Feminists, the fight is not over.
This week has been a celebration for many around the country–we’ve won a massive victory against fascism and racism in the United States. However, it’s important not to lose sight of our end goal. In order to truly work toward racial, gender, and social justice in the US and around the world, we cannot let up on the pressure on our administration. Joe Biden has a lot of work to do.
On Veterans Day 2020, Code Pink, the Grassroots Global Justice Alliance, MADRE, and Women Cross DMZ co-hosted a conversation on the role of feminists in the 2020 Presidential election, as well as what we still need to do to ensure the Biden administration takes us in the right direction.
Hosted by Christine Ahn, Executive Director of Women Cross DMZ and the recipient of the 2020 US Peace Prize, the roundtable conversation featured Diana Duarte (Director of Policy and Strategic Engagement at MADRE), Medea Benjamin (Co-Founder of Code Pink), Cindy Wiesner (Executive Director of the Grassroots Global Justice Alliance), and Gloria Steinem (she needs no introduction!).
How Can Feminism Fight the Military-Industrial Complex?
Christine Ahn opened the conversation by explaining the impetus behind the conversation: In light of the Biden-Harris victory in the U.S. Presidential Election, Ahn plans for the conversation to focus on ways feminists contributed to this election, as well as how we can work toward removing the United States from “pointless wars.”
Next, Michael Knox of the US Peace Memorial Foundation stepped in to announce the 2020 US Peace Prize. This year, the Foundation nominated five individuals and two organizations for the US Peace Prize. This year’s recipient is Christine Ahn, “For bold activism to end the Korean War, heal its wounds, and promote women’s roles in peace-building.”
“This is the result of grassroots movements led by women,” said Ahn in her acceptance speech. “We need global cooperation and an interdimensional approach to shape world peace.”
She spoke to the brutal implications of endless wars in the US, stating that 53 cents of every tax dollar goes to the Pentagon. Ahn addressed the importance of ending these wars, particularly in Korea, in order to further democratic goals of social and gender justice.
Gloria Steinem on “Historic Takeaways” from the Election
“We had the least rational or competent President in the history of this nation,” said Steinem. She touted the historic election of Kamala Harris, the first female, Black, and Asian-American person elected to the Vice Presidency. “It’s important that we recognize the role of women of color, and particularly Black women, in this election. It’s never been more clear that they were the champions of this democracy.”
Steinem shared that from the beginning of the feminist movement, Black women have been at a “disproportionate level” within women’s movements. She emphasized their impact in “getting out the vote” and encouraging participation in our nation’s democracy.
“Of course, there is some resistance in this country to becoming for the first time, ‘majority minority,’” she added. “For the first time, the US is about to be a majority people of color nation. And what you have seen is some degree of panic and resistance on the part of a percentage of the country to that fact. But I do think that’s diminishing—I think it’s the pain of transition, and soon we will be more related to the rest of the world.”
Steinem also spoke to the impact of women’s voices on peace movements, sharing historic research on peace talks that included women—overwhelmingly, the results included peace agreements whenever women were involved in the negotiation process.
Cindy Wiesner on Getting Out the Vote
Wiesner opened her portion of the conversation by honoring anti-war veterans – mentioning that today is Veterans Day, and that can’t go unnoticed – and supportive organizations who work to fight endless wars around the world. Next, she spoke to the goals of “getting out the vote”: defeating Trump and guaranteeing that fascism does not grow in the United States.
“There were thousands of local community-based organizations… coming together in different key cities and territories,” said Wiesner. “They are the ones who got out and delivered the vote.”
She stressed caution as well, stating that the signs in the news right now hint that Trump will not concede the Presidency. “We need to prevent his insistence in staying in power.”
“We need to be clear that women, nonbinary people, people of color, and working people were at the heads of these organizations,” Wiesner added, speaking to the community organizations that fought so hard to get out the vote. “We were and are unapologetic about our politics.”
“In this Biden-Harris victory, we need to be able to push the administration away from [war-related activities] and continue to push the movements around divestment,” she said, speaking to the divestment of ICE, police forces, and the power of the US military.
Medea Benjamin on Biden-Harris US Foreign Policy
“I’m the bummer in all of this,” Benjamin joked, before she began speaking to the risks of a Biden presidency without enough pressure on his foreign policy.
First, she spoke to the positives: rejoining the Paris Climate Accords, rejoining WHO, renewing the Stark Treaty with Russia, removing the Global Gag Rule, and rejoining the Iran Nuclear Deal.
One worry Benjamin has is Biden’s past of putting the US “at the head of the table” in his writings on US foreign policy. “We feminists think in more of a roundtable,” she said. She encouraged pressure on the Biden administration to reduce the US’s military presence abroad.
“I don’t see him, without pressure, doing anything to cut the Pentagon budget,” she concluded.
Diana Duarte on the Impact on Women and Feminism Abroad
Duarte opened her portion of the conversation by speaking to the Trump administration policies that have directly harmed women’s rights in the United States and abroad. “The best way the Biden administration can have an immediate impact is by reversing some of these harmful policies,” said Duarte.
“How can we compel Biden to break with the worst impulses of the past and chart a new course forward?” she asked.
Duarte hoped for a new approach that positions the US as an ally rather than an adversary around the world, using the example of economic sanctions—“Economic sanctions are just war by another name. They inflict collective pain to induce a certain result.” Duarte also pointed out that women and girls often face the heaviest burden under “economic attacks,” stating the devastation of American sanctions in Yemen, Cuba, and other areas around the world.
“We have to be ready to make clear the impact of these choices,” she finished.
“Not Just A Glass Ceiling, But A Brick Wall“
Ahn asked Gloria Steinem about the links between toxic masculinity and the military-industrial complex.
“The point of feminism is not about biology,” said Steinem. “It’s not about putting women into authority simply because we are women. It’s about a world view which undoes the beginning of every hierarchy by undoing the ideas of gender and race that form our hierarchies. It’s not enough to put a woman in power: It depends on her policies.”
The event closed with Ahn’s notes on her work to end the war in Korea. “It’s a seamless one-two punch of grassroots organizers and strategists,” she said. “This is a standing 70-year war, and we could be on the precipice of ending the longest war in US history.”
“Feminism perfects democracy,” she said.
In closing, Ahn stressed again the importance of putting pressure on the Biden administration from the beginning. We’ve won the main battle, but there is still so much work to be done to end the war.
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