Women and children are always the first to be saved from life-threatening situations. This creates a subtext, over time, that tragedy has struck if any women and children have died. The same is not necessarily true when only men die. Women and children are protected because peace and goodwill have been inadvertently assigned to them, whereas the same cannot be said for men.
Women are viewed as particularly peaceful and more inclined to bring people together. Men, on the other hand, are viewed as ticking time bombs. At any moment, they may just easily pick violence over peace. Based on this outdated mode of thinking, aid money is then passed out.
Traditional patriarchal societies leave women to handle everything within their homes. Despite its claims of having moved beyond this way of thinking, many of the aid programs the west provides to developing and/or war-torn countries rely upon this archaic belief. There is an assumption that women are supposed to be the only ones taking care of their children and husbands. Women are also seen as more vulnerable, which allows them to access much higher aid money from western institutions.
When working with refugees, a dominant narrative has taken over women’s groups that women are naturally more peaceful. Therefore, if there is an effort to prevent or slow down any conflict, women’s grassroots groups are more likely to receive funding and get outside support. Men are regarded as potential fighters or agents of chaos, no matter their background or personal beliefs. This distinction occurs even though policing and peacekeeping are globally dominated by men.
Sexism informs aid money decisions
Children are constantly bombarded with commentary about what will make them more liked by friends and family. That commentary is created from years of sexism and patriarchy. Women have the idea of peacefulness as a positive trait reinforced throughout their life. They are taught that emotional outbursts, especially ones rooted in anger, make them dislikeable and arrogant.
On the other end of the spectrum, men are encouraged to lash out when they feel anger or annoyance. Through that encouragement, are less likely to hone and develop skills to bring people together. While women spend years being taught they must be part of a community and must contain their anger, men are taught how to be individuals and lash out when anger strikes.
Even though the idea of giving women more aid money might seem like a potential boost for women, it often has little if any effect on their rights. Men often take the money from women behind the scenes and decide what to do with it. Women are constantly limited in their agency due to the constructions of their society. It is a ridiculous capitalist myth that assumes throwing money at the ‘problem’ will solve everything. Money does not even act as a band-aid in this situation, but rather as a lever to continue entrenching the society in that structure.
Aid programs to refugees and developing or war-torn countries are necessary. This is especially true in an era when many of the problems outside of the west were directly related to western decisions and actions. However, these programs must be improved. The whole system must be rewritten to allow for more equitable distribution.
We must base ourselves on facts. We should know what the situation actually looks like on the ground. Rather than assuming women are more inclined to peace, why not take into account that women are at a significantly higher risk of rape than men? Why not take into account that men may be more likely to be expected to wield weapons? Why not focus on the real, everyday problems refugees and refugee communities must face rather than assumptions about what our genders will help us do?