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Women, Men, War, and Sexism

I am a woman who has been surrounded by war (active or threatened) her entire life. I have been working on healing from war for the last nine years.

Putting my mind on war and the hurts of war restimulates my frozen need1 for protection. Sexism tells me that men are the source of protection. It further says that a man will protect me if I am “the one” (perhaps based on the assumption that men will protect the mother of their children). That would push me to seek exclusivity in relationships (including counseling relationships) and to feel like the more a man “loves” me, the better my survival chances are.

One way in which war and sex are related is that in times of war, both men and women may feel an increased drive for sex, or closeness with a sexual flavor, whether to feel alive, preserve the species, or seek intimacy, comfort, and reassurance. (Lots of babies are born in a year following a war. People may be trying to make up for the lives that the war has destroyed.)

Wars create a “wallpaper recording”2 that says that men may be killed at war, that we may have them for only a limited time. This leads to extra accommodation of men, to treating them nicely, to making the best of our relationships with them for as long as we can (in case they die tomorrow). This influences our daily relationships with all men, including young boys, as does the job that society assigns us as women—to heal the physical and emotional wounds of men coming back from war. Both do not promote an equal relationship and normally would not include challenging sexism.

Sexism teaches us that some arenas are not ours to operate in. War is one of them; therefore, ending war may seem out of reach for us. We may also secretly blame men for “doing it” and be angry with them, mixed with feeling bad about ourselves that we are unable to stop it and protect them and our children (and ourselves). This may get mixed with admiring men for being willing to fight to protect us and with heartbreak over the price they have to pay.

We need to work on all of this separately from but also together with men. I think it would be useful for men to hear the details of how I was hurt by war. Women are both “secondary victims of war” (war hurts men and then they hurt women) as well as first-hand victims (directly as combatants, combat assistants, and victims of rape and other violence and indirectly, for example, due to the distribution of societal wealth and power).

Showing each other our struggles to heal from war and fully claim ourselves, men, women, and the world is a good step forward in building the alliances we need in order to end war.

Tami Shamir
Shefayim, Israel
Translated by Tami Shamir
Reprinted from the e-mail discussion
list for RC Community members


1 Frozen need is a term used in RC for a hurt that results when a rational need is not met in childhood. The hurt compels a person to keep trying to fill the need in the present, but the frozen need cannot be filled; it can only be discharged.
2 By “wallpaper recording,” the author means a distress recording that is so pervasive and accepted as normal that it’s like the wallpaper on the wall; it is hardly noticed.


Last modified: 2020-07-17 20:50:52+00