Women, War, and Peace
As a history teacher, I am often faced with the difficult challenge of fitting a significant amount of content into a very small amount of time. It is incredibly important to build a complete historical narrative for my students using a variety of primary and secondary sources. The challenge for me is to teach my students to approach each source with a keen, questioning eye. The ability to question, to search, to infer, guess, draw conclusions, and argue is what makes history such an appealing area of study for me.
However, I have to admit something… it wasn’t until college that I truly fell in love with history. In college, I learned that the historical narrative I had been presented throughout high school had several missing voices. Before college, I had dotingly read all my textbooks, earned A’s and 5’s in my AP history classes memorizing content and regurgitating it with ease. But… sadly, I had not heard the perspectives of the oppressed, the victims, the side that “lost” in huge conflicts. History textbooks all too often highlight a single perspective, the victor… the politician… the speechmaker. As a result, we are left with a sterile list of names and dates, numbers and figures.
Last Thursday, I had the privilege of attending a discussion with the filmmakers who created a documentary film series that spotlights the perspective of a voice that is not often heard in history textbooks- the voice of women in war zones. The series is titled, “Women, War, and Peace,” and it airs for the next four weeks on PBS. I know… PBS… but I promise- it is excellent. Here is why:
The filmmakers of this series are doing something that many media outlets have failed to do, that is to present war through the lens of civilians. War is, after all, not just about combat… battle strategies… who won… who lost. It is painful, it displaces people, families, children. The most affected people in war zones are often not the soldiers, they are the women who have to flee with their children, find firewood and clean water, take over the jobs and responsibilities of the men that have been lost, mourn the death of family, friends, loved ones.
Tomorrow, the second in the series of five PBS documentaries will air. It is titled, “Pray the Devil Back to Hell,”. It highlights the remarkable story of women in Liberia who started a grassroots movement that sought to end the violence that the dictator, Charles Taylor, imposed on the country.
If you have a chance, I recommend that you check this riveting series out. My hope is that it will foster a greater sense of questioning and inquisitiveness in all of you when in a history classroom. Never forget to ask, “whose voice is missing from this source? Whose perspective are we missing?” This PBS film series truly highlights a missing voice, the voice of women in conflict. This series lifts up the experiences of a group of people that are largely ignored by the media- I encourage you to tune in and listen.
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