Wednesday, November 6, 2013


Of 100 Nobel Peace Prize Winners, 15 Have Been Women, None Have Been American Women of Color, None Have Been LGBTQ

Via Racialicious, here's a great piece by Kelly Macías on the long history of "peace [being] regarded as men's work." Nobel Peace Prize winners are a rarefied bunch, but if the E.U. can get it, surely some women, women of color, and LGBTQ activists can get it, or at least be nominated, too.

If you look at the contributions of Black American women alone (some of whom are also part of the LGBTQ community), we have a rich history of peace activism dating all the way back to slavery and the abolitionist movement.[...] And we are not alone. Women of color in the U.S. have been incredibly active in championing and building peace. Consider Yuri Kochiyama, who was actually nominated for the Peace Prize in 2005; Dolores Huerta, co-founder of the National Farmworkers Association (which later became United Farm Workers), who organized for migrant workers and the poor; Ada Deer, a member of the Menominee Nation and as a Native American activist who was the first woman to head the Bureau of Indian Affairs. [...] Likewise there is a dilemma in failing to acknowledge LGBTQ peacemakers. In his 2011 article, “Where are the Gay Nobel Prize Winners?” Laurence Watts points out that none of the winners of any of the Nobel prizes has been openly gay. Are there likely non-straight winners? Absolutely. But we don’t know anything about them. And particularly when it comes to the peace prize, it seems negligent not to acknowledge those working for equal rights for members of the LGBTQ community.

The piece, originally published at the Feminist Wire, goes on to discuss how "radical" peacemaking is often excluded from the nomination process, and how truth-to-power movements seem much more palatable when they're viewed from abroad. Macías won't have it:

The stereotypical notion of the American savior who rescues the rest of the planet is antiquated and colonial; and the notion that peace and humanitarian work is only necessary and valid when it’s done abroad negates the gross injustices and human rights violations that take place on our own soil...

When the accolades of peace work continue to go to those persons that fit our notions of conventionality and acceptability, far too many activists find themselves excluded, shut out of mainstream movements, and then forced to organize in separate spaces.[...] Those who nominate the potential winners of the Nobel Peace Prize can do a far better job. They must do better. It is irresponsible to set the precedent that some peace movements are more respectable and important than others.


6 Comments / Post A Comment

de Pizan

At least the UN has finally recognized that women need to be a part of the peace process. I just finished the autobiography of Lehmah Gbowee, who was one of the three winners in 2011 for her work in the Liberian peace process, where the women were pretty much solely responsible for making peace happen (at one point the women blocked the doors of the peace talks and wouldn't allow the generals to leave the building because the men were constantly finding ways to delay the talks and drag their feet).
Overall, women winning any Nobel prize category is pretty dismal. Only 44 women total out of the 522 prizes awarded have been women (which is what, 8%?): 15 in Peace, 13 in Literature (out of 106), 2 in Physics (out of 107), 10 in Medicine (out of 104), 4 in Chemistry (out of 105).



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What an odd piece. "Shouldn’t the peace community be actively working to undo systems of marginalization and oppression, even if this means taking a hard look inside, at our own systems of exclusion and who is rewarded for their efforts?" Why does she keep saying 'our' and 'we' and 'inside'? The whole thing reads like she doesn't realize the Nobel isn't an American award. Surely she can't think that, but then why does she apparently think it's so vitally important that specifically AMERICAN women are awarded? It seems like blind patriotism thinly disguised as progressive thinking.

Kelly Macias

@questingbeast These are good questions and just to clarify... The piece was originally written for the academic community of peace and conflict resolution studies, of which I am a part. So what you call "blind patriotism" is actually my own letter to members of my academic discipline (which is indeed global not just American) calling out oppressive and exclusive behaviors. And yes, I do think it is important that women in the global North get acknowledged for peace activism and social transformation and this is not limited only to the US...

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