Banning the Bomb, Smashing the Patriarchy offers a look inside the antinuclear movement and its recent successful campaign to ban the bomb. From scrappy organizing to winning the Nobel Peace Prize in 2017 and achieving a landmark UN treaty banning nuclear weapons, this book narrates the journey of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) and developments in feminist disarmament activism. Acheson explains the process through which diplomats, activists, and nuclear survivors worked together to elevate the horrific humanitarian and environmental impacts of nuclear weapons, develop new international law categorically prohibiting the bomb, challenge the nuclear orthodoxy, and strengthen norms for disarmament and peace. Told from the perspective of a queer feminist antimilitarist organizer who was involved from the start of the process through to the treaty’s adoption, the book utilizes interviews with dozens of participants, as well as critical theoretical perspectives about transnational advocacy networks, discourse change, and intersectional feminist action. It is meant to provide useful insights for anyone trying to make change amidst structures of power and politics.
Ray Acheson is currently director of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom’s disarmament program in New York City. Ray leads the organization’s work on stigmatizing war and violence, advocating and organizing for disarmament, and raising feminist perspectives on militarism and weapons. Ray represents WILPF within the International Steering Group of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), which won the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize. Ray has been awarded the 2020 Nuclear Free Future Award and the 2018 UN Women Metro New York Champion of Change prize.
Foreword, Setsuko Thurlow
Chapter 1. “Terminally Unserious”: Ideologies and Oppressions of Nuclear Weapons
Chapter 2. Rage Against the Bomb: A Brief History of Antinuclear Efforts
Chapter 3. Reclaiming Our Time: Changing Discourse, Changing Minds
Chapter 4. Karaoke and Campaigning: Building a Case and a Community
Chapter 5. Revitalizing a Movement
Chapter 6. From Deterrence to Disarmament: How the Humanitarian Initiative Disrupted the Nuclear Weapon Orthodoxy
Chapter 7. Courage, My Love: How Nuclear-Free States Fought for the Ban
Chapter 8. Getting Our Ban On, Part One: The What
Chapter 9. Getting Our Ban On, Part Two: The How
Acheson has dedicated the past decade to the nuclear disarmament movement as an activist, researcher, and expert. She sums up her experiences in this passionate, thought-provoking, and highly detailed look into the history of the call to ban the bomb, the creation of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), and the adoption of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons in 2017. Acheson covers key issues pertaining to nuclear weapons, strategically breaking down the arguments behind the weapons' manufacture and highlighting the racial, patriarchal, and capitalist motivations for their creation, deployment, and stockpiling. She also analyzes the socioeconomic, environmental, and cultural impacts nuclear weapons have on the world. Acheson smoothly and convincingly argues that nuclear proliferation is a global issue and must be discussed globally, setting the stage for her uniquely incisive discussion of the multigenerational “humanitarian initiative” in support of banning the bomb. This is a powerful and encouraging approach to an often overlooked concern, an informative work that will inspire readers to pay close attention to and even consider participating in the nuclear weapons disarmament movement.
Ray Acheson’s Banning the Bomb, Smashing the Patriarchy is a striking contribution to the literature on nuclear politics. The book explores how and why states and civil society actors came together to prohibit nuclear weapons. The book is a valuable tool for policy-makers, academics, students and activists alike. The tone is accessible and the narrative flows seamlessly. Acheson provides an excellent introduction to the complex intersection of power, gender and nuclear weapons, while setting out a feminist manifesto for change.
In Ray Acheson’s Banning the Bomb: Smashing the Patriarchy and Alexander Kmentt’s The Treaty Prohibiting Nuclear Weapons: How It Was Achieved and Why It Matters, readers are offered two recent histories of the movement to change the discourse surrounding nuclear weapons and bring about the TPNW. The books offer unique but complementary views from two actors involved in the process.... Both would be enjoyable for general audiences interested in nuclear issues. More importantly, they should be read by those in the nuclear policy space, whether they support the ban treaty or not, because the arguments behind the movement have become part of the global conversation on the future of nuclear weapons and they are not going away.
With this book, Ray Acheson guides us through the collaborative processes that brought about the 2016 UN Treaty for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW), the first legally-binding international agreement to comprehensively prohibit nuclear weapons. Acheson is director of Reaching Critical Will, the disarmament programme of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF).
This is a fascinating and much-needed dive into the ICAN movement and the history of Anti-Nuclear protest from the 60s and 70s to present day. A key strength to this story is the centrality of the author to the events reported, offering readers a pleasing participant observation angle to the events.
Ray Acheson shows us in gritty detail how nuclear weapons have been sustained by the workings of patriarchal masculinity, expert exclusivity, corporate profit, diplomatic complicity, political cynicism and false narratives of security. Then she reveals how each has been effectively challenged by ICAN, an innovative, women-led global social justice movement. This is a book for every IR course, every social justice and gender politics course. On every page I learned something new.
