By Gayle Brandeis, www.gaylebrandeis.com
"No" is a powerful word. Two little letters, one short syllable, have the potential to change the world. Look at a toddler who has just learned to say "No"she is fierce with the word, gleaming and triumphant. The word "No" gives her control over her own small universe, and she wields it freely, joyously, defiantly.
As many girls grew up, however, they lost the word "No". They learned to forget its power, forget they ever owned it. Throughout history, women have often been taught to say "No" to themselves, to stay quiet, complacent, to unquestionably accept what fate and society offer them, even if this means arranged marriage or female genital mutilation or other forms of physical and emotional abuse. Women were often led to believe their bodies were not their own. They were famously told that if their desires didn't match their husbands', they should just "lie back and think of England", forgoing their own internal cues for the sake of the nation.
We are not lying back anymore. Women have steadily been reclaiming the word No, both personally and politically. Where would we be if Rosa Parks didn't say No when she was asked to give up her seat? Where would we be if women in Afghanistan didn't start underground schools to say No to the denial of education for girls and women? Where would we be if women didn't say No to unfair wage discrepancies and pollution of their neighborhoods and discriminatory voting practices and heinous anti-choice laws? Of course we still have a long way to go on all of these fronts, but if no woman ever rose up and said No to injustice, the situation for women would be a lot more grim. Now, thanks to CODEPINK, women around the world have a way to collectively say No to war.
Think of the sound of thousands upon thousands of women rising up and saying No together. That open syllable would fill the air, a beautiful chorus. By the time International Women's Day rolls around on March 8, we should be able to shake the roof right off the White House with our voices.
As the call at http://www.womensaynotowar.org states, "This is not the world we want for ourselves or our children. With fire in our bellies and love in our hearts, we women are rising up - across borders - to unite and demand an end to the bloodshed and the destruction."
When women say No to war, we are saying Yes to so muchYes to compassion, Yes to justice, Yes to safety, Yes to a peaceful and sustainable future. Please join us in raising our voices. Let's recapture our original joyous, defiant experience of the word No, and bolster it with a healthy Yes that will resound through the ages, ringing in our great-grandchildren's ears.
--Gayle Brandeis is the author of Fruitflesh: Seeds of Inspiration for Women Who Write (HarperSanFrancisco) and The Book of Dead Birds: A Novel (HarperCollins), which won Barbara Kingsolver's Bellwether Prize for Fiction in Support of a Literature of Social Change.