create Change Fellowship, The Studio Museum of Harlem’s Museum Education Program, Haiti Cultural Exchange’s Lakou Nou residency, the Caribbean Cultural Center African Diaspora Institute’s Innovative Cultural Advocacy Program and their inaugural Digital Emerging Artist Retreat.

Donna Ferrato

Donna Ferrato is an internationally known documentary photographer. Her gifts for exploration, illumination, and documentation coupled with a commitment to revealing the darker sides of humanity, have made her a giant in the medium. Ferrato first received critical acclaim for her work that captured the horrors of family violence. Her photographs of domestic violence and its aftermath have become landmark essays in the field of documentary photography, challenging social attitudes and putting a spotlight on the devastating impact of everyday violence. Her iconic book, Living with the Enemy, published by Aperture in 1991, is considered the first clear visual journey into the dark heart of domestic abuse.

Her most recent publication Holy, which honours the full dimension of women’s lives, won the 2021 Lucie Foundation Photobook Awards for the independent category.

Jehan Jillani

Jehan Jillani is the Visuals Editor for the Atlantic Monthly. Prior to joining the Atlantic, she was the lead picture and visuals editor at Guardian US. She has also worked at National Geographic, The New Yorker and Magnum Foundation. She is a graduate of Smith College and was born and raised in Islamabad, Pakistan. She currently lives in Brooklyn, NY.

Paul Moakley

Paul Moakley is an Editor at Large for Special Projects at TIME. He served as Deputy Director of Photography and Visual Enterprise of TIME from 2010 to 2018. Paul Moakley produces special projects such as the recent “Opioid Diaries” and TIME’s Person of the Year. He was part of the Emmy award winning team for TIME’s interactive documentary Beyond 9/11: Portraits of Resilience. Previously he was senior photo editor at Newsweek and photo editor of PDN (Photo District News).

Pete Muller

Pete Muller is an American photographer, researcher and producer. His work focuses on masculinities, conflict and human ecology. His ongoing interdisciplinary project, A Tale of Two Wolves: Men and Behavior, examines the social cultivation of masculinities. He spent 15 years living and working in Africa and the Middle East chronicling conflicts and social dynamics in South Sudan, Democratic Republic of Congo, Somalia, the Palestinian Territories, Zimbabwe, Sierra Leone and elsewhere.

Melissa Torres

VICE-PRESIDENT

Prior to being elected Vice-President, Melissa Torres was the WILPF US International Board Member from 2015 to 2018. Melissa joined WILPF in 2011 when she was selected as a Delegate to the Commission on the Status of Women as part of the WILPF US’ Practicum in Advocacy Programme at the United Nations, which she later led. She holds a PhD in Social Work and is a professor and Global Health Scholar at Baylor College of Medicine and research lead at BCM Anti-Human Trafficking Program. Of Mexican descent and a native of the US/Mexico border, Melissa is mostly concerned with the protection of displaced Latinxs in the Americas. Her work includes training, research, and service provision with the American Red Cross, the National Human Trafficking Training and Technical Assistance Centre, and refugee resettlement programs in the U.S. Some of her goals as Vice-President are to highlight intersectionality and increase diversity by fostering inclusive spaces for mentorship and leadership. She also contributes to WILPF’s emerging work on the topic of displacement and migration.

Jamila Afghani

VICE-PRESIDENT

Jamila Afghani is the President of WILPF Afghanistan which she started in 2015. She is also an active member and founder of several organisations including the Noor Educational and Capacity Development Organisation (NECDO). Elected in 2018 as South Asia Regional Representative to WILPF’s International Board, WILPF benefits from Jamila’s work experience in education, migration, gender, including gender-based violence and democratic governance in post-conflict and transitional countries.

Sylvie Jacqueline Ndongmo

PRESIDENT

Sylvie Jacqueline NDONGMO is a human rights and peace leader with over 27 years experience including ten within WILPF. She has a multi-disciplinary background with a track record of multiple socio-economic development projects implemented to improve policies, practices and peace-oriented actions. Sylvie is the founder of WILPF Cameroon and was the Section’s president until 2022. She co-coordinated the African Working Group before her election as Africa Representative to WILPF’s International Board in 2018. A teacher by profession and an African Union Trainer in peace support operations, Sylvie has extensive experience advocating for the political and social rights of women in Africa and worldwide.

WILPF Afghanistan

In response to the takeover of Afghanistan by the Taliban and its targeted attacks on civil society members, WILPF Afghanistan issued several statements calling on the international community to stand in solidarity with Afghan people and ensure that their rights be upheld, including access to aid. The Section also published 100 Untold Stories of War and Peace, a compilation of true stories that highlight the effects of war and militarisation on the region. 

IPB Congress Barcelona

WILPF Germany (+Young WILPF network), WILPF Spain and MENA Regional Representative

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Demilitarisation

WILPF uses feminist analysis to argue that militarisation is a counter-productive and ill-conceived response to establishing security in the world. The more society becomes militarised, the more violence and injustice are likely to grow locally and worldwide.

Sixteen states are believed to have supplied weapons to Afghanistan from 2001 to 2020 with the US supplying 74 % of weapons, followed by Russia. Much of this equipment was left behind by the US military and is being used to inflate Taliban’s arsenal. WILPF is calling for better oversight on arms movement, for compensating affected Afghan people and for an end to all militarised systems.

Militarised masculinity

Mobilising men and boys around feminist peace has been one way of deconstructing and redefining masculinities. WILPF shares a feminist analysis on the links between militarism, masculinities, peace and security. We explore opportunities for strengthening activists’ action to build equal partnerships among women and men for gender equality.

WILPF has been working on challenging the prevailing notion of masculinity based on men’s physical and social superiority to, and dominance of, women in Afghanistan. It recognizes that these notions are not representative of all Afghan men, contrary to the publicly prevailing notion.

Feminist peace​

In WILPF’s view, any process towards establishing peace that has not been partly designed by women remains deficient. Beyond bringing perspectives that encapsulate the views of half of the society and unlike the men only designed processes, women’s true and meaningful participation allows the situation to improve.

In Afghanistan, WILPF has been demanding that women occupy the front seats at the negotiating tables. The experience of the past 20 has shown that women’s presence produces more sustainable solutions when they are empowered and enabled to play a role.

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