What does integrating a masculinities perspective in peacebuilding imply?

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What does integrating a masculinities perspective in peacebuilding imply?

The International Fellowship of Reconciliation's Women Peacemakers Program (IFOR/WPP), co-facilitating partner for this dialogue, believes that gender-sensitive peacebuilding involves going beyond a focus on women and also includes integrating a masculinities perspective.

  • What does integrating a masculinities perspective in gender-sensitive peacebuilding imply for militarization?
  • Does a masculinities perspective imply demilitarization, and if so, could this provide the basis for a new peace and security paradigm?
  • Can a masculinities perspective change patriarchal institutions and structures?
Gender-sensitive peacebuilding

In my opinion engaging in gender-sensitive peacebuilding means to pay attention to the unique needs, interests and ideas of different groups in society – including men and women, but also ethnic minorities, young people, etc.

Too often gender is misunderstood as merely having to do with women. Gender units in national and international institutions focus on ‘women’s issues’ and civil society organisations concerned with the rights of women fail to pay attention to men.

Gender, I would argue, refers to socially constructed identities we are expected to perform in a society. Characteristics of masculinity and feminity differ according to time and context. Many societies, however, value masculinity as more than feminity and war is often associated with manliness.

Consequently, constraints to e.g. equality between women and men cannot be fixed by focusing on women. What is required is attention to the socially constructed roles of, relationships between, and responsibilities of men and women.

A gender-sensitive approach to peacebuilding, in my opinion, is also about being inclusive. It is about ensuring the participation of and paying attention to the different needs and ideas of all parts of society. Hence I would argue that gender-sensitive peacebuilding goes beyond ensuring equality between women and men in conflict-affected societies to also include attention to the needs, rights, interests and ideas of other marginalised communities e.g. ethnic and religious minorities, young people, etc.

I will save further thoughts on the relevance of feminism / gender to discussions about peace and security for another post…

Gender sensitive peacebuilding

Hello Sanne!

A long time ago!!!

I do agree with what what you are elaborating!!! For instance in my country, gender sensitive peacebuilding implies diffetent actions regarding the context of repatriation process and the rebuilding of the country after many years of war; a power country and country at a higher risk of conflict!!! Even different approaches needs to be conflict sensitive and Gender Sensitive Peacebuilding is a Conflcit Sensitive Approach!!!

From this perpective, through Fountain-ISOKO, I m encouraging actions around:

- Packages and sexospecifics needs in order to address issues relating to rapatriement ( women and men do not have the same needs) for a gender sensitive peacebuilding.

- Income generative activities for vulnerables (women and men): working together offer more learning opportunities for a gender sensitive peacebuilding.

- Entrepreunership and Profesionnal Eduction: the youth ( girls and boys) is not getting job opportunities and this is an other form of barrier to gender sensitive peacebuilding.

Sanne and others, are there any tool or idea within EPLO and others organizations for gender sensitive peacebuilding which could fit with these appraches Fountain -ISOKO is encouraging in Burundi???

Take care!!!


Beliefs about men

At MRI we have found it helpful to clearly articulate a few foundational beliefs about men and masculinity that underlie our work of engaging men and promoting partnership between women and men. Here's what we say.

Beliefs About Men

  1. Men are naturally loving, caring and sensitive with other men, with women and with children.
  2. Men are trained to be masculine in a way that leads to attitudes and behaviors that are unhealthy for ourselves, our families, our communities and our world.
  3. This training into masculinity both privileges and damages us.
  4. All men have been profoundly impacted by violence and abuse. This may be in our families, on the street, through the media, racism, classism, homophobia, etc.
  5. Violence and domination are used by men to control our feelings of fear and powerlessness, and to protect our privileges.
  6. By supporting each other, men can learn to become role models and agents of change for healthy manhood.
  7. As partners with women, men can play an important role in ending violence and creating healthy families and communities.
Masculinities perspective and militarization

This question cuts to the core of the work, as redefining masculinity and men's roles in regard to women threatens the bedrock patriarchal institution of the military including economics, tradition, the currency of violence, preferences of traditional violent masculinity and market capitalism. The case of  Libya shows military intervention swiftly chosen and advocated for by Obama's close female advisors, Susan Rice, Samantha Power and of course Hillary. Today's New York Times has article on Power who states that intervention was necessary to avoid genocide. Women and men continue to privilege military options from places of power. Masculinities will need to work with/against militarism and is doing so at the UN level, where the recent DPKO report and SG's work is indicative of this.

Negative aspects from the masculinity are destroying societies!!

On my point of view, men and women are both suffering from negative aspects of the masculinity whereas positive masculinity can be exploited for the sake of both of men and women!!! what is strange is that only negative aspects of the masculinity are used in different societies and these aspects are used against women and men!!! We need then to promote positive masculinity and to allow debates on negatie masculinity so that people should arise they conscious on how negative masculinity is destroying our society.

