Caroline Moorhead. A Train in Winter: An Extraordinary Story of Women, Friendship, and Resistance in Occupied France (Harper/HarperCollins Publishers 2011)
During World War II, Marshal Pétain’s authoritarian Vichy regime guillotined women for abortion. It passed laws forbidding women from entering the civil service, encouraging women younger than 28 to quit their jobs upon marriage, and requiring women over 50 to retire. Pétain considered women responsible for remaking the state beginning with the family: what he called the “essential cell” of social order. Politically active women were considered a threat to the moral regeneration of France (Muel-Dreyfus 2001; Pollard 1998).
In October 1940, the French Vichy government entered into collaboration with Nazi Germany. Laws were promulgated to restrict the rights of Jews and foreigners, communists and other left-wing activists were declared enemies of the state, and French internment camps were transformed into labor and concentration camps for so-called “undesirables.” Continue reading
You have probably heard of Amnesty International USA’s pro-occupation ads, declaring “NATO: Keep the Progress Going!”, which shocked many anti-war activist organizations.
In a recent essay, Ashley Smith comments on the issue in detail and quotes from feminist activists Sonali Kolhatkar and Mariam Rawi:
Under the Taliban, women were confined to their homes. They were not allowed to work or attend school. They were poor and without rights. They had no access to clean water or medical care, and they were forced into marriages, often as children. Today, women in the vast majority of Afghanistan live in precisely the same conditions, with one notable difference: they are surrounded by war. (see their full article)
If you find yourself with some extra time over the holidays and haven’t yet caught the Women, War and Peace series from PBS, get thee to the nearest electronic device with a screen and have a seat. The entire five-part series is now available online, but if your time is limited, start with Pray the Devil Back to Hell. This episode chronicles the journey of 2011 Nobel Prize winner Leymah Gbowee and her comrades as they used creative forms of nonviolent protest to demand and secure peace in Liberia after years of civil war. The women of Liberia are a force, and their story is deeply moving. Moreover, for students of social movements, the Liberian case is a fascinating illustration of agency. These women didn’t wait for an opportunity; they made one.