Born on October 2, 1869, Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi (Mahatma Gandhi) is probably best known for his promotion of nonviolence.
What is less well known is his conviction that achievement of nonviolence rests more on the shoulders of women than on men.
According to Cindy Ness in a 2007 article in Daedalus, Gandhi viewed men as:
- lacking the discipline needed to carry out a nonviolent protest
- arrogant by nature, easily angered, and prone to retaliate when insulted.
By contrast, Gandhi viewed women as:
- intuitively superior at service and sacrifice
- best suited to awakening the world’s conscience
- capable of teaching the art of peace to a violent world.
What do you think of Gandhi’s characterization of men and women? Does it in any way ring true?
Ness asserts that there is no evidence to support Gandhi’s vision. In recent decades, she argues, women’s participation in violence across the globe—including terroristic violence–has skyrocketed.
She blames structural and cultural changes, including recognition of the political usefulness of women, as well as deterioration of the division between combatant and noncombatant status in war zones, for women’s violence.
In her view, women are biologically no less violent than men, contextual factors are the determinants of violence in both sexes, and Gandhi’s vision of a nonviolent world led by nonviolent women is an unrealistic dream.
What do you think? In the decades since Gandhi’s birth and death, has the dream of nonviolence become more and more unattainable? Have women become less and less likely to serve as role models for non-violence? Or was the recent award of the Nobel Peace Prize to three women peace activists a sign of things to come?
Kathie Malley-Morrison, Professor of Psychology