chapter  12
16 Pages

Women in Militant Movements

(Un)Comfortable Silences and Discursive Strategies
WithSwati Parashar

This anxiety expressed by a senior feminist academic at a workshop on the ‘war question in feminism’ in Sweden, which I also attended in September 2008, sums up the angst within feminist (particularly international relations [IR]) scholarship, which has yet to come to terms with the multiple roles of women in war situations. One would think that feminist scholarship has moved beyond reductionist analyses of women as ‘victims’ of war, as civilian casualties, collateral damage and as antiwar/peace activists (Sylvester and Parashar 2009). However, the (un)comfortable silences or excessive curiosities I have often encountered in conferences and workshops where others or I have raised the issue of violent/militant women suggests that gender essentialization and/or exceptionality continue to be the discursive frameworks that inform analyses of women’s violence and thereby perpetuate war myths (Sjoberg and Gentry 2007; Parashar 2009; MacKenzie 2010). The question asked of women’s violence and their participation in wars is always about motivations and subjectivity. The assumption here is that there is always a personal (is not political?) motive involved and women’s political violence is often the consequence of patriarchal manipulations. Feminism itself has remained camped within peace and antiwar discourses and has situated war outside the ‘everyday’ experiences of women (Sylvester 2010b).