Getting Women Off the Sidelines
-An Interview by Mary Liepold, Editor in Chief
Mary interviewed Peace X Peace Founder Patricia Smith Melton for this December PeaceTimes to celebrate our 10-year anniversary. This is part 1 of 3.
Patricia, why did you launch Peace X Peace, back in 2002?
I wanted to find the keys to activating womanpower around the world. Why hadn’t women been stepping up more? Or if they had, why hadn’t their voices been heard? What needed to change in order to get women acting instead of sitting on the sidelines watching planes fly into very tall buildings?
It seems catalysts are needed to get people off their posteriors. For me and many others that was 9-11. I’d been puzzled, thwarted really, for decades by women’s lack of influence in the world arena of decisions and actions—but I was studying it almost academically. When 9-11 happened I woke up and said, “This is ridiculous. You’re studying why women don’t act. Instead of studying, start acting!”
So I stopped writing the book I was working on, Diamond Women: Achieving Clarity & Brilliance in a World Dominated by Men, and started to change things so men aren’t necessarily the dominators. That’s not to say I knew what to do. I didn’t, I hadn’t been an activist. I was in the arts. But I had the kind of intelligence women have to turn to other women and say “You’re an expert in this. Let’s get together and answer this basic question: What is peace, and how can women be empowered to build it?”
So my first real action in social caring was to bring together women experts to answer this question. Everything that Peace X Peace has become was birthed out of that gathering and that wisdom, so typically female.
Did you have a picture at that time of what the organization and the world would look like in 10 years?
Let’s back up. All major actions, personal and global, come out of a dynamic mix of desperation and hope; and hope requires a vision of something new. You have a vision of the possible and you realize that what’s happening now isn’t sustainable. My vision—and I wish it had become more true than it has by now—was of a stronger peace, more coherent glue between cultures, more understanding.
There are learning processes for visionaries, if I may call myself that, and one large one is to realize that not everyone else grasps, or can grasp or wants to grasp, your vision viscerally. You are activating and inspiring people at the same time you and they need to work to overcome their and society’s inertia. One image I have is of a butterfly with tar on its wings. That butterfly needs a clear vision in order to get free and fly.
If people believe something is not possible, peace for example, they won’t try to achieve it; they strengthen and justify their lethargy by stereotyping others and becoming victims of fear. Or worse, they become the politicians and arms dealers who keep conflict going, and set up a cycle of violence around their prejudices and, usually financial or power-securing, vested interests.
Yet most people grasp the concept of peace, desperately want it, and will work for it. I’ve watched so many leaders show by their lives that peace is not magic, it is work. To shift the “tar” people, the heavy, leaden factions in all cultures that do not want to change, is major work. We’re always working against the sodden assumptions of the usually more fundamentalist people who have not had exposure, and time, and juiciness with other cultures. Once you have heart to heart contact with someone from another culture, you’re helpless to do harm to them. Your world whirls and takes you to a kind of infinity and unity where you care.
Simple emotional education frees people up for peace. That’s what Peace X Peace has been about from the beginning. It may have morphed from being the first online social network for women and peace, before there was even a name for it, to a vigorous network of catalyst women around the world who bring their perceptions, their best practice, their best ideas out to share, with us as their e-media platform. Still, everything we’ve done has to do with connection, communication, the education of touching each other’s hearts. That’s the glue the whole world needs.
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