IVAW.org Providing a Safe Space for Women and People of all Colors Online

By Alejandra Rishton

IVAW.org is a site for members and supporters of Iraq Veterans Against the War. There is a closed component of the site for members, veterans of any U.S. military branch after September 11, 2001 who does not agree with the militaristic policies of the U.S. government. The screening method for IVAW members involves a verification of your identity and military service. This lack of anonymity allows for healthy online interactions. IVAW.org is a feminist, anti-racist space. I believe that because  IVAW members, have shared the collective experience of living in a war-culture, we strive to build a culture devoid of the hierarchies and humiliations rampant in military culture.

I started to form my opinions online by posting a closed discussion:

“I’m taking a cyber-feminism class at my college that has centered about the question, what makes an online space safe for women?

I believe IVAW may have a valid set of answers for that question. As a website and meeting ground IVAW.org seems to provide a virtual environment that allows for all members to interact comfortably with the uncomfortable questions of war.

It is my hypothesis that because we, IVAW members, have shared the collective experience of living in a war-culture, we strive to build a culture devoid of the hierarchies and humiliations rampant in military culture.

In my class a safe space for women online has been described as a space without slurs and name-calling, a space void of distressing images and innuendo, and a space free of harassment where all members are allowed equal access to the tools provided on the site. In other words the individual “voice” of all members can be expressed freely.

Please let me know how you feel about the IVAW environment yourselves, and maybe how it relates to your military experience. I would like to get a sampling of opinions to better evaluate the site!”

Finally, I posted a public blog:

“ IVAW: Providing a Safe Space for Women and People of All Colors

published by Alejandra Rishton on 10/17/12 11:48am

When viewing the IVAW.org community through a feminist and anti-racist lens, one will find a positive and equal environment for people off all genders and colors. The content of the site allows for information to be collected that falls way out of the public discourse, enabling the most repressed voices of our time to speak. The victims of our permanent war economy are typically not afforded the luxury of Internet access, a reality that IVAW.org confronts daily. While IVAW.org cannot fix the issues of access for those living in warzones, they can allow for members to represent ideas that raise concern for the victims of war.

Iraq veteran’s themselves have been placed in a subordinate media position in the United States and elsewhere. They are misrepresented and under-represented in the dominant media structures. Only 1% of the US population serves in the military, and this leaves a gap in the understanding of most Americans that allows for the marginalization of veteran’s issues. Veteran’s today face homelessness and suicide on a scale that has never been recorded before. The mental health issues of men and women in service are not properly addressed by government that chooses to send them to war.

The issues of women in the military, an even smaller minority of the US population, are represented greatly on the site. This site allows for a horizontal creation and management by all of its members, which has.”

It was difficult to speak in a language both acceptable to the site and aligned with class vocabulary.

After viewing the class presentations I realized how rare an online space IVAW.org is. Daniella’s presentation on the Experience Project, a site that purports to build safe communities, showed me how contentious a site can get around the ideas of feminism. The site allowed for the creation of an “I am a Feminist” group, but they do not police the trolls that make the space almost uninhabitable.  This helps me to further appreciate the lack of anonymity on IVAW.org.

I would like to gain a better understanding of the x-reality experience on IVAW.org, especially because they have women-only conferences. I would like to learn from women who have interacted with IVAW the organization  and the website.