Monday, May 16

Of conflicts and gender patterns

The war in Ukraine, which we sometimes forget began years ago, is a catalog of terrible images that show the worst and the best of human beings, as the easy saying goes. Help and delivery, on the one hand, bloody violence, on the other. Wars also describe the gender roles into which society is divided. You here; you over there And a little more. That the days before the attacks the newsworthy images were of gentlemen sitting in chairs deciding the future of a possible invasion is usual. Take a look at the international section of any media: if it is rare to see women in the news (only 26 percent of the subjects that appear on radio, press and television are women, according to 2020 data from the latest Global Monitoring of Media) it is even rarer to see them when talking about geopolitical issues (the data from the same study focused on transnational media, that is, those that make international information in a generalized way, drop to 13%). And, less, now that Angela Merkel has left the presidency of Germany after 16 years. Her departure from the first line of hers has modified the photos that illustrate what is called international, that is, what does not happen at home. That normally white men decide what happens in the world is not news, although it should be: a few people, cut from the same pattern, draw what is called world order (or disorder). And that many times the media reply without question.

For a workshop that is irrelevant, I gave the example of the International section of a medium that is also irrelevant. Because the important thing about the example is not the exception, but the rule. The boss. It was a day in November 2021, and the first five news items in the section were about men and with images of men. The headline of the sixth read ‘A Chilean constituent shows her torso after breast cancer in the Assembly: “I have felt her guilt since the diagnosis”’, and there was a photo. That is, women appear as an anecdote, as victims and for the photo.

Once the bombs have been dropped (and here I do not dare to make an analysis of the role of traditional masculinity in making wars) it is, above all, soldiers who nurture armies. That enlistment is voluntary should lead to questions that help understand why there are more men than women in the world’s armies. Surely it has to do with traditional masculinity and also with gender roles. Men to fight and women to support. And that is grossly unfair. Because it is unfair that men cannot leave Ukraine to be available for a compulsory call to take up a weapon, and it is just as unfair that in the face of this obligation it is women who, for the most part, have to take care of the girls and children. And I know that there are exceptions, that there are women who are taking up arms and who are staying. I also know that there are men who want to stay and others who are going exclusively to that, to war.

But the question should be why do men nurture armies (Spain data they collect that men represent 87.1% of the personnel of the Army and common bodies and women 12.8; if we climb the ranks, one percentage decreases and the other increases) and why women have to take care of the smallest citizens and, therefore, vulnerable. Talking about gender roles is also this. Because in situations as extreme as a war, they are very shiny. I would give for another report to see what situation trans people are in Ukraine.

Reading an armed conflict with a gender (or feminist) approach always brings to light the use of women’s bodies as a weapon of war, don’t forget. The violations of women, even by what they call peacekeepers like the UN blue helmets, are also an element that plays a fundamental role in armed conflicts. Although nobody wants to see it, although nobody wants to assume it. In Colombia, for example, it has not been possible to include sexual violence in the Special Jurisdiction for Peace, created with the Peace Accords, because there is no problem in admitting murders, but there are rapes. No one rapes, it seems.

The social dynamics that are participating in the Ukraine conflict are practically universal. There are already several reports about the danger that women who leave as refugees fall into the hands of trafficking networks, many for the purpose of sexual exploitation. And then the gaze goes to the southern border of Europe. “The migratory path of women and girls is profoundly crossed by physical and sexual violence. Trafficking is, in many cases, the only way to reach Europe.” pick up a report from Zehar (former CEAR Euskadi). Without forgetting that “We women flee for reasons that are not even contemplated in international law.” Are gender violence and sexual violence causes to flee a country? Do the International sections report this? How much violence is reproduced in armed conflicts?

Wars are a mirror of the human condition and also of the culture of gender. Narrating them must involve questioning those patterns.