Promoting positive masculinity is a key strategy on the way of Peacebuilding

Male priviledges

Interesting what you say about how male priviledges affects not only women but also men.  Yet, somehow this prevails on our societies, perhaps indicating that those priviledges outweight the damages of the powerful so the patriarchal system continues.  Engaging men into resolving a perverse societal system that is in our benefit might be very tricky, in other words, What is in for men, one could ask, if we are already in a position of power and priviledge? How can a man choose a suppossed communal benefit over his real own one? Particularly on the subject of peace building, how can a person or a group (men) chose over peace if war is in their benefit?  Of course this is on very general terms.  I ask these questions because I would like see different perspectives on it, particularly feminist/gender perspective i imagine could be a good tool to disentangle my confusion.

gendered response and men

hi all,

what fascinates me in the discussion is the mashup between actions of men, masculinity or gendered driven actions by men als well as women and the reasons to be peacefull instead of taking up weapons or hitting your spouse. What I see in for instance libya now is a lot of men swaying with weapons, helping as a medic, but what can they do without arms and where are the women?

the beliefs on men, posted earlier are very interesting because i think that in essence they are valid, but to really believe them is for a lot of men outside their comfortzone, what I think is necessary is to reformulate them so that they fit for 'real' men...

beliefs about men and real men

Hello Ton.

I'm curious who you mean when you say "real men."

We have been using these beliefs about men in MRI workshops for many years with diverse groups of men, and mixed groups of men and women, around the world. While they are often initially outside of their comfort zone, most people are relieved to have a framework for understanding that men are not naturally violent and for believing in an inherent, powerful desire for a "positive masculinity" that they can be proud of.

Here's another tool we use in our training. In telling this story many people can see their own experience reflected. http://www.mensresourcesinternational.org/documents/journey_to_healthy_manhood.pdf


The military is the ultimate institution, which is defined by hyper-masculine characteristics; relationships are defined in terms of strict hierarchies, one is either superior or inferior and the superior group or person has the right to exercise power of the inferior group. War is the ultimate expression and attempt to exert control and power over others.

A gender-sensitive approach, which considers the need to deconstruct violent expressions of being a (real) man and values alternative nonviolent expressions of being a (real) man, does not go together with such an institution. The integration of such a gender perspective into peacebuilding ultimately challenges the existence and legitimacy of the military institution. However, many actors, e.g. private companies, multinational corporations and governments and state institutions, are profiting from the existence of military institutions and the belief that weapons have to be used in order to deal with conflicts (indeed Libya as Patti mentioned is an example) – and they’re not ready yet to give up this power and profitable business. And men, women and children continue to die.  

Further thoughts on gender, peace and security

Jose de Vries wrote:

War is the ultimate expression and attempt to exert control and power over others.

I would like to add to this some further thoughts on peace and security.

As I already highlighted in my post yesterday, gender relates to relationships of domanince and exclusion. A gender-sensitive approach to peacebuilding for one means taking an inclusive, positive approach to peace that ensures all voices and concerns are included. 

Applying a gender-lense to peace and security practice also forces us to question and reconstruct notions of security. Traditional, state-based thinking about security is often hard power / military focused. Security new-style is a much broader notion that is not exclusively state- but also 'people-centered' and goes beyond 'state and regional boundaries' (Tickner). 


Gender theory of war

Indeed, notions of security are rather narrowly defined by states and state-based institutions. Great point!

I think we have to keep in mind that patriarchal gender power relations, especially men and masculine cultures, are implicated in militarism, militarization and war. Feminist researcher and writer Cynthia Cockburn addressed this topic in the WPP Publication "Together for Transformation- Men, Masculinities and Peacebuilding" (2010). I gave the link under the resource section. I would like to use some of her analysis here to address the notion of a gender theory of war. 

"We have to somehow find a way of talking about femininity and masculinity that distances them a little bit from actual women and men. We need to visualize gender not as an individual attribute of you, me or him, something we are born with, but as a set of forces, values, expectations, incentives and punishments, that as individuals we have to negotiate with, to deal with, struggle with, as we become who we become, as we find our identities. 

However...the relationship between what actual individual people do and experience, and the gender relations they are caught up in, is very slippery. We do have to start with the brute fact that there IS actually a difference in the positioning of actual women and actual men in relation to power, to violence and war. 

The overwhelming majority of the soldiers killed in Afghanistan have been men. Men pay a heavy price for being the militarized sex. But increasingly there are women like this who volunteer for a military career.

So it’s here that we need to make a second point. The exceptions to the gender rule, such as woman soldiers, do not disprove the rule of gender. The position of the gender minority, the exceptions, is not the same as that of the majority, who are the norm – it remains gender-specific.

Research has shown that women soldiers have difficulty getting promotion, and that they are frequently harassed and raped by their male colleagues and senior officers. To be a woman soldier is not the same as to be a man soldier, and it is not perceived as being the same.

