War, Language, and Gender

Special Issue of Women and Language

Volume 27:2, Fall 2004



“You can no more win a war than an earthquake”—Jeanette Rankin


“People rarely win wars, governments rarely lose them.  People get killed.  Governments molt and regroup, hydra-headed.  They first use flags to shrink-wrap peoples’ minds and suffocate real thought, and then as ceremonial shrouds to cloak the mangled corpses of the dead”—Arundhati Roy

War, language and gender:  Recent events prompted our sensed need to revisit the insights in Carol Cohn’s path-making 1987 article, “Sex and Death in the Rational World of Defense Intellectuals.”  Cohn’s warnings about the power of language to name, mask and focus our thinking remain chillingly current.  She wrote as the world struggled to cope with two contending nuclear “superpowers.”  Today, a fully armed world struggles to adjust to one superpower and many nuclear powers.  We live with the new “old” realities:  widespread, virtually continual warfare.  Scholars of many disciplines have described ways in which world views consider war necessary or inescapable perpetuate and justify those wars through their rhetoric.  Though millions find the truth of Rankin and Roy’s claims that people don’t win wars painfully obvious, much national leadership seems oblivious.

Contact Information:

Anita Taylor, Excutive Editor

Women and Language

Department of Communication

George Mason University

Fairfax, VA  22030

e-mail:  ataylor@gmu.edu