September 11, 2001: Feminist Perspectives
As an antidote for all the disingenuous head-scratching over “what went wrong” in Iraq—how the United States transmuted the world’s sympathy and support into global revulsion in the wake of September 11, this painful retrospective on what might have been—or rather what should have been—is a powerful tonic. The writings gathered here, a pastiche of genres and a powerfully diverse set of feminist voices, were written in the immediate aftermath of the September 11 attacks and published by an Australian press. Collectively, they urge restraint, appreciation of context and cultural history, acknowledgment of American complicity in terror, resistance to stereotyping and a simplistic Manichean perspective on those involved. Collectively, they imagine a nation that might have emerged from this trauma sadder but wiser, with a renewed place of leadership in the world.
This book reminds us that not everyone succumbed to fear mongering and the atavistic desire for revenge as the toxic dust settled over Manhattan. As we listen now to campaign-inspired and half-hearted mea culpa from politicians complaining they were misled, this collection proves that there were thinkers of real courage speaking out for peace and caution even in the weeks immediately after 9/11.
Barbara Lee, for example, in a piece written on 24 September 2001, explains why she stood alone in the House of Representatives in voting against war authorization: “I could not support such a grant of war-making authority to the president; I believe it would put more innocent lives at risk.” Candlelight vigils, held throughout the world, pleaded that “war and retaliatory violence are not the answer to terrorism, as they have never resolved any conflict”—to use the language of the Delhi Women’s Petition. In poems, letters, editorials and essays, feminist writers around the world stood up in the midst of the anger and asked for compassion, for a renewed commitment to global justice.
There are also ominous warnings throughout the book about the consequences of war for women that, six years later, have still not fully come to public notice. A poem by Evelyne Accad reminds us that “war conceives only war.” What we must now remember, even if catastrophically late, is that there was another way.