What is more important for the purposes of this talk today is that men who choose not to do “standard-issue” masculinity cannot slip unpunished into role reversal. A man who refuses to fight is not seen in the same way as a woman who chooses not to join the army. Because – what we are talking about here is not a bunch of individual men and women in neutral environments. We are looking at fiercely gendered cultures. The overall gender order of the world we live in is made up of organizations and institutions, each of which has its gender regime – and all but a few of them are male dominant.

Can we imagine a men’s organization addressing gender in relation to war and peace. Men coming together and saying “don’t exploit my masculinity for militarism”. Men saying “the association of men with violence is a huge problem in human civilizations”. Men coming together and saying “work for gender change is work for peace”. Men telling us how men themselves are deformed and damaged by militarization and war, and organizing to work with military men, and with boys, on these issues?" 

  Jose, I think what you


Jose, I think what you bring up is very relevent...the shift in focus away from the individual to systems, instititions and organizations many of them global which must be analyzed if we are to really understand how masculinities are knitted into the very fabric of our society; men and women. As you say 'gender  is  not ( just) as an individual attribute of you, me or him', but is a heavily politicized, profitable business where those that fund peace and development  inititiatives and dialogues have clear stakes. There is much to be lost in viewing this newfound interest in a much neglected area'masculinities' if the debate remains at the level of looking at individual men's attitudes and whether they are loving with their children and families. This attitude is not what will save them from being sucked up into war/violence vortex.....it may be an important step, yet..sadly I feel too much attention/money tends to be focussed on this and we lose sight of the larger systems: the war industry, capitalism, coporate interests that fuel these engines.

Media - Example Martin Luther King and anti-militarism

Hi Maria

Thanks for your response. Yes, indeed,  gender, peace and security and militarization (and de-militarization for that matter) are highly politicized matters.

In this regard, I also wanted to raise awareness to the role of the media (I am not sure if this has been addressed in another post, I dont think so yet?), which is also a politicized matter and largely influences our attitudes, values and perceptions of what is either 'good' or 'bad'. I read an interesting article on Martin Luther King, who condemned militarism in the US. However, he was silenced back then on this specific topic, and still largely so. I have pasted the article below and it can be found here as well: http://www.alternet.org/media/81389

Considering the role of the media, it's important to train media, journalists and editors on issues of peacebuilding, peacejournalism and gender.

40 Years Later, Martin Luther King Is Still Silenced
In his last year of life King condemned American militarism. But we don't see that in retrospectives.

April 5, 2008  |  


Soon after Martin Luther King's birthday became a federal holiday in 1986, I began prodding mainstream media to cover the dramatic story of King's last year as he campaigned militantly against U.S. foreign and economic policy. Most of his last speeches were recorded. But year after year, corporate networks have refused to air the tapes.

On Thursday night, NBC Nightly anchor Brian Williams enthused over new color footage of King that adorned its coverage of the 40th anniversary of the assassination. The report focused on the last phase of King's life. But the same old blinders were in place.

NBC showed young working class whites in Chicago taunting King. But there was no mention of how elite media had taunted King in his last year. In 1967 and 68, mainstream media saw Rev. King a bit like they now see Rev. Jeremiah Wright.

Back then they denounced King's critical comments; today they simply silence them.

While noting in passing that King spoke out against the Vietnam War, mainstream reports today rarely acknowledge that he went way beyond Vietnam to decry U.S. militarism in general: "I could never again raise my voice against the violence of the oppressed in the ghettos," said King in 1967 speeches on foreign policy, "without having first spoken clearly to the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today -- my own government."

In response to these speeches, Newsweek said King was "over his head" and wanted a "race-conscious minority" to dictate U.S. foreign policy. Life magazine described the Nobel Peace Prize winner as a communist pawn who advocated "abject surrender in Vietnam." The Washington Post couldn't have been more patronizing: "King has diminished his usefulness to his cause, to his country, and to his people."

When King's moral voice moved beyond racial discrimination to international issues, the New York Times attacked his efforts to link the civil rights and antiwar movements.

King's sermons on Vietnam could get as angry as those of Barack Obama's ex-pastor: "God didn't call America to engage in a senseless, unjust war ... We've committed more war crimes almost than any nation in the world." In 1967, King was also criticizing the economic underpinnings of U.S. foreign policy, railing against "capitalists of the West investing huge sums of money in Asia, Africa and South America, only to take the profits out with no concern for the social betterment of the countries." Today, capitalists of the West reap huge profits from their domination of media -- in the U.S. and abroad.

Thankfully, we now have the Internet and independent media outlets where King's later speeches are available for the ages.

If King had survived to hear the war drums beating for the invasion and occupation of Iraq -- amplified by TV networks and the New York Times front page and Washington Post editorial page -- there's little doubt where he'd stand. Or how loudly he'd be speaking out.

