- Women's Antiwar Diplomacy during the Vietnam War Era by Jessica M. Frazier
As the title suggests, Jessica Frazier's book Women's Antiwar Diplomacy [End Page 139] during the Vietnam War Era examines the role of women in antiwar diplomacy and activism during the Vietnam War. The main crux of Frazier's argument asserts the relationship between the American and Vietnamese women was not U.S. cultural imperialism, but rather a genuine collaborative relationship where each side actively worked to forward their own goals and agenda. Spanning from 1965 to 1978 Frazier documents the collaborative anti-war efforts of Vietnamese and American women and how the nature of the relationships forged by these groups changed over the course of the war as the nature of the Vietnam War also changed. However, while the war provides the context for her primary argument, the women's anti-war activism frames a broader discussion of the role identity and imperialism played in activism during the 1960s and 1970s.
Frazier breaks the war into six sections, allowing her to focus on particular issues during each phase. First, Frazier looks at mothers as experts in 1965 to 1967 by focusing on the burgeoning activism of women's antiwar groups in the United States and Vietnam. Motherhood appears as a continuous theme throughout Frazier's argument. She illustrates how both groups used motherhood and maternal duty as a way to justify fighting against the war or fighting in it. After explaining how alliances formed and connections strengthened through international activism and conferences from 1968 to 1970, Frazier uses chapter three to discuss 1970 and the development of "Third World" feminist networks. The chapter focuses on African American, Chicana, and Asian American women activists and how they drew inspiration from the Vietnamese women in their different fight against sexism, racism, and imperialism. In chapter four she examines the years 1969–1972 and focuses on the struggle among feminist movements worldwide to include war as a feminist issue. Using the International Women's Conference as the backdrop for the discussion of war as a feminist issue Frazier shows that the feminist movement and the antiwar movement were hardly a homogenous group with identical goals and agendas. The last two chapters span from 1970–1978 and focus on the more practical ways that women's [End Page 140] antiwar activism impacted the discussion of the Vietnam War concerning women's rights and the conditions of Prisoners of War, and expose the shifting context of alliances between the activists after the war.
Overall, Frazier has a well-developed argument aided by a rich set of case studies. By focusing on the individual's experience, she provides a densely woven analysis that propels her argument forward. Frazier also has extensive bibliography-based sources. Her use of oral histories provided the Vietnamese perspective vital to her central thesis and the incorporation of these interviews strengthened the overall narrative. By giving us a glimpse of the Vietnamese women's view, Frazier solidifies her claim of collaborative and mutually beneficial relations between the American and Vietnamese women. Despite the excellent use of oral histories, Frazier's analysis was from a primarily American or western perspective, which at times sidelined the voices of the Vietnamese women involved in the narrative. However, this does not lessen Frazier's contribution to the historiography. This book challenges previous conventions about the level of women's involvement in the anti-war movement and the type of relationships forged on an international level between Vietnams and American women. Rather than creating yet another imperialistic encounter between the United States and Vietnam, Frazier shows that these women came together to fight the imperialism that American intervention in Vietnam represented. Finally, this book shows the underlying complexities and intersections of identity and activism present in the antiwar movement around the world. [End Page 141]
FRANCES P. MARTIN is a PhD student at the University of Connecticut. She currently researches...