Thursday, November 11, 2010


"There's rosemary, that's for rememberance. Pray, love, remember."
~ Ophelia in Hamlet.

It is Rememberance Day here in Australia today, upon which we ponder and commemorate the sacrifice made by all of those who were involved in the First and Second World Wars, as well as the post-WW2 wars in Korea and Vietnam. Those taking part in the current conflicts in the Middle East are also remembered.

It is a touching day, irrespective of your views of the rightness or wrongness of these wars, given the awful anguish and pain that comes for all of those participating in conflicts of such magnitude.
But I think it also needs to be remembered that as dreadful as the soldier's lot is in war, there are many other people not directly involved in fighting who suffer terribly too. I am thinking especially of women who are raped in war. I never cease to be shocked and appalled by this common notion that women are somehow part of the spoils of war. You burnt down our village, therefore we get to rape your women. As though a ruined house and a 'ruined' woman were two equivalent objects to barter. As though women were the possessions of men to be given or taken.
There was a group in Australia during the 1970s and 1980s called Women Against Rape (WAR). They tried to march on ANZAC Day (another Australian memorial day), to make the point that raped women were as much a part of the wartime experience as anyone else. They were blocked at every turn by officialdom and members of the public alike. They were insulting the memory of the war dead, they were insulting the returned soldiers, it was claimed. Even when they made it clear that that was not what they were doing by laying wreathes at war memorials, even the wreathes were given back to them, unwanted.

Acknowledging the suffering of everyone in war does not insult the soldiers. Soldiers in war do an extraordinary job that many of us could not even begin to attempt, so acknowledging the depth and breadth of wartime suffering in fact makes their efforts even more remarkable. Not every soldier is a rapist. Of course not. But it needs to made more clear that war is hell for men and women. It is not an exclusive experience. It is a tragic blight on all of humanity. And the realisation of this, that we are all people - not possessions - in the face of such horrors is something to truly remember.


Diana Kennedy said...

Women are the ones who always paid for wars, mostly started by men. Women's fate in war were as hard as the soldiers ones, tough it's still not yet fully acknowledged. They had not only to survive themselves, but very often try to keep their children alive. They were raped, they starved and had to rebuild ruins and do the whole farming work. Pretending that remembering all this is an insult to soldiers is just a lousy excuse for refusing women the recognition women deserve.

Feronia said...

Exactly. A lot of the war history in Australia is tied to representations of masculinity - especially to do with WW1, the ANZAC legend etc.