Women and Non-Violent Protests

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					Women and Non-Violent
      Protests




       Presenter: Charli Roach
                          Overview
• The participation of women in non-violent resistance and protest is not
  geographically or chronologically distinct, and as such examples can
  be found in a variety of localities and eras.
• The motivations for women to become involved differ, from the
  political and ideological convictions of the suffragettes and the
  Greenham Common protestors to the emotional compulsions of the
  Rosenstrasse wives and Argentinian mothers.
• Women have also played a part in many of the movements that are
  now synonymous with non-violence, such as the Civil Rights
  Movement in America, so it must be noted that they are not solely
  concerned with ‘female’ issues or familial concerns.
• It has been contended that most the stories of women in the
  development and use of non-violence have been hidden or under-
  represented in histories (McAllister).
Key question –
Does gender make a difference to how
people embrace and practice
non-violence?

• Carol Flinders:
                                  Aung San Suu Kyi


  ‘…the heroes and heroines of nonviolence
  have a fine way of transcending
  conventional gender scripts altogether.’
               The Science Behind It!
•     Scientists from the UCLA claim to have discovered that men and women react
      differently in the face of a perceived threat:


                           Men – ‘fight or flight’
                      Women – ‘tend and befriend’

    (meaning that they feed the children, calm everyone down and try to defuse the
                                          tension)

•     As such, they have concluded that a woman will fight to defend her loved ones
      but only when all the other options have failed.
•     This research does however seem to have been undertaken from a very
      traditional viewpoint and does not consider female involvement in
      ideologically or politically motivated resistance or protests.
The British Suffrage Movement
     The Origins of the Suffragist
             Movements
• Female suffrage - emerged as a political issue in Britain in the 1860s
  following Parliament’s refusal to replace ‘man’ with person in what
  would become the 1867 Reform Act bill.
• 19th century: loose groupings of suffragists drawing on ideas and
  members from other campaigns, such as the Chartists and the
  Abolitionists – no dominant individuals or groups until the turn of the
  century.
• Trans-national movement, sought to redress the social injustice of male
  repression.
• British society – support for the idea that suffragism was a mental
  disorder ‘akin to epidemic hysteria, with its attendant symptoms of a
  loss of the normal sense of decency and of the normal use of reasoning
  powers’.
• Edward VII’s surgeon: ‘sexually embittered women’ who were clearly
  ‘life-long strangers to joy’.
              Levels of Violence
• In Britain and America, the movement involved a number
  of non-violent techniques; rallies, petitions, mass
  movements, lobbying and fasting.
• The suffragists were also characterised, especially by the
  eve of the First World War, as highly organised and very
  articulate.
• But - inaccurate to claim that the suffrage movement was a
  non-violent one because it was far from homogenous,
  especially in Britain where two separate strands of
  suffragists emerged; the constitutionalists and the militants,
  who existed along a continuum from those who believed
  they must resist passively to those who felt that terrorism
  was both justifiable and functional.
                      The NUWSS

• 1897, National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies by Millicent
  Fawcett - grew to have over 50, 000 members.
• Adherents of peaceful protest - pragmatic rather than ideological as she
  thought that violent behaviour would only fuel traditional notions that
  women were too irrational to be worthy of suffrage.
• Strategy - the patient use of logical arguments to gain the vote. Argued
  that if women were bound by laws, surely they should have a say in
  their making. And women even employed men who could vote when
  they could not!
• Very slow progress – converted some but the predominant feeling was
  still that women would not be able to understand the workings of
  Parliament.
                           The WSPU
• 1903, Women’s Social and Political Union founded by Emmeline Pankhurst
  and her daughters, Christabel and Sylvia. The Union’s members became
  known as the Suffragettes - not prepared to be patient, willing to use violence.
• Peaceful until 1905, Christabel and Annie Kenney arrested for interrupting a
  political meeting. They refused to pay a fine, preferring a prison sentence to
  highlight the injustice that was being done to them.
Emmeline Pankhurst’s autobiography:
    ‘..this was the beginning of a campaign the like of which was never known
   in England, or for that matter in any other country…we interrupted a great
    many meetings…and we were violently thrown out and insulted. Often we
                          were painfully bruised and hurt.’