And there's little doubt how big media would have reacted. On Fox News and talk radio, King would have been Dixie Chicked ... or Rev. Wrighted. In corporate centrist outlets, he'd have been marginalized faster than you can say Noam Chomsky.

One suspects King would be marveling at the rise of Barack Obama and the multiracial movement behind him. But would he be happy with Obama and other Democratic leaders who heap boundless billions onto the biggest military budget in world history?

In 1967, King denounced a Democratic-controlled Congress for fattening the military budget while cutting anti-poverty programs, declaring: "A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death."

I very much agree that an

I very much agree that an obstacle for gender-sensitive peacebuilding is also the the notion of "extreme" masculinity prevailing in the military. This goes together with a very discriminatory view on women, and research on the sexualized language use by military shows in my view how deep the notion of misogyny sits (see Carol Cohn research). How can (male) soldiers trained in this way act gender-sensitive and critically reflect on masculinity?

The gender trainings introduced within the UN peacekeeping forces are also not especially useful here. The concept offemininity provided in these training is based on the idea that women are basically vulnerable and potential victims. However, this encourages the "traditional" masculinity, reinforcing the claim of protection and is contraproductive when working on redefining hegemonic masculinity. The trainings should have to deal with the concept of masculinity, including the idea of femininity it implies. But how can this go together with the "concept" of the institution of military? Is there a chance for transformation there?

resistance and where it fits w/in gender-sensitive peacebuilding

So I guess I’ll go ahead and stir up the hornet’s nest. I will not pretend to speak as an authority for the Middle East as it is complex and varied and like all places there are many perspectives and types of people, despite how it is represented in the mainstream media, but I will speak from my experiences here and working on these issues and also growing up as a part of the Arab diaspora active in the communities in the United States. It is very easy as a feminist and peace activist to dismiss militarization wholesale, however, we often hear here about right to resist. I know that people often tend to get our hackles raised around this for a few reasons:

…starting from the premise that war and militarization are overall equated with "bad," to be quite simplistic, but I think we've already expanded on much of the logic behind this already, and all of what was previously stated is quite true,

…and that also earlier eager movements advocating for the “right” to include women in military or even decision-making posts with authority to commission military acts have been later seen as problematic because of flawed assumptions that this would automatically change institutions rather than women then also becoming as militarized or moreso, ultimately not advancing and often acting to the detriment of gender-sensitive or peacebuilding agendas, and

…women’s involvement in las luchas or struggles around the world typically resulting in their de-prioritization after the dust has settled and the objectives have been accomplished and the resistance is in power, then often replicating some of the practices of the ruling power it just deposed. I think there has been perceived to be in the MENA region increasing lack of direct participation of women in armed resistance relative to the 60s and 70s from Algeria to Palestine, although participation of course can still mean different ways of supporting and there have been some female suicide bombers in Iraq and Palestine in the 90s and after (suicide bombing also itself being a rather recent phenomenon contrary to popular belief particularly in the West), but even still, quite a shift since the days of Leila Khaled as a well-known symbol of Palestinian resistance, with the famous replicated image of her with the kaffiyeh holding the gun against herself. It has been very rewarding/gratifying for many of us to see women so involved in the forefront of the people’s revolutions sweeping certain countries that were authoritarian bastions in the Middle East where we thought change would never erupt from under the suppression, but again, questions of SGBV and gender violence as a weapon of war and militarized/police institutions are already emerging (as Isabelle Geuskens discussed in a post on a different thread), as also the priority level given in new governments to women’s concerns, but in some ways, it is still a comfortable zone for activists, because by and large, the protests were classified as “peaceful” and they were “internal” situations, people freed themselves from the shackles of their evil despot leaders, even if yesterday they were friends of Western powers, even if often the leaders had more to do with the external support holding them in position despite being from the same ethnicity/people (another interesting gender discussion in itself, in terms of the hyperfocusing and demonizing of one masculine unitary actor before going to war, the Saddam Hussein cookie cutter mold, not to say that they are not as horrific as characterized, but it is also always isolated outside of a historical or institutional context in media depictions).

