No country in the world can ever be considered completely at peace. Though the soldiers may not be dressed as such and there may not be guns and tanks and bombs, the war is still occurring. Though there are no bases or shouts of war from politicians or the media, the war goes on. This war is the longest lasting, stretching back centuries to when history began, and it certainly has had the most casualties. Though these casualties may not be considered casualties of war, their pain, suffering and death is still relevant and unfortunate.

The war being waged in every country is a war against women. These women and girls remain unknown in connection with this war. The causes of their suffering are infinite, yet the perpetrators of their suffering cannot be named. Though most of these women may suffer at the hands of men, men are not the perpetrators. The perpetrator is not a person, not a living thing, nor even a tangible object. The perpetrator is a structure. A structure, a base upon which the world builds its laws, its language, its custom. Upon which society and civilization is formed. And although it may seem a wide, sweeping claim that this structure has permeated every place worldwide, no country, community, or individual has escaped its touch.

This structure is patriarchy. Though many of us may have heard this word before from some textbook or feminist friend, the word seems to glide into one ear and out the other without so much as a thought as to what this word entails, into the pervasive nature of this structure and the detrimental effects it has on every single woman worldwide. These effects show themselves as physical as well as mental and emotional trauma. How this structure reaches these women is different in each case.  Some women may experience it through an honor killing, others through a forced child marriage, others may experience it through gang rape, through sexual trafficking, through sexual harassment, through lower pay than their male colleagues, through misogynistic jokes. Though every woman in the world may be different, with their identity as a woman intersecting with a plethora of other identities ranging from class to race to education, one thing they have in common is that this structure touches them all in one way or another, keeping them down, keeping them from ever being free and equal, but most importantly, keeping them from being safe.

National governments, diplomats, international affairs scholars spend their lives trying to prevent conflict and maintain peace. Little do they realize that there is no peace to maintain, there never was. The problem with this lack of realization is because we believe that we cannot see the enemy. It is not some foreign soldier with a camouflaged uniform holding a gun, the usual image of an enemy. The thing is, we can see and touch and hear this enemy just like with the foreign soldier, but our perceptions are not adjusted as to be aware of this enemy. We do not need to travel outside of our homes to experience this enemy, nor wait for it to pass by. It is omnipresent, making it impossible not to see if we know what to look for. We can see it when a bride is given to her groom by her father, when a girl is praised for her virginity, when a husband beats his wife, when a girl is raped, when anyone calls anyone else a slut or a bitch. When someone tells a friend to “man up and stop acting like a girl.” The structure is everywhere.

Can you see it?  

And if we can see the enemy, why don’t we realize that this is a war?