Women in war

aspect of history

The experiences of women in war have been diverse. Historically women have played a major role on the home front.

We are missing stories of women who are literally keeping life going in the midst of wars. Do you know -- do you know that people fall in love in war and go to school and go to factories and hospitals and get divorced and go dancing and go playing and live life going? And the ones who are keeping that life are women. ~ Zainab Salbi

Quotes edit

  • The link between power and gender, as expressed through the gender hierarchy of men/masculinity over women/feminity, becomes especially pronounced in times of war. War fighting and masculinity are both 'symbolically and practically linked'. The masculinity that is promoted and privileged is a militarized masculinity: 'how masculinities and men become militarized, [and] about the ways in which masculinity and the military become linked'. Men, as citizen-warriors, go to war to protect innocent civilians, namely women and children. Women, of course, also matter for the state in times of war as daughters, mothers and wives of soldiers. thereby reinforcing their domestic identity.
  • The assumption that it is the men who should be warriors seems to be almost universal through time and across cultures and, while there are examples of women warriors, the overwhelming majority of those who have fought are men. And when rules of war have developed in different societies, women, along with old people, children and, sometimes, priests have been classified as non-combatants. The reasons why men have largely done the fighting and women have not are as much debated as the origins of war itself, and again the explanations range from the biological to the cultural. If gender differences are averaged, men come out higher on the scale of strength and size and possibly aggression, but there are many big strong women who can match and surpass men. The fact that men have more testosterone than women may make them more prone to being aggressive – although scientists are far from reaching a consensus – but there are many men who are gentle by nature and do not want to fight. Militaristic societies such as Sparta or the military through the ages would not have spent so much time on training which inculcates the ‘right’ attitudes if the great majority of men were natural-born killers. Women, when they choose or are obliged to fight, can be as fierce as men.
  • Perhaps the existence in different cultures of war-making goddessesAstarte, Athena, Kali, the Valkyrie – or the legends surrounding warrior queens such as Zenobia of Palmyra is a recognition of women’s potential. It is also a way of limiting it to divine or perhaps unnatural women. From Boudicca, the British queen of the first century ad, who is often portrayed in her war chariot, to the Rani of Jhansi, who led her troops against the British in the Indian Mutiny of 1857, many cultures have stories, some legend and some based on fact, of individual women warriors. Some have fought as women but many disguised themselves as men, including Deborah Sampson, who was in the American War of Independence, and Lizzie Compton and Frances Hook in the American Civil War, who kept reenlisting when their identities were discovered. Just like the women warriors in films such as Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, Wonder Woman and Kill Bill, however, they are exceptions, seen as outside the normal order of things where war is the male sphere.
  • There are two sides of war. There is a side that fights, and there is a side that keeps the schools and the factories and the hospitals open. There is a side that is focused on winning battles, and there is a side that is focused on winning life. There is a side that leads the front-line discussion, and there is a side that leads the back-line discussion. There is a side that thinks that peace is the end of fighting, and there is a side that thinks that peace is the arrival of schools and jobs. There is a side that is led by men, and there is a side that is led by women. And in order for us to understand how do we build lasting peace, we must understand war and peace from both sides. We must have a full picture of what that means.
  • They are women who are standing on their feet in spite of their circumstances, not because of it. Think of how the world can be a much better place if, for a change, we have a better equality, we have equality, we have a representation and we understand war, both from the front-line and the back-line discussion.
  • The Prophet passed by me at a place called Al-Abwa or Waddan, and was asked whether it was permissible to attack the pagan warriors at night with the probability of exposing their women and children to danger. The Prophet replied, "They (i.e. women and children) are from them (i.e. pagans)." I also heard the Prophet saying, "The institution of Hima is invalid except for Allah and His Apostle."

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