The zone we are not so comfortable in is if people, including women, have the right of resistance against foreign occupations and colonial presences, as enshrined in international protocols, but again very much all currently under the same brushstroke of applying the label terrorism: to individuals, to political parties, to acts, to societies. Like many other "third world" women around the world in the past couple generations, frequently women in the MENA region do not just seem themselves as women, but as members of that community/society, active participants in institutions there, wives and mothers and sisters and daughters, so they cannot be women without being Palestinian or Iraqi or Lebanese, etc. and without being related to the Palestinian, Iraqi, or Lebanese men. They cannot delink Palestinian from woman as an identity, not when being Palestinian means not being free. They still see decolonization and de-occupation and defense against foreign invasion as important issues as those are the situations that affect their people, their families, their rights daily and also in terms of a viable future. They often see resistance as about feminist/women’s struggle, a responsibility to their people, including the women. They see a lack of options, with peaceful resistance spanning back since the 1940s but shot down and brutalized, with non-violent resistance leaders often jailed or deported (i.e. reference Mubarak Awad) and no real avenues for change within the political system, and with a lack of international willingness to protect or even be impartial. One quote I hear a lot is "how can we be free when our men are incarcerated?" or "how can we be free as women when we live in a prison?" And it’s not just women in Palestine, but women all over the region and the diaspora that see the Palestinian situation in particular as the root cause/key to solving many related issues in the region, the symbol of whether there is real freedom or not for the people in the Middle East. For them, no justice, no peace.

Anyway, if we write this off and do not listen to what people see as a legitimate right and do not engage with this, within our larger discussions of masculinity and militarization, then I think we risk not being engaged with the context here and the experience of many women and men in the MENA region and perhaps finding ways to still make this gender-sensitive and linked to peacebuilding while respecting rights to self-determination, even with the dilemmas this presents. Curious as to what people think about this, but I felt some responsibility to bring it up.

Middle East

Hi Olivia

You raise a lot of interesting points here! Thanks for that.

Many thoughts come to my mind, and let me just pick a few of them. I don’t live in the Middle East and I’m sure you know the situation better than I do, however, here I go :-)

The issue of the link between nationalism, militarism and patriarchy is an interesting one. Of course countries have the right to resist to occupying forces (interestingly enough; who defines terrorism? When the US invades a country its called ‘ foreign invasion’, when other countries do this its called ‘ terrorism’ – what’s in a name). The past few ‘foreign invasions’ were, for a large part, legitimized in the name of women’s rights, the major example being Afghanistan. However, women’s rights have not particularly improved - as far as I understand it -. Check out the latest interview with Malalai Joya on Cultures of Resistance: http://www.culturesofresistance.org/malalai-joya

Yet the point is; what kind of resistance are you advocating for? Yes, nonviolent leaders have been jailed, as others have been as well. However, other nonviolent leaders remain. I saw an interesting trailer on nonviolent Palestinian resistance in Budrus, in which different groups were united, including Israeli nonviolent activists. (you could check it out here: http://thedianerehmshow.org/shows/2010-06-24/budrus-palestinian-village-and-documentary-film). And other nonviolent activists are there. 

In my opinion resistance could be much broader than only military resistance – network building between women’s peace organizations and movements in the Middle East and the US and joined lobby questioning the legitimacy of US support could be one of these- there are some gains to make there. The US is such an important factor in terms of Israeli support - military, diplomatic, media etc – in the region, and the broader region as a whole. As far as I know, US opinion of the people is quite different from US policy. 

We also know the calls for Boycotts (Boycotts, divestment and sanctions), which could be used to challenge the assistance, including military, towards Israel (rather than e.g boycott of Israeli academics, which in itself doesn’t seem to be the best way to go).

I think in terms of seeing resistance as a feminist struggle – yes of course, quite understandable. Yet, Egypt comes to mind, in which men and women joined on Tahrir square, however on March 8 – International Women’s Day – the women were harassed and told “to fight their own struggle’ – I think countering this requires support from (the pro-feminist) male allies – men who do see the link between the feminist struggle and the broader resistance struggle. That the women’s struggle is not “ something which comes later”, but its something inherent in the same oppressive system which is targeted. 

Creating violent masculinities/humanities

Dear Olivia en José,

The discussion about the justified use of violence in resistance versus radical nonviolence or pacifism is very recognizable for me, speaking from the Dutch context, and within our country the radical left. In these circles, discourses about resistance and revolution are common, even normative, and the use of violence is legitimized and sometimes glorified by pointing out and amplifying the injustices committed by our country, politicians, businessmen, the police, the military, and the system as a whole.

I can agree with a radical analysis that puts a lot of responsibility for worldwide inequality, suffering, injustices etc. in the hands of countries like ours, where we and our welfare system profit from crimes against people and humanity elsewhere. And I do support resistance to these horrible facts, both here and elsewhere, in many ways. I can even imagine that in some situations it is not possible to overcome the use of violence, in very direct or more indirect cases of self defence.

However, violence is easier said than done, and it comes with a cost. Not only victims of violence suffer, also perpetrators carry the scars and traumas of the use of violence. This is where a problematic image of masculinity comes in: that it is masculine, and thus worthwhile, to be able to deal with violence, both to endure it when it is used against yourself, and to act out violently against others if the situation demands is. But when does a situation demand it? For many young men, situations easily demand the use of violence, because they need to prove their masculinity, they have to measure themselves against others, even - or especially - among their own group.

