I dropped out of a doctorate program in international relations because of hegemonic patriarchy. While you unpack that sentence, I will draw a picture.
Each member of my program’s all-male faculty at Columbia University, including Jimmy Carter’s national security adviser, Zbignew Brezinski, spoke English. However, they didn’t speak “non-violence.” Here are just a few of the course offerings I had to choose from: “The Strategic Benefits of Cruise Missiles,” “The Art of War,” and “Nuclear Proliferation Antecedents.” There were no courses on disarmament or the art of diplomacy.
I was young and ambitious and wanted to be the change. I wished to see a world of non-violence proliferation. After three semesters, I concluded that earning a doctorate from an Ivy League institution wasn’t worth abandoning my deeply held values. I settled for a masters degree and found a minimum wage job at the U.S.-U.S.S.R. Youth Exchange Program, a San Francisco nonprofit that promoted cross-cultural dialogue. At the time, I considered myself a failure for not completing my doctorate, but I see now that it took courage to take a principled stand in the face of my parents’ disapproval and societal expectations.
Not that mine was the only path forward. One Columbia classmate went on to become deputy director for Europe and Central Asia at Human Rights Watch. Another is a trade deputy (primarily assisting women entrepreneurs) in East Africa. Mind you, none of us has achieved the status or income approaching another classmate who went on to become British Petroleum’s senior vice president for Russian operations. But then again, we women set our sights on a different, less monetarily-compensated mission, curing the world of violence and poverty .
Despite my paltry earnings, I’m proud to have joined the legions of anti-violence NGOs worldwide that are predominantly led by woman, including Women Strike for Peace, the Malala Fund, Women for Women International, Women’s Action for Nuclear Disarmament, Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, Reaching Critical Will, the German Green Party, Mothers for Peace, Just Moms, International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, Greenham Common Women’s Peace Camp, Green Action Japan, the women of Koondakulam in India and Moms Demand Action.
Which brings me to two women who, because of the media’s hegemonic patriarchy, most of you have never heard of: Shannon Watts and Emma Gonzalez.
Stay-at-home mom Shannon Watts founded Moms Demand Action in response to the devastating shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School. The organization is a leading force for gun violence prevention, with chapters in all 50 states. It represents one of a million incremental steps that have led to a seeming revolution, a revolution led by Emma Gonzalez and classmates of hers at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.
Through numerous appearances at televised rallies and in interviews, the 18-year-old Gonzalez has made a significant impact in a remarkably short period of time on the need for common sense gun laws, bravely outing the NRA’s disproportionate and corruptive influence on our politicians. Together with her fellow survivors and youth from around the nation, Gonzalez leads the "Never Again" charge that will be the rallying cry of “March for Our Lives” protesters in Washington DC and around the nation.
Of course, many men also support non-violence, but women overwhelmingly lead because we understand that politics isn’t always the answer. And war and more guns is never the answer. The answer lies in the instinctual genius of women who understand that the future of human survival and security will not be furthered by an appreciation of cruise missiles, or reflexive grasping of our “precious” Second Amendment rights.
Over 10,500 acts of gun violence have been committed in this country as of this writing. By this time next week, that number will exceed 11,000, and we haven’t even reached the “high season” of gun violence - the summer months. The so-called “Doomsday Clock” is at two minutes to midnight. Hopelessness reigns supreme. And yet with women cast in the leading role as peaceful warriors and protectors of our truly precious resources - children and earth - here may be hope yet for civilization.