Intelligent Compassion: Feminist Clinical Methodology in the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom

Intelligent Compassion: Feminist Clinical Methodology in the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom

Intelligent Compassion: Feminist Clinical Methodology in the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom

Intelligent Compassion: Feminist Clinical Methodology in the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom

Synopsis

The Women's International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF) has a unique role in post-war peace activism. It is the longest-surviving international women's peace organization and one of the oldest peace organizations in the West. It was founded in 1915, when a group of women from countriesfighting in World War I met at The Hague to formulate proposals for ending the war. The organization sent delegations of women to several countries to plead for peace, and their final resolutions are credited with influencing Woodrow Wilson's 14 Points. Today, the organization counts severalthousand members in 36 countries, on five continents. Since 1948, it has enjoyed consultative status with the UN, and it was instrumental in bringing about recent United Nations Security Council Resolutions on Women, Peace and Security. Beginning in 1945, WILPF began identifying the limitations of its ideological foundations in relation to the international liberal order. Confortini argues that this period ushered in a turn in the organization's policies and activism, one that lasted until the mid-70s and served as an importantantecedent to feminist activism that continues today. By tracing the organization's changing strategies and ideas over a thirty-year period, Intelligent Compassion seeks to answer to what extent activists can transcend the prevailing practices of their eras. Confortini argues that this history isimportant theoretically because it inspires the development of a critical constructivist theory of agency that advances the agent-structure debate in International Relations theory.

Excerpt

Less than a year after the dropping of the first atomic bombs, 200 women from thirteen countries gathered in Luxembourg to hold a postwar meeting; a similar meeting had taken place in Zürich almost 40 years earlier, following the First World War. Just as with the previous time, North American women stared in disbelief at the devastation the war had caused to their European friends’ bodies and spirits. And, like that first time, they looked in vain for friends lost to the conflict, with a heightened awareness of human beings’ capacity for destruction. At the 1919 Zürich meeting, they had been disillusioned about statesmen’s willingness and ability to keep the peace but remained determined to raise their voices as women to prevent another such conflict. They decided to formally constitute the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF), a women’s peace organization, to accomplish this task.

At the 1946 meeting in Luxembourg, they wondered whether an organization like WILPF still had a purpose. They wondered if the words they had used to express their ideals of “freedom, democracy, justice, equality, peace … [had] been abused and degraded to such an extent that these words [had] become hollow shams.” They wondered whether, as women, they had a role to fulfill in the pursuit of peace. French delegates recounted their experiences of Nazi occupation and concluded that peace had no meaning without freedom, that death was better than slavery, and that war was better than servitude. Like their Dutch friends, the French women had participated in the armed resistance alongside men. Danish and Finnish women, too, had lived under occupation, yet they had opted for nonviolent resistance and humanitarian and relief work. In neutral and unoccupied Sweden, WILPF women had . . .

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