In my opinion, the use of violence should be considered very thoroughly, because of what it does to the people who are using it. We create violent people, violent masculinities, violent humanities by thinking of violence as a logical thing to do. Violence should be the exception, very exceptional. And we should support the ones who had to deal with violence in order to regain their full humanness...

Pepetrators of violence

HI Jens

Thank you for addressing the notion of suffering perpetrators experience as well. Its currently quite recognized (In contrast to years back) that many soldiers and combatants, returning from conflict and war areas, are suffering from their experiences, including the (forced) use of violence, resulting in Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, depression and other related mental health problems. More often than not, when returning home, men dont know how to deal with 1) the de-masculinization process of returning in a society which is not as much defined by hypercharacteristics as the military institution is, and 2) the suffering and trauma they experience - often resulting in an increased drug and alcohol abuse, and domestic violence, amonst other issues. Female ex-combatants are confronted with other experiences upon returning home, such as having been sexually harassed and/or raped in conflict times, not being recognized for 'their contribution in the conflict', pressure to return to traditional gender roles - just to name a few (of course these are general, not context-specific and perhaps Olivia has additions or editions to make based on her specific experience in the Middle East).

A few years back - being a psychologist - I was working in Dutch institute for specialist diagnostics and treatment of psychotrauma complaints resulting from persecution, war and violence. Not only the victims of violence, but also 'perpetrators' of violence being ex-combatants and veterans were treated there. Another point in this regard is the mental health problems children experience, while not having experienced violence themselves;  On the whole, this includes people who have not been exposed to organised violence themselves yet who have psychological complaints that are connected with the traumatization of one or both parent(s) that they may not have come to terms with. The parents of these adults were themselves war victims or had been members of the resistance (called post-war generation). For more information on this centre, one could have a look at: http://www.centrum45.nl/ 

Resources on breaking the cycle of violence

Jose de Vries wrote:

Its currently quite recognized (In contrast to years back) that many soldiers and combatants, returning from conflict and war areas, are suffering from their experiences, including the (forced) use of violence, resulting in Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, depression and other related mental health problems. More often than not, when returning home, men dont know how to deal with 1) the de-masculinization process of returning in a society which is not as much defined by hypercharacteristics as the military institution is, and 2) the suffering and trauma they experience - often resulting in an increased drug and alcohol abuse, and domestic violence, amonst other issues.

Yes, this is certainly a dangerous cycle.  For those of you interested in reading more about how practitioners are working to break this cycle of violence - victimization - violence, take a look at our past dialogue on Healing of Memories: Overcoming the Wounds of History.  This dialogue was co-hosted by the Institute for the Healing of Memories (IHOM) based in South Africa.  IHOM is a response to the emotional, psychological and spiritual wounds that are inflicted on nations, communities and individuals by wars, repressive regimes, human rights abuses and other traumatic events or circumstances.

Their workshops actually remind me of the IFOR/WPP workshops: IHOM has developed interactive workshops that emphasize the emotional and spiritual, rather than intellectual, understanding and interpretation of the past. Through an exploration of their personal histories, participants find emotional release and as a group gain insight into and empathy for the experiences of others. These processes prepare the ground for forgiveness and reconciliation between people of diverse backgrounds, races, cultures and religions.


kantin wrote:

IHOM has developed interactive workshops that emphasize the emotional and spiritual, rather than intellectual, understanding and interpretation of the past. Through an exploration of their personal histories, participants find emotional release and as a group gain insight into and empathy for the experiences of others. These processes prepare the ground for forgiveness and reconciliation between people of diverse backgrounds, races, cultures and religions.

This is great - thanks! Yes, it reminds me of two other groups working on similar kinds of issues and interesting to mention here;

Silence speaks, which is an international digital storytelling initiative supporting the telling and witnessing of stories that often remain unspoken - of surviving and thriving in the wake of violence and abuse, armed conflict, or displacement and of challening stigma or marginalization. Check their website; http://www.silencespeaks.org/ 

Another interesting initiative in this regard is The Men's Story Project. Its mission is to strengthen social norms that support healthy masculinities and gender equality, and to help eliminate gender-based violence, homophobia and other oppressions that are intertwined with masculinities, through ongoing events of men´s public story-sharing and community dialogue. Check out: http://html.mensstoryproject.org/. An article on this project was included in the May 2010 WPP publication "Together for Transformation - Men, Masculinities and Peacebuilding".

Greetings Jose

Great examples & sayings


Hi Jose,

Thank you for pointing out the White Ribbon Campaign's "Walk a Mile in Her Shoes" event. I had totally forgotten about their great work. The video on their home page promoting the upcoming march in September 2011 is really great.

The lessons learned that you shared from your Padare participant from Zimbabwe are terrific. The lessons #1 & #2 listed made me think of the Chinese proverb, "A journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step."

Perhaps I could add another lesson that we have learned:

Take time to celebrate each small success and victory - these successes inspire us to continue, reminding us of where we have been, where we are now and where we are going!

