Veterans for Peace Carries On 50 Years of Male Supremacy in the U.S. Antiwar Movement
On June 23, 2015, a social media discussion regarding the theory of gender sparked an outcry by a small group of pro-gender activists who demanded that Veterans for Peace take a stand against those who disagree with them.
The all-male Veterans for Peace executive committee did not consult directly with women who have legitimate concerns about how transgender politics and policies adversely affects girls and women.
On July 10, with the majority of the VFP board unaware of the most basic components of this issue, Veterans for Peace released a Transgender Position Statement.
Because we are recognized as women who speak openly about gender politics despite receiving violent threats for doing so, we began receiving messages from female VFP members and allies, including female veterans, expressing grave concerns about the implications of VFP’s position statement and how quickly it was formulated and publicized.
What emerged from these discussions was that not only were women's boundaries at risk by VFP's position, but that women's voices would be silenced by it. Additionally, more stories surfaced of 30 years of women being marginalized in this male-dominated organization. Stories of sexual harassment by male leaders against women, physical assaults by male members against women and, of course, sexist objectification.
That Veterans for Peace and its all-male executive board and executive director had, in a matter of two weeks, taken a position that will directly affect women outraged even those who had not up until that point explored the issue of gender politics.
On July 31, we sent a letter via email to the executive committee and executive director outlining our concerns. The letter very simply requested clarification and definitions of the language they used in their Transgender Position Statement. The position, for example, states that "trans-misogyny behavior and remarks" will not be accepted. None of the women, including ourselves, know what that means. It turns out that the VFP board may not either as they have refused to answer any of the questions that we posed and to date have indicated that they have no intention of doing so. That would be the generous conclusion.
In response to VFP's call for "equality for transgender individuals in all aspects of society," we asked if they considered how proposed federal policy like H.R. 3185, the Equality Act would lead to gender identity overriding biological sex and how that would affect women, for example, in domestic violence shelters, rape crisis centers, dressing rooms, and in prisons. We asked if they understood that such policies could lead to gender identity superseding sex in critical federal laws that women fought hard for like Title IX; a program that prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in any federally funded education program or activity. We offered to explain how important this program is to girls and women and they declined that offer.
Veterans for Peace refuses to answer whether they considered these important matters before taking their position. As such, we requested that the proposed resolution be suspended until our questions about their position are answered and issues addressed. Further, given that Veterans for Peace made a position statement regarding transphobia and transmisogyny, we also requested copies of past position statements regarding sexism and misogyny. We have yet to receive any confirmation that they even exist.
On August 6, we were informed that VFP would not be pursuing any resolutions or policy changes at this time. It appears the reason for that is not as a result of women's concerns, but because of restrictions in the bylaws and time constraints which means that it may simply be a matter of time before it is introduced. We were again told that the executive committee would not attempt to answer our questions in full. This despite the fact that VFP has an obligation to its members (which we all are) to answer questions directly related to their policy.
In an obvious attempt to pacify us, we were then told that the board is choosing to remain "neutral" on this issue. This is what Veterans for Peace considers neutral: Bumping an already established convention workshop last week in place of a Transgender workshop run by the very people who aggressively lobbied VFP for the Transgender Position Statement; refusing to respond to our letter and the questions therein; stating that they will not currently pursue a resolution, but leaving the Transgender Position Statement intact on their website (still with language undefined) and the commitment to introduce a national resolution.
We close with this. In the days following the submission of our letter, we heard from more women within Veterans for Peace thanking us for speaking out. Women who recognize that the issue of gender is far more complex than it seems on the surface. We have learned of a history of disrespect by some convention organizers when it came to the Women's Caucus being afforded private space and reasonable meeting times at several convention sites. We learned that for several years the board has been asked to handle sexism at the conventions, but has failed to do so.
Our letter, which we have made public here, speaks of more instances of sexism and misogyny within the organization; some so egregious that one cannot help but wonder how it is that Veterans for Peace chose to highlight the transgender issue only two weeks after being pressured to do so, yet has allowed deeply ingrained sexism to go unchecked for decades. We urge you to read this letter and see for yourselves the questions that have been posed to Veterans for Peace. Questions they believe they have no obligation to answer.
Cheryl Biren, Lisa Blank, Anita Stewart