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What if you looked at war as though women mattered?

What if you looked at war as though women mattered?

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Abigail Disney wants to bring women into the conversation about war, and tell the stories that are overlooked.
Abigail Disney wants to bring women into the conversation about war, and tell the stories that are overlooked.

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Published by: The Clayman Institute on Aug 15, 2012
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial

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Filmmaker Abigail E Disney’s latest project began with a simplequestion, “What if you looked at war as though women mattered?”
 
Disney’s answer to that question is Women, War & Peace
, a boldfive-part PBS miniseries that highlights the stories of women inconflict zones from Bosnia to Liberia, and Columbia to Afghanistan.By inserting a female face, voice, and perspective into the dialogueabout conflict and security, Women, War & Peacechallenges the
notion that these issues are only men’s domain.
 
It all began at Stanford
Women, War & Peace 
is the newest chapter in Disney’s
longstanding personal and intellectual interest in the genderedexperience at war 
 –
an interest that began for her at StanfordUniversity.In the early 1980s, Disney came to Stanford to pursue a masters degree in English Literature. Her time at
Stanford proved to be a turning point in her life, said Disney, because “it really cemented for me that this waswhat I needed to do with my life…study, think, talk,…be about ideas.”
 One idea that Disney was exposed to at Stanford was the importance of looking at the world through agendered lens.
 At the time, Disney said, “everybody was looking at women and talking about women…the
gender seed definit
ely got planted [for me] at Stanford.”
  Armed with this vantage point, Disney went on to pursue a Ph.D. at Columbia University. For her thesis, shewrote about American war novels, finding that cultural representations of war are always told from a malepoint of view.
When war is written about or talked about, said Disney, it’s as if “it is a locker roomconversation…a conversation by, for, and about men…with the presumption that nobody female is listening.”
  After completing her graduate studies, Disney ma
intained a focus on women’s issues by playing a key role in
 
In conversation with filmmaker Abigail Disney
 
by
Marianne Cooper 
on Monday, September 19, 2011 - 7:35am 
 
 
 
several social and political organizations for over 20 years.
The accidental filmmaker 
 As the granddaughter of Roy Disney and grandniece of Walt Disney, Abigail Disney steered clear of thefamily business for most of her life.
However, a trip to Liberia in 2006 to show support for Africa’s firstwoman head of state, Liberia’s President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, provided Disney with a reason to become a
filmmaker. While there, she heard the remarkable story of how a small group of Liberian women were able tostop a civil war through nonviolent action.
“It was horrifying to me that I had never heard of these women and
knew that it was going to be forgotten. Knowing something creates a debt in you
an obligation. I was in a
position to make sure their story was honored.”
 
Disney’s desire to tell these women’s story culminated in the documentary
 
Pray the Devil Back to Hell 
, whichshe produced with Emmy Award-winning filmmaker, Gini Reticker.
Pray the Devil Back to Hell 
won BestDocumentary at its premiere at the 2008 Tribeca Film Festivaland has gone on to win nearly 20 awards and honors. Disneyworked with Reticker again on
Women, War & Peace 
, along withPamela Hogan, a producer/writer at the forefront of making
PBS’s Emmy
-winning, international documentary series WIDE
 ANGLE, a standard setter in the coverage of global women’s
issues. Together, this teamof seasoned film veterans took on the challenge of producing this five-part series.
Coming full circle
With the launch of her new PBS miniseries,
Women, War & Peace 
, several parts of Abigail Disney’s life come
full circle.The miniseries marks a return for Disney to her interest in the gendered dynamics of war. In
Women, War &Peace 
, Disney upends the usual way war is discussed by placing women at the forefront of the story.
“Everynarrative has a central eye…an eyeball…th
rough which all this narrative is filtered. And the eyeball in the war narrative has never, not been male.
It has always been like you sewed a camera into John Wayne’s greenberet.”
 What Disney wanted to do instead was to see what war would look like thr 
ough women’s eyes.
 
“What wouldhappen,” Disney asked, if you “were…to sew the camera into a sari or a headscarf [of] a woman?
How wouldit look different? How would the vocabulary change, the ethics change? How would the cost-benefit analysislook? What shifts?
Because it’s a small thing to shift the central eye, but it can have radical consequences. And that’s essentially why I’ve taken this on.”
 
By looking at war through women’s point of view,
 
Women, War, & Peace 
illuminates what Disney calls thei
gnored, “second front” of war –
 
and “that’s the fight of women’s lives,” Disney explained, “the fight to make lifecontinue…to find a way…to thrive as a family and as a community…while enduring [the] trauma of losingloved ones, the worry…of watching their 
 
sons go off and become not just victims but also monsters.”
 
Understanding women’s experience of war is all the more important because of the changing nature of armed
conflict, added Disney. Gone are the days when war involved nation states with large armies.
Today’s
conflicts are fought by informal groups
 –
gangs, warlords, and insurgents. The post-Cold War proliferation of small arms has altered the landscape of war, with women becoming the main targets and bearingunprecedented losses.

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