Men are also positioned as the “true” threat–women couldn’t possibly act as anything more than companions or mothers–they may have access to the info, but they aren’t going to actually be *acting*.
From the communities end, however, WOmen were, indeed, doing a lot of the *acting* (that is, carrying guns, planning take overs, etc) while at the same time, never really having access to any positions of power.
The actions of the women of Beit Hanoun is one example.
I came across another remarkable and ultimately tragic account in my research into the fall of Srebrenica. Four months before the final collapse, UN Force Commander Philippe Morillon paid a surreptitious visit:
Morillon’s party crept into Srebrenica in the dead of the night. They found hundreds of people living in the street, and dozens still pouring into town. It was cold. There was no wood left in town. People were burning plastic bottles for a little warmth and the smell clung in the cold night air.
The next day, Morillon met Oric. He told him that he would do everything possible to secure a cease-fire, and get humanitarian aid through. He then got into his vehicle to head out of town. Oric had other plans for him. Efendic, back in Sarajevo, had sent Oric a coded message: ‘Whatever happens, prevent Morillon from leaving Srebrenica until he provides security for the people there. Do it in a civilised way. Use women and children.’
Morillon now found his path blocked by hundreds of women and children sitting in the middle of the road. He was now as trapped as they were…
(Laura Silber and Allan Little, “Yugoslavia: Death of a Nation” quoted here.)
Three things occur to me. Firstly the obvious power dynamic – it’s men who are in charge. Secondly it does not appear that Oric (the Bosniac commander) had to organise this. These women (and no doubt the older children too) were already organised in the defence of their city. All Oric had to do was give a command. Finally the government in Sarajevo was aware of all this. “Use women and children”, without further detail, implies that Efendic and Oric shared an understanding of the ways women and children can be used.