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International Trends Paying our Disrespects to the Bloody States We're In. Women, Violence, Culture, and the State* Ailbhe Smyth 1 Global Question: What Violence? Whose Culture? Which State? And undergirding and overarching: Which Women? Each one of these themes is both an entirety unto itself and inextricably linked with the others. Each one is freighted and fraught, burdened and bent under a weight of intricately inflected meanings, all complex, often contradictory, and crucial for all of us, diverse though we be, as feminists. I could say that each is crucial to feminist discourse, which is another way of saying not quite the same thing, but I won't, because it's not enough: feminist practice (in which I include feminist thinking) needs real live heart and body and head and soul feminists to challenge and protest and take up the issues and do something about them. BRING BACK POLITICS, and the material, messy world of the everyday, because tháf s where it hurts, in women's bodies and hearts and heads and souls. And thafs what we need to be talking and thinking and doing something about. You think thafs too concrete for Women's Studies? Well, some days I wake up and read the paper, like today or almost any day, and I think that Women's Studies is too abstract for feminist politics. Discourse—I'm picking on it because we're all doing it—is no protection against the violations of spirit and flesh. The terrain of discourse is a safe place but a little inaccessible when you're out there in the battle zone, on your own homefront. I am daunted by the vastness, the complexity and the immediacy of these themes and the questions they force us to confront: what are the © 1995 Journal of Women's History, Vol 6 No. 4/Vol 7 No. ι (Winter/Spring) *An earlier version of this paper was published in Griffin, Hester, Rai, and Roseneil, eds., Stirring It: Challenges for Feminism (London: Taylor and Francis, 1994), 13-39. 1995 International Trends: Ailbhe Smyth 191 relations between them, and how is feminism—how are feminists—to change the (bloody) state(s) women are in? I am a middle-class, middle-aged white European feminist, I know how to say where I'm coming from. Whatever I may do, I have learnt how not to say the words that keep other women there. I have a job, a house, a pension, principles (for what they're worth), and the privileges and guarantees accruing to a woman like me from all the above. But still. I live in a state of confusion and disbelief I live in a state of anger and outrage. If you don't believe me, look into my heart while I try to find the words to stiffen my own backbone to reach beyond my fear of thickening violence and what it does to all of us, in cruel solidarity. Words in my head and on my tongue flimsy shapes and sounds insubstantial instruments ambiguous respite, false refuge, too precise or too subtle to stop brutality in its tracks. Mass rape, devastating each woman separately and individually; policies of collective control lived as acts of individual annihilation, in genocidal/gynocidal wars. But each woman bears the mark, and the hurt, in her body, in her head, in her soul, in her sense of herself.1 Dying of hunger or thirst or heat or cold or curable disease or the myriad ills consequent on stupid Eurocentric "development" policies and wicked multinational spoliation; half-living (i.e., half-dying) in poverty and indigence because the North/the West is so fat, lazy, and crassly indifferent, because powerful nations put neither their backs 192 Journal of Women's History Winter/Spring nor their hearts into the enforcement of the "Universal" Declaration of HumanRights.2 Murdered, mutilated, assaulted, abused, used, bought, sold and bartered, silenced, beaten, kicked, punched, physically and psychically devastated at home, at school, at the market, at work, at play, in republics, kingdoms, colonies, protectorates (oh irony), in every state. All fact, all documented.3 Don't take it personally, they say. But I do. How else...


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