Hawthorne, Susan & Bronwyn Winter eds. After Shock: September 11, 2001 / Global Feminist Perspectives. 2003. Raincoast Books, Vancouver, BC.

There are a hundred ways to be a good citizen, and one of them is to look, finally, at things we don’t want to see.”
Barbara Kingsolver in After Shock

This volume was originally published as SEPTEMBER 11, 2001: Feminist Perspectives in 2002 by Spinifex Press of Australia. It has lost none of its importance or relevance in the last two years. The words of women on the evils of violence are prophetic as we see in horror the war of occupation in Iraq, the increase repression in Palestine and the fallout of USA militarism everywhere – including Canada as our new Prime minister tries to sign us on to “Star Wars”, the Ballistic Missile Defense.

The voices of war and the “war on terrorism” are raised around the world, the voices of women, feminists with different opinions, perspectives and experience are silenced or drowned out. This volume of essays, personal stories, poetry and statements is a welcome collection of voices from around the world. In the words of the dedication, “women who have struggled to perfect the difficult and valuable skill of surviving, who refuse to be overwhelmed by the overwhelming, and who continue to hope against hopelessness.”

Politicians and media were briefly full of the plight of Afghan women, blatantly used to justify a devastating war on an already devastated country – and that war is still going on, lest we forgot as we organize to stop another war on Iraq.

From the declaration of the Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan come the words of a still mourning mother: I see the blood of my sons on the immaculate suits and ties of the “Northern Alliance” leaders. The declaration says that the people of Afghanistan have gone from one oppression to another, but they will never desist from struggling even as in the words of the closing poem, ” they feed the fire with the kindling of song and poverty…we had better hide love in the closet.”

The Booker Prize winner, Arundhati Roy, in her brilliant essay, The Algebra of Infinite Justice, goes right to the heart of global crisis when she says: Could it be that the stygian anger that led to the attacks (in USA) has its taproot not in American freedom and democracy, but in the US government’s record of commitment to exactly the opposite things -military and economic terrorism, insurgency, military dictatorship, religious bigotry and unimaginable genocide (outside America)?

That ties in with the words of Canada’s Sunera Thobani; her much publicized speech is reprinted here. Her words continue to ring true and relevant with these global voices when she says: US foreign policy is soaked in blood. And other countries, including, shamefully, Canada – cannot line up fast enough behind it.

Victoria’s Theresa Wolfwood, poses the real hope for women and social activists, not the false choice of the terror of governments, groups or individuals or the elitism of violence, but the daily work of creating community with trust and joy with those in a growing world movement who dare to both dream and work for a world of peace, justice, cultural diversity and biodiversity.

The editors collected this treasure of words from Palestine to Australia, from India to Uganda, and from Afghanistan to Canada to reaffirm their conviction that, “unless feminist analysis of male violence is taken seriously, there will be no end to war. And women will continue to pay the highest price…..The voices of the authors resonate with the rage and passion of resistance. This gives us great hope.”

In the moving words of Palestinian poet, Suheir Hammad;”Affirm life. Affirm life. We’ve got to carry each other now. You are either with life, or against it. Affirm life.”

Filed under Book Reviews, Bronwyn Winter, Susan Hawthorne