Hi José, I'm agree with you

Hi José,

I'm agree with you on the 12 lessons: as I told one day, to work with men for peacebuilding ask to be patient and courage, it ask to repeat many times the same idea but different approaches. Deconstruct things constructed in a structural and cultural way is very challenging, that is why it asks patience,  comprehension and regular communication. Men are not naturally violent, they have to be aware of what is a positive masculinity and what could be their contribution int that behaviour.




more on the costs of resistance and one life that was taken

Thanks Jens and José so much for exploring this topic for me and I very much agree that resistance is much wider than violence and that violent resistance has its costs, especially in the militarized masculinity and accompanying feminine role (usually constricted and tied to upholding values upon which is pinned the survival of the struggle, etc.) that are generated and reinforced to carry on the struggle (although just perhaps with the added observation that sometimes in movements it is not so easily clear in distinguishing between the violence and non-violence dimensions as people might like to think). And then there is after the struggle…like what we’re facing now, what next for women and gender after the Egyptian revolution?

Regarding non-violent resistance in Palestine specifically, yes, as José you pointed out, it has taken many shapes and forms in the different generations, and sparked schools of thought and the founding of centers teaching non-violence, spanning back to tax protests even before 1948 to the BDS movement of the past decade, along with daily protests against the wall, international activists escorting children through openings in the wall and past checkpoints, the yearly olive harvest on lands that are prohibited due to “curfew,” etc. One such creative demonstration had the local population of Bil'in painted blue and dressed as Avatars, after the movie. The first intifada was classified as largely peaceful and even the second as being primarily about collective demonstrations and organizing, albeit with much more constraints, as this article describes a bit: http://blog.amnestyusa.org/middle-east/palestinian-nonviolent-resistance-has-strong-roots/.Some of the issues with non-violent organizing have been the increasing strangulation of peaceful resistance, through restricted mobility and social separation, collective and disproportionate punishment, detention of most of the male population, large fees, brutality of “savage restraint” that does not kill in mass numbers but breaks bones and humiliates (to minimize backlashes from international public opinion), as well as the overall counter-depiction in much of mainstream media due to extensive PR/lobby efforts by pro-Israel interest groups of all resistance as “violent," along with just the lack of significant success for the Palestinian justice movement in general.

But to go back to two examples, one positive and one that I was just stunned by today and not so positive and had to add to this post before I sent it: As an example regarding gender inclusion within resistance, in the protests against the wall in Bil'in and Nil’in, the women are extremely involved, even if they are not usually slinging rocks at soldiers with the young boys (which is more of a gesture of defiance than an actual weapon in light of their armor and guns, grenades, tanks, etc.). The women are a part of the marches over to the olive trees where the villages are contesting the path of the Wall and they come bringing everything they can from their household to help frontline protestors who are suffering from teargas: onions and alcohol and cotton balls to cleaning spray. There have been women-only marches to emphasize the non-violent nature and counter depictions of Palestinians as violent, as well as to heighten the PR stakes a bit, as if to dare the Israeli soldiers to fire on the women (usually they only use teargas and less live ammunition in these cases). So definitely the popular committees have been drawing on gender norms in a constructive and participatory way but one that some people might say also reinforce notions of gender difference (i.e. women as peacemakers and cilivlians, men as not), although of course people use the tools and resources they have especially when out-gunned and out-powered. It would probably require more detailed analysis of the inclusion of women in the decision-making committees and other dynamics within the society as it has shifted into daily resistance.

On a sadder note, Juliano Mer Khamis of the Freedom Theater was shot down today in Jenin and it had a lot to do with gender norms (or was expressed through that), in that certain members of the community had been inciting for a while now because they did not like his presence and used the morality/religion discourse as the rationale (they are corrupting our girls, boys and girls engaged in activities together, etc.). Many would argue that they were controlling gender relations and larger power politics in Jenin camp because they had internalized the violence and trauma and it was the only thing they could control, others might point to more of the institutionalized and socially embedded militarized masculinity of resistance that infuses itself early on and then perpetuates with high costs to the boys and girls who grow up this way (also quite evident in the film Arna's Children, about Juliano's mother and her work in establishing the theater and the children she worked with as they grew up in Jenin under occupation)...I'm sure it's both and much more complex than that, but those gender lines can be picked out. It leads to a very sad outcome for someone who did so much for the youth of Palestine and for gender and peacebuilding through theater as a vehicle for working with the youth and larger community, both female and male, for equality and justice. His was an alternative version of a masculinity and femininity of resistance and non-violent expression of both of anger and hope.

Allies on strategic places

Hi Olivia

Thanks for the Bil'in example! And yes, I read about the death of Mer-Khamis as well in the Haaretz (http://www.haaretz.com/news/national/israeli-actor-juliano-mer-khamis-shot-dead-in-jenin-1.354044)  today, its very saddening.

