"We're afraid of asylum seekers; we're afraid of migrants; we're afraid of Muslims. And when we are afraid, we go quiet because we expect someone to take care of it. And that something becomes militarized security. Military security needs a particular type of masculine identity. It builds and needs and elevates violent masculinity; it builds and needs women who will support that violent masculinity,"
In her TED talk "Gender, War, and Peace," Madeleine Rees, a prominent lawyer who has worked both in the U.K. and for the U.N., examines gender and how the intersection of political economy, militarism, and the multi-lateral system has undermined the promise of the Charter and Human Rights and explores what we must do to reclaim it. Rees encapsulates the complex relationship between diversity, fear, and the repercussions of a militarized response in the above-mentioned quote. Rees focuses on the dark side of differences in human beings and points out how these differences can be manipulated to instill fear and division. When we perceive others as "not quite like us," it can lead to prejudice and stereotypes, and it can be weaponized for political or security agendas, causing a rift in society.
Rees also draws a stark connection between fear, militarized security, and masculine identity. She argues that militarized security tends to favor and promote a specific form of masculinity that is rooted in violence. She highlights that these militarized systems depend on women to support and reinforce this aggressive form of masculinity. This emphasizes the complex interplay of gender dynamics and how established societal roles of men and women can be leveraged to uphold and justify extremist militaristic strategies.
Rees gives the example of Ukraine, where soldiers heading to the front are seen off by women waving flags and handing flowers. Years later, militarized security brings women as fighters and actors into the warzone. She raises concerns about the failure of the Women's International League to establish peace and freedom for women. While feminists are told to celebrate this as a step toward gender equality, she questions whether such empowerment was meant to lead to an end to violence or if it inadvertently perpetuates violence. Delving deeper into another critical aspect of the dynamics of global conflict, Rees also explores how women, who are disproportionately affected by wars, have historically been excluded from peace negotiations. She recalls how the objectives of the United Nations aimed to save future generations from the horrors of war. However, Rees contends that current international systems are falling short of eliminating conflicts.
Madeleine Rees' TED talk is a stark reminder that peace is not an abstract ideal but a collective endeavor and remains highly relevant in recent contexts. Malala, a Nobel Peace Prize winner, exemplifies Rees's idea of reclaiming peace and humanity. In 2012, Malala survived an assassination attempt by the Taliban while on her way home from school. The attack brought worldwide attention to the plight of girls seeking education in conflict-affected areas. Malala's resilience and her resolve to continue her education in the face of violence align with Madeleine Rees' argument about the potential for positive change when women are involved in negotiations and challenge fear, violence, and gender stereotypes to promote education, equality, and peace.