Today begins a series of posts documenting some of the significant parts of the Feminist Peace Network’s herstory. The following is excerpted from an essay written by FPN Founder Lucinda Marshall in 2003 talking about the founding of FPN. It was published in the now defunct Expository Magazine.
From the Personal to the Political: Founding the Feminist Peace Network
Flash back just over two years ago: summer is ending, the kids are back in school and I finally have time to get back to work on The Virago Series, my art about female images as seen by women. I am working on assemblages on mirrors that talk about the objectification and debasement of women. The wonderful thing about using mirrors is that when the viewer looks at the work they literally become part of it. That is enormously helpful since this work tells some ugly truths and I want to literally force the viewer to see themselves as part of the problem.
And then, the mind numbing, soul freezing moments of the eleventh of September and the invasion of Afghanistan; the subject has suddenly become much bigger. My heart aches as I try to answer my children’s questions. I take one of my mirrors and drape it in Afghani and American flags covered with children’s toys; jacks and playing cards, and especially toy soldiers. The destruction of my children’s innocence, let alone their world, angers me most of all.
No one else on my women artist’s listserv can work either. We devote a lot of time to our feelings and being supportive of each other. I am so grateful they are there.
But in my restlessness, I start investigating anti-war listservs. I join a few and am jolted by the blatant disregard and disrespect of women’s posts. Depressingly like the real world. I realized that if I am to find an anchor, let alone a harbor, I will have to create it. And so, in December, 2001, I started the Feminist Peace Network (FPN), to fulfill the need for a forum where women could discuss their thoughts about violence, war and terrorism in a nurturing, supportive atmosphere; without men and not aligned with any particular organization or viewpoint, or specific to any one country.
As our mission statement says,
“The Feminist Peace Network is dedicated to building an enduring peace, with the ending of violence towards women and children as a first priority. This group is dedicated to the urgent need to immediately work towards providing shelter, food, education, and a safe environment for women and children in all parts of the world, as well as creating economic conditions to ensure these rights in the future. A strong bias towards matriarchal thinking is assumed.”
Several months after starting FPN, I went to Washington, DC and met with one of our members who lives there. We were leaving a restaurant to go our separate ways on the now dark streets of DC. My friend looked at me and idly wondered whether it seemed safe to walk alone to our destinations. We realized immediately that no, of course it wasn’t safe any more than it was ever safe for a woman anywhere to walk alone on a dark deserted street, let alone be alone with her husband or lover. We were at risk as women everywhere are always at risk. I realized with a thud that the ‘terrorism’ that had taken over our global dialog was not the real problem. The truth of the matter is that with millions of women being sexually assaulted every year, terrorism against women was clearly the critical issue. It is the premise that has informed the direction of our network and led to our Statement of Conscience, written in the dark days before the U.S. invaded Iraq.
The Statement puts the issue succinctly,
“…in order to effectively address the problems with the current U.S. military policy and the globalization of the so-called war against terror, the global pandemic of violence against women and children must be stopped. It is FPN’s contention that, if we are to truly create peace, we must first recognize the horrific violence endured by the women of this planet every day. And, most importantly, we must vow that ending violence — by definition — includes ending violence that specifically endangers women and children. Until we do that, there will not truly be peace.”
It further goes on to state that women,
“… must be involved as full members of peace negotiation teams. Any “peace” that does not address the worldwide pandemic of violence against women and girls is not Peace.”
Almost from the beginning, FPN has been more than a discussion group. Most of our members belong to local peace and women’s groups as well as FPN. Because of this, we have been able to share ideas and coordinate actions between communities, as well as hook up people who live in the same area. For our members who live outside of urban communities, FPN gives them a chance to network with other feminist peacemakers that they would otherwise not have. We also have members who are involved in international groups such as WILPF, the Coalition of Women For Peace, Women in Black, etc. Belonging to FPN has helped them to share and disseminate information.
During our first two years, the Feminist Peace Network has taken on a wide range of actions. We circulated a petition against stoning, authored a Statement of Conscience as the US was preparing to go to war in Iraq that both reiterated the feminist stance against war and highlighted the effect that war has on the lives of women and children.
Beginning in 2002 and again in 2003, we initiated the Global Women’s Peace Vigil on IWD. Women in more than 100 locales have participated in the vigil. We also publish Atrocities, an e-bulletin that documents violence against women around the world. The information in Atrocities frequently comes from first hand and obscure news sources. Our goal is to bear witness to these atrocities by making this information as widely available as is possible. (Note: Atrocities is no longer published, but the archive can be viewed here.)
Not surprisingly, many of our members are artists and writers. As creators, our work by definition involves sensitive and emotionally observant of our world. We tend to be very effected by political events and frequently express our politics in our work. A member in Canada introduced us to the concept of a Knit-In (try to imagine a knit cap on a missile silo….) and one of our members spearheaded the Women in Black Art Project which can be seen at . Other work on the web site includes poetry, prose and photography. All of these efforts are not only effective mediums for exploring change, but also nurturing to our group as well. We also discuss health issues, motherhood, globalization and many other issues that impact our right to live in real peace.
The essay closed with contact information that is no longer current, so I’ve omitted that here to avoid confusion. Obviously much has changed and FPN has grown significantly since those early days. I am particularly grateful to the early participants in FPN who were so instrumental in helping this work get started, many of whom are still here almost 10 years on, and to those who have joined along the way and add to the discussion in so many ways.
In the coming days I will post some other things that I found in the FPN files as part of a celebration of our own story as a part of Her-Story.