Women Baring Witness 2003

I’ve been a “peace nik” since my high school days, when I canvassed my Republican neighborhood in protest of the Vietnam War. (Results: Fail. I don’t think I changed a single mind.)

Years later, my activism and my performance art instincts came together when a friend of mine, Carolyn Lee, organized a naked “peace in” in Santa Fe, NM. (Photo by Jennifer Esperanza.)

We joined Baring Witness, a global partnership of women and men who create words of peace with their bodies. Though nudity is the most natural state for any human, nakedness remains a taboo and as such, an opportunity to speak powerfully with our bodies when we choose to show up undressed.

Using our bodies to spell out words and symbols has taken place across the globe. It’s a simple act, though certainly not easy.

Here’s a short summary from the founder of Baring Witness, Donna Sheehan, on her vision:

It is no accident that Baring Witness began with women. From Nigeria to Nepal to the United States, women are impatient with the endless cycle of violence and war between people, between nations, between human beings and the earth itself.

It is no accident either that women would choose to get naked for the sake of peace and justice. For Baring Witness is about using the greatest weapon women have, the power of the feminine, the power of our beauty and nakedness to awaken our male leaders and stop them in their tracks. In this way Baring Witness is about heightening the awareness of human vulnerability.

By risking with our nakedness – our charm and beauty and vulnerability – in service of peace we are exposing the flesh all humans share. We are casting off the old dominant paradigm of aggression and restoring the power of the feminine to its rightful place as the protector of life. It is time for women to deter the men in their lives from violent acts, as nurturers, as guardians of our families and as voices of reason.

War seems to be a masculine invention. For thousands of years men have been conditioned to respond to threat and confrontation with violence first. Whereas the feminine way is to resolve difficulty and conflict through dialogue and negotiation, through compromise and kindness, not acts of violence.

My vision is a partnership society instead of the existing patriarchal society of aggression.

In the openness and vulnerability of nakedness, I often find my power and inspiration. Thank you to my friend, Carolyn, and to all those before me who braved the landscape for peace.