The conventional narrative about war and women, normalized by patriarchy, is that war is men’s business and that it requires specific masculine characteristics that women do not possess, and as such, women ought to be exempt from direct combat for their own good. So pervasive is this narrative that women are often portrayed in the media coverage of war as hapless and dependent victims in need of rescue and protection. Focusing on the case of Ukrainian women in the ongoing war against Russia, this study debunks the conventional narrative by positing that Ukrainian women have demonstrated agency in the face of unimaginable adversity, serving as diplomats and journalists calling attention to the war, as frontline fighters, as heads of households, and as anti-war activists, among other roles. Further, they have been instrumental in maintaining children’s education and facilitating the delivery of humanitarian aid. This is despite the fact that women have endured political exclusion from the decision-making process on the conduct and end of the war, as well as social exclusion through sexual violence, human trafficking, internal displacement, and refugeehood. Furthermore, they have borne increased economic burdens in the form of energy poverty, food insecurity, unemployment, and poverty. Ignoring the pain, suffering, and diverse sacrifices of Ukrainian women amounts to an insidious form of patriarchy that is bound to further prolong the war and worsen their suffering. Any future negotiations aimed toward ending the war, providing post-war humanitarian assistance, and developing reconstruction plans must involve all parties who fought and bore the brunt of the war, especially women.

Author Biography

Suaad Al Oraimi is an Associate Professor and Chair of the Department of Government & Society at United Arab Emirates University. She earned her Ph.D. in Sociology from American University, Washington, D.C. with a specialization in Political Sociology. She has also served as a top diplomat at the UAE Embassy in Washington D.C. for several years. Her research interests are in Gender Studies with an emphasis on the role of women in leadership at the domestic and international levels and women in conflict zones. Email ID: s.aloraimi@uaeu.ac.ae

Osman Antwi-Boateng is an Associate Professor of Political Science and International Relations at the Department of Government & Society at United Arab Emirates University. Prior to this, he served as a Visiting Assistant Professor of Political Science at St. Lawrence University, NY. He earned his Ph.D. in Political Science and International Relations from University of Delaware, a Master’s degree in International Affairs from Ohio University-Athens, and a second Master’s degree in International Security from Georgetown University School of Foreign Service in Washington, D.C. His research interests are in international security, African political economy and security, and Middle Eastern political economy and security. Email ID: antwiboateng@gmail.com