Include, but not just for the sake of inclusion

Kirthi
Posted November 23, 2019 from India

How often have you heard that women should be part of peace processes or negotiation tables because they are inherently peaceful, because agreements that women help negotiate have a greater chance of remaining in force or being implemented than those negotiated by men? While these arguments are useful in presenting a basis for the inclusion of women, they also isolate women in many ways. Yep, you read that right. It might seem like an unpopular opinion, but I ask you to read on.

When we attribute particular characteristics to a particular people, we not only risk stereotyping them, but also, if they are positive characteristics, foist an expectation on them to perform in ways that respond to those characteristics. In doing so, we engage with what is called essentialism. For example, if we say women are inherently peaceful, we also silently place a rider on women to not exhibit anger. In doing so, we exclude women who are outspoken, vociferous, and perhaps even thump the table with their fists because, well, that’s not in line with our image of women being inherently peaceful. Take another example: if we say women are inherently nurturing because they have motherly qualities with them, we exclude trans women whose self-determined gender identity is disrespected in the process, and we also exclude women who choose not to be mothers and women who cannot medically be mothers. When we present arguments of this kind, it is almost as if we’re making an excuse for women to be included, and within that, making a case for the kind of women to be included. In the process, we’re left with tokenistic representations that leave us checking boxes and not including those that should be, substantively.

Making essentialist arguments also runs the risk of homogenizing all women into one category. As my sisters on this platform will attest, we are all challenged by same and different things, and it is these different things that challenge us each uniquely. Unless we have room to speak out, address, and engage with these unique challenges, change would only be piecemeal at best. Essentialism responds (inadequately, of course) to the universal challenges that all of us face, and puts us into a homogenous group. It ignores the intersectional identities and contexts that position each of us differently within this group, where privileges and oppressions also set up a pecking order within our group itself, where some women in positions of power enjoy (varying degrees of) privilege over other women.

Instead, what if we framed our articulation to speak about the value women bring to the table – by offering perspectives informed by their own, unique, lived experiences? What if we sought to present women as human beings that deserve to create lasting change and not be excluded because of their sex and/or gender identities? What if we can make a compelling case for how the agreements, negotiations, laws, and policies made by cis-het men serve their own interests and continue to exclude, discriminate against, and isolate women and other non-binary gender identities and that the only way to right that wrong is to open the door to include every relevant gender-based stakeholder in making these agreements, negotiations, laws, and policies? What if we acknowledge that as women, we are not a homogenous group and that within our larger group as “women,” we have several diversities that present unique challenges, and that addressing these challenges requires the sustained engagement of those who have lived experiences of those very challenges?

Peace is not the absence of violence. Peace is, instead, a deliberate effort to include those that have been excluded, to dismantle structures that have constantly marginalized, oppressed, and excluded people, and to strive to build futures on justice, healing, inclusion, empathy, and compassion. One of the natural corollaries of this idea of peace, then, is to start from a peaceful mechanism, for peace is both a means and an ends. Retiring essentialism and standing up for substantive inclusion is a powerful way to get that peace started.

 

This story was submitted in response to #IStandWithHer.

Comments 19

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Tarke Edith
Nov 23
Nov 23

Hello sister
Thanks for sharing with us .
Dear have a nice day .

Jill Langhus
Nov 23
Nov 23

Hello Kirthi Love,

How are you doing? Wow! I've often thought this but you articulate it so well, as usual:-) Thanks so much for bringing this up and for addressing a different perspective from the norm. I am by nature peaceful, for example, but I wouldn't say that I've always been nurturing, though, whether that makes me non-maternal, I'm not sure. But I would agree these generalizations are so harmful and limiting. They are for men, too. Men can also definitely be nurturing and peaceful, and I hope that more and more of them of seen as such in the immediate future. That they come to embrace this side of them, and see it as not just a feminine trait, and to embrace both their feminine and masculine sides to each of their own personalities.

I hope you're doing well and having a fab weekend!

XX

Kirthi
Dec 02
Dec 02

Thank you, sweet Jill <3 Thank you for validating what I shared <3

Jill Langhus
Dec 02
Dec 02

You're very welcome, love:-)

Lisbeth
Nov 23
Nov 23

Hi Kirthi,
It's actually been a while, we heard from you. We all missed you very much :-).
Good to hear from you again. Did you travelled or just work?
This is a nice and kind of controversial. It call for more debate. Peacefulness is turned to be associated with women, feminist, feminism etc. However, I think is the best quality men can cultivate. With this quality no human can do away with you. Peace loving is not a weakness but a strength. I am glad you brought this aspect of things.
Have a great weekend.
Hugs

Kirthi
Dec 02
Dec 02

Thank you, sweet Lisbeth <3 Thank you for validating what I shared <3

Lisbeth
Dec 02
Dec 02

The pleasure is always mine. :-)

Anita Shrestha
Nov 24
Nov 24

Dear Sis
Thank you for sharing dear

Kirthi
Dec 02
Dec 02

Thank you for reading <3

Hello, dear Kirthi,

You are such a brilliant woman that always bring good arguments to the table for the sake of women. You did it again! Yes, I agree with you. What a powerful piece this is as an entry for #IStandWithHer campaign. Peace is indeed about including women and trusting that we can offer solutions for justice, healing, inclusion, empathy, and compassion.

Thank you so much! You are always beautiful and amazing to me.

Kirthi
Dec 02
Dec 02

Thank you so much for reading for being so inspiring, dear Karen <3

The pleasure is mine, dear Kirthi. I look up to you. Hugs!

maeann
Nov 25
Nov 25

Hi Kirthi,

Peace... is vital for a country and for the community.
Peace is possible for those who desire it.
Peace should be for everybody not for somebody.

Kirthi
Dec 02
Dec 02

Thank you lovely Meann! I got your beautiful postcard too <3 Thank youuu!

maeann
Dec 02
Dec 02

oh wow :) thank you for letting me know. yey!!!

Rathin Bhattacharjee

This is just beautifully written, Kirthi. I would like to read it once more before I can even think of commenting.
The only thing I can say right now is that your powerful voice runs through the entire piece and is bound to inspire women all over.
Keep on writing and sharing, my friend. Stay blessed.

Kirthi
Dec 02
Dec 02

Thank you for reading, and for responding, Rathin!

Paulina Nayra
Nov 25
Nov 25

Great Kirthi. Thank you for the education. I admit that I used to have this tendency of essentialist thinking. I've overcome them overtime as I learn about gender diversity. I didn't even know that it is called essentialism until I read your post. I fully agree with you that peace will only happen when there's inclusion and that requires the retirement of essentialism.

Huggs.

Kirthi
Dec 02
Dec 02

Thank you so much for reading for being so inspiring, dear Paulina <3