Women, War, and Peace: An Interview with Abigail Disney


BP: What do you think about the line of argument that women are natural peacebuilders?

Disney: I’m not comfortable with that logic. I don’t want to make any kind of claims for women as natural peacebuilders or as being automatically peaceful. Women are as capable of leading us into war as men. However, as a matter of general behavior, women tend to live at the heart of what we associate with peacefulness: raising families and assuming responsibility for the basic well-being of their families. Many of us associate peacefulness with gathering around the table with family, and that’s what women are in charge of. So they have an affinity for peace that can’t be denied.

BP: Do you see a difference between how women of different generations understand peace and their role in creating change?

Disney: I see huge generational differences among women in the developed world specifically. Often, women in their twenties have the impression that everything is equal and fair and good between men and women. And then they get to a certain point in their lives— marriage, babies, career, for instance—and they realize that women still have to fight. Nobody wants to be a feminist at 20! I think most women get there because something happened to them.

In the developing world, the young women are ready to get out there and fight for change, and frankly, I think they want the older women to make way for them to come up. Right now, I don’t see a lot of room for the younger generation to rise, and I think that’s a bit of an issue across Africa.

BP: As a philanthropist how are you supporting exchange of stories and strategies among women?

Disney: My foundation recently launched an organization called Peace is Loud, the purpose of which is to create that environment where peacebuilders, men and women, can share their stories. We need to be heard, to commit, and to work for peace. Peace is Loud comes from something that Sugars, an elder woman featured in Pray the Devil said, “Peace is not an event. Peace is a process.” And that process is loud and messy. We are trying to promote an understanding that peace may be an agreement to disagree amicably. Peace is dynamic and ever changing.

BP: Is there a bright spot for you in terms of a community of women or a community of men and women in the world where you just see incredible change and activity happening?

Disney: The bright spot is that women are connecting around the world in ways they never had an opportunity to before, talking to each other, learning from each other, and getting strength from each other.

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