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Symposium to expose ways women handle conflict and resolution

Observer Viewpoint | Wednesday, March 23, 2005

I found a March 21 letter to the editor from a recent and fellow alumna of great interest and am compelled to respond.

I certainly hope to be present at the dialogues, but have an entirely different take on the “Women, War, and Peace: Feminist Interventions in a Time of Conflict” symposium.

I come to the table as a proud alumna of Saint Mary’s College, class of 1979, and first to be commissioned at Notre Dame in the Army ROTC program. I view the symposium as an attempt to expose the usually radical differences in the way women think and handle conflict and resolution. Whereas women are relational and utilize words over fists, they are integrally important participants in the complex decisionmaking processes that are being made daily by our nation.

The mere belief that there is an incident that denotes a cause for “war” or the casual taking of a life to solve conflict is enough of a reason for me to admire Saint Mary’s for their invitation for engagement and debate at Women, War and Peace.

I believe that the inequitable or low number of women present in our military and governmental ranks is significant to affect the outcome of war versus peace and the how and the why of what is being done. I am looking for a radical and thought provoking debate that will get women thinking and deciding that they want to be that they must be present at these decision making tables in order to influence the outcomes. Voting for others to represent our best interests is not enough. The wonderful ways and wisdom of women must be valued and promoted by all women at the very least with the embracing of it by contemporary and enlighted men as well.

I am proud of my decision to join the military. I stand on my belief that I wanted to preserve peace. I still want to preserve peace with war as the last resort. I am not unrealistic in thinking that compassionate listening and other feminine skills can be called upon to prevent all wars and conflict. But with more women in positions of leadership, I know there will be attempts made towards this outcome. There would be a difference. I spent 10 years involved, but chose to remove myself from the military and am currently looking for the next opportunity to lead in troubled times. I am needed. We all are.

The human condition defines us as people who come with biases, but we need those biased and diverse people to come together and share their biases as leaders. We must learn from each other to decide if war is the only way to go and why. And if women choose not to lead in some way then they must know that there is that potential to to be viewed as an oppressor to the oppressed.

There is no excuse for non-participation and we need the thought-provokers to spur us into action and leadership. Getting into public office or positions of influence is another story. Perhaps this dilema is why we have feminists feeling that they are limited to symposiums to express their views.

Sadly, our male dominated society does not always embrace women as leaders. That attitude is still out there. Misunderstanding of “women’s ways” by other women is the real tragedy.

I am hoping the symposium will provide for an expression of a holistic feminist view to round out the often inequitable and too frequently heard other side of the biases.

Mary Lauck Morgan

Saint Mary’s

alumna 1979

March 22