“When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights, are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, extreme materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered.”
On the 4 April 1967 exactly one year before his assassination, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. highlighted three major challenges to human security: racism, capitalism, and militarism. Already in 1915, the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom had identified these challenges and articulated a fourth: patriarchy.
The fourth challenge: patriarchy
Patriarchy is a system of society or government in which (predominantly heterosexual) men hold power and women are largely excluded. It is sustained by the construction of gender roles and identities. Gender is like language – it does not exist on its own but it is built by human beings interacting and subscribing meaning to our differences on the basis of our physical sex. It celebrates as normative the heterosexual male as a strong, rational, unemotional leader and women, other sexed, or LGBT people as “others,” as subordinate groups.
Patriarchy continues to exist in most societies today, preventing gender equality and perpetuating other systems that sustain it—including militarism, capitalism, and racism. These four systems of power work together to generate and perpetuate a culture of violence, greed, and discrimination that undermine peace and justice around the world.
The consequences of the giant quadruplets
At WILPF’s 100th anniversary last April, the thousand peace activists that gathered for the celebrations found that power in human society is still—100 years after WILPF was founded—constituted through the mutually reinforcing structures of the giant quadruplets. The Conference Summary states on page 2:
All rely on violence and together produce militarism, war, and other forms of violence… Patriarchy and violent masculinities predispose societies to militarism, war, and violence. Racism creates fear of ‘the other,’ which helps create a ‘need’ for militarism. Capitalism generates inequality, fostering violence and conflict.
Armed conflict, armed violence, arms production and trade; poverty, inequality, social injustice; forced migration and displacement; climate change; financial crises: these are all linked together, consequences of the political and economic choices made by those in power.
Challenging the power, challenging militarism
Military spending – investments in weapons, soldiers, bases, etc. – is a key indicator of the level of militarism of a society. Those profiting from the production of arms have an interest in sustaining the system of war.
As activists for peace as well as for gender equality and women’s rights, we need to seek and articulate effective strategies that challenge war profiteering and privatisation.
This means, among other things, challenging the international arms trade, preventing the development of autonomous weapons, ending the use of explosive weapons in populated areas, confronting the use of armed drones, banning nuclear weapons, ending impunity for private military and security companies, and taking on those who produce and manufacture weapons.
The Global Days of Action on Military Spending starts tomorrow. Running from the 5–18 April 2016, the global campaign provide an excellent opportunity to take on the system of war and offer alternative approaches that foster peace, security, and justice for all.
We need collective action and solidarity amongst our movements and issues. The death and destruction meted out by military enterprise abroad has everything to do with the health and wealth of our societies at home. As Dr. King said,
A true revolution of values will lay hand on the world order and say of war, “This way of settling differences is not just.” This business of burning human beings with napalm, of filling our nation’s homes with orphans and widows, of injecting poisonous drugs of hate into the veins of peoples normally humane, of sending men home from dark and bloody battlefields physically handicapped and psychologically deranged, cannot be reconciled with wisdom, justice, and love. A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.
During the next two weeks, WILPF will be challenging militarism. We are sure that had Dr. King not been shot dead with a rifle while standing on a hotel balcony in Memphis on the 4 April 1968- 48 years ago – then he would be standing with us.
Read to get an overview on our activities during the Global Days of Action on Military Spending.
Effective implementation of the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) and the UN Programme of Action on small arms (UNPoA) presents a unique opportunity to prevent gender-based violence (GBV). WILPF is now publishing a report that seeks to provide tools and guidelines for effective implementation of the ATT and the UNPoA, including how to conduct an export risk assessment on GBV and how to enhance gender mainstreaming in disarmament and arms control.
The report will be at the upcoming WILPF webinar “Preventing gender-based violence through arms control: Tools and guidelines to implement the Arms trade Treaty and UN Programme of Action” taking place online on the 12 April 2016, 1.30-2.30 PM CET.