By Eryn Mathewson
On a Tuesday evening in June, my colleagues and I modeled five different costumes that reflected the different ways militarism affects our lives. The fashion show was part of the Transnational Feminist Organizing to Resist Militarism event at our office, which also included grantees from Guam and Colombia who shared how their communities were being impacted by militarism.
I modeled “War is Not Sexy”, which was hard to do because as a model – I wanted to be sexy. This made me think of all the ways the military is sold as sexy – it pays, it’s a way to fund education, to travel, to kick ass, and gain prestige. I reflected how fortunate I was to grow up in a middle class family that gave me the resources to pursue all of these things—without the military.
Modeling for the fashion show made realize how little exposure I have had to militarism. Yet in attending the Mehserle verdict protests in Oakland, I saw for the first time militarism in my own community.
At the protest, folks were carrying signs, reciting spoken word, and milling around Frank Ogawa Plaza. I was personally impressed that a white cop had actually been convicted of killing a black man, yet the involuntary manslaughter verdict for shooting an unarmed man in the back seemed really lenient.
Thirty minutes had barely passed when I saw lines of stone-faced police in riot gear form around the plaza. The gear alone created an aggressive air; a message of “I dare you – do something!” The police were probably scared of the crowd too, but they had guns, clubs and tasers. Then a policewoman announced that we were unlawfully assembing, and within moments, lines of police enclosed on the crowd. Everyone around me became nervous and groups of protesters began charging the crowd to flee from police. Then tear gas was launched into the crowd who refused to vacate the area. That was my cue to leave.
There was nothing sexy about that experience. There was just a lot of fear, anger, and insecurity. I’m grateful I wasn’t in a real war zone, but I realize that even though most of the U.S. wars are being fought abroad, we have our own version of militarization right here at home.
Read More: Fashioning Resistance to Militarism
Eryn Mathewson is part of the Finance and Admin Team at the Global Fund for Women.