What I felt was also interesting was to read that a former military leader joined his group to attempt to subdue threats:

"Based in Israel, Mer-Khamis was affiliated with the local theater in Jenin, established by his mother in the 1980s. In 2006, Mer-Khamis opened the Freedom Theater in Jenin, along with Zakariya Zubeidi, the former military leader of the Al-Aqsa Martyr Brigades in that West Bank city. Zubeidi was appointed co-theater director in an attempt to subdue the ongoing threats voiced against both the institution and Mer-Khamis. The theater itself was torched twice in the past, and the threats persisted despite Zubeidei's appointment."

I dont know enough of the overall history, however, my thought was as well; having allies is important, in particular on strategic places, and levels.

For women, having male allies on (political) decision-making levels to advocate for their rights is important to advance the gender justice agenda.  

the microcosm of jenin: masculinities in the west bank

Yes, that's a really good point Jose, Zakaria Zubeidi, a former commander of Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, is a very interesting example. He was a big supporter of the theater and protector of Mer Khamis as tensions emerged in later years (he was actually one of "Arna's children", Juliano's mother who opened the first theater, and then he helped Juliano to reopen the theater after her death), so this also means a lot of things have shifted, both in the internal power relations within the camp and possibly in the larger West Bank, having a lot to do I'm sure with constructs of masculinity and the dissatisfied and conflict-affected youth, in particular. It is important to explore why and try to re-engage, because now this in many ways changes the landscape and closes a lot of entry points for further gender and peacebuilding initiatives within Jenin, whether by drama therapy or other means. Hopefully peope from inside and outside the community will rally to address this and not let this type of internal control violence perpetuate, but it is also very much tied to the larger context and the traumatic experiences of Jenin itself under occupation and the impact on men and women, girls and boys, which is then often channeled along gender lines. I will definitely try to follow this as it develops (and to see after the initial waves of support and denunciation of violence by political leaders, what really happens to the Freedom Theater on the ground).

One powerful quote from Zakaria, "“I had my chance. I had guns to express my objection,” he says. “I had to give the chance for the students here to express themselves, but not by guns. To express themselves on the stage. Hopefully the theater is stronger than the gun, and it can lead us to our freedom.” (http://mepei.com/in-focus/3538-taking-action-through-acting-jenins-freedom-theater)

For anyone in New York, I wish I could attend, coincidentally very relevant and sounds extremely interesting:

The Columbia Law School Center for Gender & Sexuality Law, Columbia University Center for Palestine Studies, and Institute for Research on Women and Gender cordially invite you to a Brown Bag Discussion:

Creating Proper Men: Masculinities, Embodiment & Agency in the West Bank

Maria Malmström

NYU Center for the Study of Gender and Sexuality Visiting Scholar

Wednesday, April 6, 2011, 12-1:10pm
Jerome Green Hall, Room 502 (Amsterdam Avenue and 116th Street, 5th floor)

In this talk, Dr. Malmström will discuss constructions of gender, embodiment and agency among male Hamas youths in the West Bank through the prism of violence. She will highlight the importance of analyzing the body in such processes – both as a gential and as victimized. To be able to move away from the sensationalist Western media that often portray Middle Eastern Muslim men as ‘violent’, and as terrorists, we need to understand the motivations and the meanings of violence. This talk will discuss constructions of masculinities in a complex interplay of violence, political Islam, suffering and loss. The method of analysis is to use a discourse-centered approach and to use experience-near ethnography that begins with men’s own practices and attends to how they understand themselves, how their bodies are involved in this process, and how they live out norms and ideologies in their everyday lives. Thereby we are able to understand how men’s realities and identities are interpreted, negotiated and constructed and how the body actively is involved in these processes. This approach is relevant since it is possible to analyze the singularity of experience, not only as a form of social interaction, but as linked to social structures and discourses, which implies negotiations of tensions, conflicts, and uncertainties.

Maria Malmström is a Swedish anthropologist and her areas of interest are the MENA region, gender, body, sexuality, politics, violence, and security. She received her PhD from the School of Global Studies, Social Anthropology, University of Gothenburg. Her dissertation examined how female gender identity is continually created and re-created in Egypt through a number of daily practices, of which female circumcision is central. The study explored how the subject is made through the interplay of global hegemonic structures of power and the most intimate sphere, which has been exposed in the international arena. She is today involved in the inter-disciplinary research project “Hamas between Sharia rule and Demo-Islam.” The study aims to investigate in what way Hamas will adopt to the new realities on the ground (together with Michael Schulz et al.). Additionally, Dr. Malmström is involved in ground research on sexual violence and armed conflict in a globalized world (together with Maria Stern and Maria Eriksson Baaz). Furthermore, she is a gender consultant (UNFPA and others), and member of several academic/policy networks, e.g. Think Tank for Arab Women.
The Institute for Research on Women and Gender
Columbia University

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