Friday, September 7, 2012

Women's Rights Rally in New Paltz, NY!

We had a fabulous Rally and March on Women's Equality Day on August 26 in New Paltz!
Nearly 300 came out to demand equal rights for over half the population- everything from full reproductive rights to equal pay for equal work to ending violence against women and ending budget cuts that will affect women and children the most. Thanks to Donna Goodman and the Hudson Valley Actvist Newsletter for sponsoring and to all who participated!

A few people asked me to print out my talk, so here it is.

Women, Militarism and War
by Barbara Upton

Welcome! How wonderful it is to see so many women and girls of all ages coming together to defend women's rights and it is great to see so many of our brothers here too standing with us in solidarity.

Let me begin by saying, men are not the problem, a patriarchal system that oppresses women is the problem! Patriarchy is the social power structure and ideology that provides justification for the institutionalized discrimination against women. It is supported by and thrives on war and violence. Patriarchy cannot exist without militarism which promoters a culture of fear, is based on power over others and that believes that the organized use of physical violence is the only way to resolve conflict. Patriarchy and militarism are inextricably linked. But let me tell you something else that is mutually interdependent- women's equality and our ability to create a culture of peace.

The first step is to recognize and educate ourselves and others about the true cost of war.

New Paltz Women in Black "Eyes Wide Open Exhibit" and Altar to Fallen Troops                                               B Upton

Do you know that war is currently being depicted as a game show on NBC? This is the way of militarism. Only 1% actually does the fighting and for the rest of us war is glorified and even made into entertainment. The military sanitizes the horrors of war through language. Civilian deaths are called "collateral damage" and missiles are "peacemakers". Rarely do we see the real ravages of war.

The fact is, war destroys people, the earth and the very fabric of life and no one suffers more in war than women and children.

Although our conception of war, of soldiers fighting on a battlefield has not changed, the reality of modern warfare has
. A UN Peacekeeping General recently said, "It is now more dangerous to be a woman than a soldier in conflict."

In WW I, 5% of the casualties were civilians, in WWII the number of civilian casualties was 55% and today that number is 90%. Women and children are killed, maimed, raped, sickened, displaced,widowed and orphaned by war. Eighty percent of the millions displaced by war and conflict are women and children. Rape is used as a weapon of war. In Rwanda a half million women were raped . In Bosnia Herzegovina 50,000 women from all the ethnic groups were raped and a half million were victims of sexual violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

It is also important to remember that war does not end when the bombs stop falling. Agent Orange in Vietnam, resulted in hundreds of thousands of babies being born with severe birth defects. In addition, tens of thousands of US soldiers were sickened and disabled and the effects are still being seen in second and third generations. Depleted uranium munitions in Iraq and Afghanistan have left a radioactive legacy that has resulted in a spike in cancer rates and childhood leukemia. Landmines in over 80 countries kill and maim women and children daily as they are the ones tasked with gathering food, water and wood.

As if all this horrific violence were not enough, there is also the structural violence created by a permanent war economy. Sixty percent of our discretionary budget goes to death and destruction. This strips money from health care, education, job creation and vital social programs and because women and children are overrepresented among poor people, again women and children are hurt the most. 

Kingston  Rally for Peace and Justice                                                                                                                  B Upton
Lastly, when violence is seen as the acceptable way to resolve conflict in the international sphere, it affects all aspects of society. It even extends to women in the military. One VA study done after Desert Storm showed that one in three women serving were raped. It is said that women in the military fight on two fronts; on the battlefield and in the barracks. The effects of a militarized society is also seen in community violence with our 30,000 gun deaths every year and in domestic violence which increases during war. VA research shows that veterans with PTSD are two to three times more likely to batter partners and children than veterans without PTSD. Battery is now the number one cause of injury to women in the US.

Our path is clear. We have to end war before war ends us, as John F Kennedy said. We have to make war as unacceptable in the 21st century as slavery was in the 20th century. We have to build a culture of peace from the ground up and inside out. That means we do have to be the peace that we wish to see in the world. We can begin by replacing blame and dwelling on all that is wrong with a focus on creative solutions, stop fueling polarization by listening more deeply, and transform despair with inspired visions and empowered action. Together we can build a culture of peace founded on respect for the dignity and inherent worth of every woman, man and child. Peace is our only true security and I believe it is our collective destiny.

So yes, you will continue to see Women in Black standing for peace in front fo the Elting library every Saturday at 12:30. We have been there every week for almost eleven years and you know what- we are just beginning! We hope you will join us. Thank you.

Join us any Saturday- 12:30-1:30PM In front of Elting Library New Paltz
Contact Barbara, or New Paltz Women in Black at