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Maternal Bodies in Militant Protest

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Antonia Vargas

on 7 March 2017

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Transcript of Maternal Bodies in Militant Protest

Leymah Gbowee & the Rhetorical Agency of African Motherhood
Thesis: Leymah Gbowee and LMAP activists adopted the cultural power of motherhood and framed their movement as one motivated by concern for their children in order to engage in politics *
in African cultures
*For militants, protesting...
constitutes an identity for both the individual and the group. Aggressive, unapologetic social protest strengthens an individual's sense of political agency and a broader coalition of activists who share similar goals. *
The protesters claimed their maternity as culturally symbolic grounds for their political action. They responded to sexual violence by asserting themselves as biological mothers and as advocates for Liberian children and women.
* Why was the rape of mothers so prevalent?
Maternal Bodies in Militant Protest
expressed in terms to persuade or impress
having control over your own actions and body
represents an idea,object or relationship. That allow comprehension beyond what is seen by creating linkages between otherwise very different concepts and experiences
statement or action expressing disapproval or objection
* Mothers are powerful
" the most important and enduring identity and name that African women claim for themselves is 'Mother' "
Why are mothers considered so important in African cultures? *
Respect for their role in bearing children * and their protection beyond childhood
Which naturally lead them to fall into having authority as mediators and negotiators *
1. The ultimate expression of power over the enemy

2. A literal symbolic weapon used to terrorize the population *
1. Repositioned women and children as the war's true victims

2. Threats of deliberate public nakedness
1.1 Private meetings,public protests, sit-ins, and open statements*
Over 2000 Liberian women staged a ‘‘sit-down’’ protest in a large soccer field, while wearing ‘‘sackcloth and ashes,’’ the women reportedly dressed all in white and wore no makeup or jewelry. The group of women grew in number each day, with mothers, daughters, sisters, grandmothers, aunts, and nieces joining together in the name of peace.Thousands of mothers were protesting in the streets, at the sports field, and in front of the presidential palace.

They emphasized a sense of national familial unity and activated the rhetorical power available to them as mothers.

The woman chastised their ‘‘sons’’ for the destruction they had caused and threatened to enact what they saw as the most powerful curse available to African mothers: deliberate public nakedness. *
Men are born through women’s vaginas, and it was as if by exposing themselves, they are were saying, “We now take back the life we gave you.”

* Why is it so significant that the protesters used their own bodies?
They took back the agency that they had lost when they were raped and used their bodies as sources of power. *
* Protesters constituted their Liberian sisters as political agents and compelled many women to vote in a presidential election for the first time.

‘‘powerful mothers’’ + ‘‘appeals to women’s rights’’ enabled women to ‘‘enter male-gendered political space "
deploying maternity as a ‘‘political strategy’’ to extend their individual and collective agency *
This became a unifying source... *
Through their protests, these women not only helped to bring peace to Liberia but also created new avenues for female political agency and played a key role in electing the first African female head of state.
This project also demonstrates that ‘‘mother’’ can be a powerful symbol around which to build an effective rhetorical strategy *
The Blue Ribbon Peace Award
We found this article particularly useful in showing the ways in which women navigate the spaces they are given in order to claim agency and change what they want to be changed. Although women themselves did not have much power to make change on such a large scale, by using the rhetoric of motherhood, Gbowee and the LMAP protesters were able to do something inpactful. Their patriarchal bargain was to employ their identity as mothers and act in the ways they needed to in order to achieve their goal since they knew they would not be listened to otherwise.

This is a common lot of the papers. For so long, women have been second-class citizens compared to men, but they navigate the space of “second-class” in such a way that they still have agency. They are never simply victims or agents, as we have discussed. They do what they need to in order to claim whatever amount of power they are able to in the situations and societies in which they exist.

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