•   Violence committed by the WSPU members – burned down churches (CofE
    opposed to their appeals), planted a bomb in Westminster Abbey, vandalised
    Oxford Street shops and golf courses, firebombed the homes of politicians and
    sailed down the Thames hurling abuse at Parliament.
•   Also used some non-violent measures however, such as refusing to pay taxes,
    chaining themselves to Buckingham Palace and welcoming arrests.
        The ‘Cat-and-Mouse’ Act
• Hunger strikes in prisons responded to by force-feeding - huge public
  outcry as this was traditionally meted out to lunatics rather than
  educated women.
• 1913 the ‘Cat-and-Mouse’ Act was introduced, which ordered that
  hunger-strikers should be released when they fell ill and re-arrested
  once they had recovered sufficient strength.
• If these women did not recover and instead died whilst on release then
  the government was able to exonerate itself from any blame or
  embarrassment. Their weakened state also meant that they could not
  engage in any violent activities whilst on release, so it provided the
  government with a very powerful weapon against the suffragettes.
• Edgar Holt:
   ‘it was an effective measure… and there were
     no more deaths from hunger strikes until 1920’.
                     State Response
• Evidence of their movements – Scotland Yard ordered a camera lens to
  carry out the first secret surveillance photography in Britain against the
  Suffragists. Also, attended meetings and kept detailed notes on them.
• 1871 – became policy for all inmates to be photographed in prison, but
  civil disobedience continued by refusing to have their photographs
  taken, so they were either captured surreptitiously whilst exercising or
  forcibly held in front of the lens.
                 Public Response
• 1913 – movement gained it’s first real martyr when Emily Davison
  threw herself under the king’s horse during the Epsom Derby. This
  was however quite counter-productive – if this is what an educated
  woman does, surely no women should be allowed to vote?
• Most photographs issued in the press however showed police and mob
  brutality which increased public sympathy.
• Central to non-violence is an awareness that brutal
  repression can produce opposition to their opponents.
  Suffragists realised that they were gaining more than
  they were losing due to these incidents generating
  sympathy. Then deliberately tried to incite violent
  reprisals in order to unease and embarrass their
  opponents and encourage them to grant them their
  demands.
       World War One and the
      Extension of the Franchise
• It is arguable that, had it not been for the First World War,
  the violent actions of the militant suffragists might have
  escalated even further (February 1913, blew up part of
  David Lloyd George’s house – a man who was widely
  considered to be a supporter of women’s rights).
• But when war broke out break out, Pankhurst and Fawcett
  told their members to cease their campaigns and lend their
  full support to the war effort and the government.
• Certain groups did continue campaigning but far less
  publicly and often carried out war-work simultaneously.
• 1918, ‘Representation of the People Act’ extended the
  franchise to certain women – result of campaigns or the
  work done by women during the war years?
The Mothers of the Disappeared
        in Argentina
   The Origins of the Movement
• Human rights groups claim that between the coup of 1976
  and 1983, 30,000 people were killed under military rule in
  Argentina in what became known as the Dirty War.
• In the years following the coup, sons and daughters began
  to disappear ‘if they raised their fists, raised their voices,
  raised their eyebrows’ (McAllister).
• The families were then left with no news, good or bad,
  about the whereabouts of their children, so went daily to
  the Ministry of the Interior in Buenos Aires to try to get
  information.
• Eventually, these women were each informed that their
  case was being ‘processed’.
 The Founding of the Movement
• Azucena de Vicenti decided that they should instead
  convene outside, on the Plazo de Mayo, where the world
  could see them.
• April 13 1977 - fourteen women gathered together in an
  illegal public demonstrations, which went largely
  unnoticed due to the day chosen (Saturday).
• Thursday afternoons were selected for their protests and,
  on these days, increasing numbers of women walked
  slowly in a circle carrying pictures of their missing
  children.
       Publicity and Repression
• 5 October 1977, the women raised the funds to buy an
  advertisement that appeared in La Prensa. This advert
  featured the pictures of 237 ‘disappeared’ next to their
  mother’s names and carried the headline ‘We Do Not Ask
  for Anything More than the Truth’.
• Ten days later several-hundred women brought a petition
  to congress bearing 24, 000 signatures.
• Harsh and repressive state response – harassment and
  arrests of women and foreign journalists.
• However, the mothers continued to visibly protest every
  Thursday in large numbers and held open meetings, to
  which grieving relatives could come for information and
  support.
 The Silencing of the Movement
• Meetings infiltrated by‘Gustavo’, (Alfredo Astiz), who led
  the women into a trap after befriending them.
• December 1977, nine women leaving a meeting
  ‘disappeared’ just before another advertisement was
  released. Two days later another three women were to
  vanish, including one of the founders Azucena De Vicenti.
• Real impact on the movement – the following Thursday
  only forty women came to the Plaza and when the
  movement called a press conference only four foreign
  journalists dared to attend.
• 1978/ early 1979 - the protests with much smaller numbers
  and weekly arrests.
• Women still met in the sanctuary of churches, where notes
  were passed and decisions made in silence.
                  Re-emergence
• May 1979, the women re-emerged with with much greater
  organisation – decided to formalise their structure, hold
  elections, become legally registered as an organisation and
  to open a bank account to store the funds that had been
  coming to them from international supporters.
• Offices rented and the ‘House of the Mothers’ established,
  published their own bulletin from these facilities.
• Resumed their weekly marches at the Plaza - wore flat
  shoes and white scarves to symbolise the blankets of the
  lost children. Photos carried and mega-phones used to
  broadcast individual stories to the people in the streets.
• Cruel police repression continued but the women were
  now more organised and determined so remained both
  courageous and visible, attracting yet more support and
  sympathy to their cause.
                            Legacy
• 26 January 2006, final March of Resistance - no longer considered the
  government to be hostile to their crusade. Weekly silent vigils
  continued however.
• Other South American women have followed their lead and they have
  also been credited with causing political change in Argentina.
• The military has admitted that over 9,000 of those kidnapped are still
  unaccounted for, but the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo say that the
  number is closer to 30,000. Of these, it is believed that around 500
  were adopted by military-related families and that the others were
  killed (numbers hard to determine due to secrecy).
• The Mothers’ have now established an independent
  university, a bookstore, a library and a cultural centre;
  facilities that provide subsidised and free education,
  healthcare and other services to the public and students.
      Additional Case Studies
The following examples
provide additional case studies
for female participation in
non-violent resistance:

•The Women in Black in Israel
and Serbia
•The Greenham Common
Women’s Peace Camp
•The Rosenstrasse in Germany,
who successfully protested
against the detention of their
Jewish husbands in Nazi Berlin    Rosenstrasse
Final Topic for Debate - Are women inherently more
suited to non-violent resistance than men?


  M.K. Gandhi,
  Young India, 10 April 1930:
  ‘ To call women the weaker sex is a libel; it is man's
  injustice to woman. If by strength is meant brute strength,
  then, indeed, is woman less brute than man. If by strength
  is meant moral power, then woman is immeasurably man's
  superior. Has she not greater intuition, is she not more
  self-sacrificing, has she not greater powers of endurance,
  has she not greater moral courage? Without her man
  could not be. If non-violence is the law of our being, the
  future is with women. Who can make a more effective
  appeal to the heart than woman?’
     Gandhi’s Attitude Towards
              Women
• Gandhi believed that women had a great moral
  purity and tolerance for enduring pain, apparently
  making them ideal candidates for his satyagraha
• However, he was also a traditionalist and wanted
  women to keep spinning and leave the law-
  breaking to the men.
• He did later relent on this stance after the women
  inspired by him to participate in civil disobedience
  complained about this exclusion.
  Non-violence and the ‘Bubble’
• Gandhi stated that he had learnt non-violence from
  his wife Kasturb, who behaved like a traditional
  Hindu wife; gentle, patient, loving yet able to
  resist his ‘petty tyrannies’.
• As such, is non-violence inherently more suited to
  women or does it acquire an additional potency
  when men act against centuries of societal
  conditioning and denounce violence?
• One theory: men have to renounce violence whilst
  women often are actually stepping out from a safe
  environment to participate in non-violence
  (Flinders - ‘From ‘Bubble’ to Action’).
       Questions for Discussion
• Are women particularly suited to non-violent resistance
  and, if so, why?
• With female non-violence, to what extent has emotional
  appeal outweighed rational argument?
• How has the stress on women’s familial roles contributed
  to or informed certain protests?
• Does non-violence enable both sexes to transcend
  conventional gender roles (as argued by Carol Flinders) or
  does it play on them to enhance its emotional potency?
• Is female non-violence predominantly personally
  motivated rather than ideologically?
• Is it generally shaped by any theoretical understanding of
  non-violence or does it tend to be spontaneously generated
  from below?
Key References:

 Eglin, Josephine, Women and peace: from the
  Suffragists to the Greenham women’ in Taylor and
  Young (eds.), Campaigns for Peace: British Peace
  Movements in the Twentieth Century.
 Flinders, Caroline, Nonviolence: Does Gender
  Matter?. www.turningthetide.org
 McAllister, Pam, ‘You Can’t Kill the Spirit:
  Women and Nonviolent Action’ in Zunes, Kurtz
  and Asher (eds.), ‘Nonviolent Social Movements:
  A Geographical Perspective’.

				
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