A women in a headscarf holds a child next to a military tank.

A Feminist’s Veterans Day Reading List

This Veterans Day, we’re honoring those injured, sexually abused, and killed by and within the United States military — and celebrating those organizing to prevent future violence.

This past year, thousands of veterans leveraged their social capital (and put their bodies on the line) to support people of color organizing at home. Over 4,000 veterans joined Native Americans at Standing Rock last winter to protest the Dakota Access Pipeline, rise against fellow military members attacking civilians, and seek forgiveness for past and current military violence against Native Americans. Others joined Colin Kaepernick to protest police brutality: read this interview with former Army Ranger Rory Fanning about protesting the military and why Fanning was on anti-recruitment tour of the Chicago Public Schools.

Veterans who are survivors continue to fight hard to bring attention to rampant (and increasing) sexual violence within the U.S. military. ICYMI, this 2013 ACLU report is an important look at one especially disturbing part of the problem: the enduring health consequences and bureaucratic battles survivors face while seeking disability benefits. (Fun fact: our president thinks this is all because of the women themselves.)

As uncomfortable as this may be to admit, women within the military are nowhere near as vulnerable as women, queer, and trans people of color in the third world, who bear the brunt of U.S. military violence (at the hands of female soldiers themselves). These organizing resources by INCITE! are a great place to start reading about the need to organize against militarism at large. Next on my list is Saba Mahmood’s piece on the role of Western feminism in justifying military interventions and Sylvanna Falcon’s chapter in the Color of Violence anthology about militarized border rape at the U.S. Mexico border. After that, read the whole anthology itself.

After reading these, let’s keep in mind that men in the third world are victims, too. Maya Mikdashi’s piece on how gendered concern for “women and children” in Palestine but not men is racist and destructive is still relevant. So is the New Yorker’s 2004 piece on one of the most visible displays of gender violence against men by the U.S military at Abu Ghraib.

While we’re in the midst of renewed attention to gun violence, let’s not forget that the U.S. military orchestrated the deadliest mass shootings in U.S. history  — often against Native communities. No feminist analysis of the U.S. military then can exist then without rigorously engaging with this history. This primer by INCITE! is a good place to start. Next, read this review of Benjamin Madley’s An American Genocide, which maps out how the U.S. army often participated in mass killings in California. When you’re ready for something longer, Andrea Smith’s book (online hereConquest: Sexual Violence and American Indian Genocide.

The impact of the United States military clearly extends then to women within our borders: Andrea Ritchie’s co-authored report on behalf of over 100 national and local organizations to the United Nations and Sabrina Alimahomed-Wilson’s article Invisible Violence: Gender, Islamophobia, and the Hidden Assault on U.S. Muslim Women both detail how the “War on Terror” has exacerbated violence against, respectively, black and Muslim women at home.

In sum, to quote Andrea Smith:

If we acknowledge the state as a perpetrator of violence against women (particularly indigenous women and women of color) and as a perpetrator of genocide against indigenous peoples, we are challenged to imagine alternative forms of governance that do not presume the continuing existence of the U.S. in particular and the nation-state in general.

In other words, if we truly honor those harmed by and within the United States military, let’s organize to abolish it.

Header image via INCITE! (this collective is awesome if you haven’t caught on already, please go support them)

Mahroh Jahangiri is the former Executive Director of Know Your IX, a national survivor- and youth-led organization working to end gender violence in schools. She cares about the ways in which American militarization, racism, and sexual violence impact communities of color transnationally. You can say hi to her at @mahrohj.

Mahroh Jahangiri is the former Executive Director of Know Your IX, a national survivor- and youth-led organization working to end gender violence in schools.

Read more about Mahroh

Join the Conversation