What is Terror for Women: A Hot Topic In Our Archives

What is Terror for Women: A Hot Topic In Our Archives

by Mary Lou Greenberg

Much of women’s lives has to do with terror – living with it, facing it, and most importantly, overcoming it. The terror of anticipated and actual abuse, both bloody acts and devastating words; terror of bombs and guns in wars of various kinds, in Kosovo, the Congo, the Middle East today, or at the doors of abortion clinics in the U.S.; the terror of not knowing where you and your family will sleep tonight, find food for your children’s meals tomorrow, or the fear that they will be shot in neighborhood violence or by the police.

The print edition of On the Issues Magazine (1983-1999) addressed all of this and more in scores of articles over the years. A few are highlighted here.

The Politics of Violence by Charlotte Bunch

In Fall 1990, Charlotte Bunch wrote The Politics of Violence . She called violence against women “a fundamental abuse of the human right to life, mobility and liberty, (be) free from torture, imprisonment and persecution…one of the central human rights issues of our day.”

Justice Denied by Jan Goodwin

Reports from dozens of countries detailed the devastating effects of war on women who often bear the brunt of brutality and become targets of atrocities. On The Issues did not flinch from exposing the reality of women in war zones around the world. In Fall 1997, Jan Goodwin’s Rwanda: Justice Denied reported on the stories of women who had been horribly mutiliated, physically and emotionally, yet dared to testify at the Rwandan war-crimes tribual.

For Irish Feminists: Activism=Imprisonment, Strip Search, Death by Betsy Swart
Let’s Finally Right the Wrongs: Rape IS a War Crime by Jean Bethke Elshtain
Bosnia: No Place to Hide – No Place to Run,: The Balkanization of Women’s Bodies by Jill Benderly

A special section, Women Under Siege, in Summer 1993 linked Ireland, Bosnia, and rape as a war crime throughout the world. Betsy Swart, in her article For Irish Feminists: Activism=Imprisonment, Strip Search, Death, reported on the murder of Sheena Campbell, a feminist and fighter against human rights violations in Northern Ireland and interviewed Irish Republican POW Bronwyn McGahan, then serving a 10-year prison term

Jean Bethke Elshtain linked the mass rapes of women in Bosnia to rape by armies in history in Let’s Finally Right the Wrongs: Rape IS a War Crime, and Jill Benderly reported in depth on Bosnia: No Place to Hide – No Place to Run: The Balkanization of Women’s Bodies.

The Welfare Bill is Our Bosnia: An Interview with Elizabeth Holtzman by Rosemary Bray

For the Fall 1997 issue, On The Issues Editor Rosemary Bray interviewed Elizabeth Holtzman on the Clinton welfare reform bill in The Welfare Bill is Our Bosnia. Holtzman told what the bill would mean to poor women and said the bill was “our Bosnia. We saw in Bosnia the atrocities that people committed against each other. They looked alike — you couldn’t tell by appearance whether people were Serbs, Croats or Muslims. They had the same ethnic background, but their religions were different. So they killed each other. We’ve created our own Bosnia here, except it’s based on economics. It’s based on infirmity. It’s based on being foreign. It’s based on being poor and minority.”

Infant Mortality in America Photo Journal by Michele McDonald

A powerful portfolio of photographs with text in Spring 1998 by Michele McDonald, Infant Mortality in America, documented the terror and agony of women whose children die, not in shooting wars, but because of poverty and racism – right here in the U.S.A. “The United States, the fabled land of plenty, currently ranks 29th in infant morality,” the text said. It also told of efforts to assist high-risk women.

Oklahoma Diary by Andrea Peyser

In Fall 1995, Andrea Peyser wrote Oklahoma Diary: Heartsick in the Heartland about her reactions in going to Oklahoma City in the wake of the April 1995 federal building bombing and made the links between Timothy McVeigh’s actions and abortion clinic violence.

Praise the Lord and Kill the Doctor by Merle Hoffman

Not surprisingly, threats to reproduction freedom and violent assaults on abortion providers have been featured in almost every issue, and especially in Merle Hoffman’s editorials. In Praise the Lord and Kill the Doctor she describes what it was like to attend a memorial service with other abortion providers for murdered doctor David Gunn. “I knew that by going to Pensacola [where Gunn had been killed], I was going into enemy territory…Many people were frightened – but stronger even than their fear was the bold fact that by not going to the memorial they would be giving in to the terrorists – whose greatest weapon is fear. No one stayed away.”

When “Pro-Life” Means Death by Mary Lou Greenberg

After the bombing of a Birmingham, Alabama clinic that killed a security guard and severely wounded nurse Emily Lyons, I traveled to that city and reported on the terror of that day – but also on the determination of clinic staff and the pro-choice community to re-open. In the article, When “Pro-Life” Means Death, I quoted one clinic escort who told me, “Women can’t be truly equal until they can control their bodies. I’ve decided that this fight is mine as long as it takes.”

For two women shot to death in Brookline Massachusetts, poem by Marge Piercy

Marge Piercy’s powerful poem, For two women shot to death in Brookline Masssachusetts in Summer 1995 was – and still is – a clarion call for everyone to “stand up now and say No More.”

In Support of Mother(earth)hood: conversation with Earth First! Activist Judi Bari by Christine Keyser

Finally, the voice of a woman who took on the fight for Mother Earth in defiance of the timber barons and a bombing that almost took her life. Christine Keyser’s In Support of Mother(earth)hood: Conversation with Earth First! Activist Judi Bari in the summer 1991 issue is a unique portrait of the provocative environmental, peace, social justice, and feminist activist.

Bari survived a bomb that exploded under her driver’s seat in 1990 while she was organizing for Redwood Summer in California and suffered a shattered pelvis that left her disabled and in pain for the rest of her life. The FBI refused to investigate and actually accused Bari of planting it herself. In the interview, Bari, who died of breast cancer in 1997, talked about fear and courage: “I think our collective safety is more important than our personal safety. And the fate of the forest is more important than the fate of me…If I stop doing it, then they don’t have to kill me. They’ve succeeded… But it’s scary.”

Mary Lou Greenberg is Associate Editor of On The Issues Magazine.