An urgent and inspiring case study on the power of grassroots organising to shake up violent institutions at the highest level. Ray Acheson puts you in the front row of a tenacious network of abolitionists transforming the dangerous stalemate of disarmament diplomacy into genuine action. The road to nuclear disarmament has been blocked for decades. This fascinating and well-timed record of how that road was opened is essential reading for anyone who wants to live in a world free of nuclear weapons.
Seventy-five years after the first international effort to outlaw nuclear weapons, the United Nations has finally banned them. Ray Acheson tells the remarkable story of the activists and diplomats behind that achievement. And she reveals how sexism, racism, militarism, and colonialism have long been inextricably linked to the nuclear threat. We cannot eliminate one of these crimes against humanity, Acheson makes clear, without changing the mindset and the power structure responsible for them all.
Likely to be a crucial source of feminist-inflected inspiration for activists working for global change, this book is also a must-read for scholars of the global nuclear order, of international norm change, and of transnational advocacy networks. At its heart is a forensic dissection of the Humanitarian Initiative and the negotiations resulting in the UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. Acheson tells a gripping story of why and how diplomats from non-nuclear states and antinuclear campaigners together achieved the seemingly impossible. Fighting back against the gendered, racialised, and colonial underpinnings of mainstream ‘nuclearism’ and ‘nuclearspeak’, the power plays of nuclear states, and the stalled Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty negotiations, these dissident actors refocused attention on the devastating social and ecological impact of the stockpiling, use, and testing of nuclear weapons and reimagined the role of international law as a catalyst for change. Acheson sheds particular light on the role of the Nobel prize-winning ICAN network in this process, illuminating its internal tensions as well as its impact. An engaging mix of scholarly erudition and insider knowledge, this book is also a powerful demonstration of the importance of an intersectional feminist approach to the struggle for a safer and more just world.
In 2017, the vast majority of countries in the world negotiated and adopted the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons in the face of stubborn recalcitrance on the part of the countries that possess these means of mass terrorism. Ray Acheson provides a unique and detailed view of this effort to prohibit the most destructive of weapons. We learn here of power politics and decisions made by the high and mighty behind closed doors, of creative struggles and building coalitions of the not-so-powerful, of personalities and personal risks. Written from the dual perspective of an analyst who is among the best informed about the state of nuclear disarmament diplomacy, and from that of a committed activist, the book provides an understanding of why nuclear weapons exist, who they benefit, and how we can fight against their influence and change this risky state of affairs. Reading this, you will understand why abolishing nuclear weapons is, and has to be, part of the larger struggle for a peaceful, anti-capitalist, anti-racist, anti-colonial, and feminist future. In the face of the multiple ecological and social crises that we are confronting, such a future is the only one that offers any hope of justice and sustainability.
Ray Acheson, renowned feminist peace activist and winner of the Nuclear Free Future Award for 2020, exposes the deeply entrenched systems of exterminist thought and practice that have sustained nuclear weapons for more than seventy years and tells a compelling story of a new generation of transnational activists, diplomats, academics working together to challenge and change the foundational narratives of the nuclear age about what is necessary, credible and possible. In her vivid account of how the first global treaty banning nuclear weapons was achieved, she highlights key lessons and challenges about building a movement and a campaign informed by feminist queer, Indigenous, antiracist, and postcolonial perspectives, on the importance of grounding politics in the real life worlds of people, and shares insights on how a radical feminist democratic politics can inform the many struggles for justice around the world.
As monuments to racism and colonialism are being toppled around the world, Banning the Bomb, Smashing the Patriarchy takes a sound whack at the toxic myth of “strategic security.” But this tome is no facile paean to “woke” culture. Rather, its story unfolds on the global stage like the grand drama that it is. On one side, a cabal of nuclear powers remains entrenched in the nihilistic construct of the “deterrence doctrine.” On the other side, a sea of peacemakers from diverse nations, occupations, experiences and identities, call for a nuclear-free world that prioritizes humanitarian values. Hooray for the peacemakers, who prevail in the end! They — and Acheson — have gifted us with a deliciously relevant organizing model for challenging any status quo.
With an articulate and reasoned voice, Acheson deconstructs and debunks the dominant narrative of nuclear weapons as mandatory tools for national and international security and demonstrates the extreme and immediate humanitarian and environmental dangers of nuclear weapons across the globe. Set within the larger antinuclear movement since 1945, Ban the Bomb, Smash the Patriarchy illuminates the magnificent efforts by activists, diplomats, and nuclear survivors to create an enormous international coalition, reframe the narrative of nuclear weapons, defy powerful nuclear armed states, and establish an international treaty to prohibit nuclear weapons from the world. This book is essential reading for anyone who strives to find new ways to redefine power, confront the complex and seemingly impenetrable political and economic authority of some nations, and create social and political change for our own and future generations.
Nuclear weapons are finally illegal! Acheson shines a ray of light and hope as she guides us through the talk, tensions, and collective efforts that have delivered our best chance to get rid of our worst weapons. This is an important record of a critical time and a timely call for us to redefine the limits of what is possible.
In Banning the Bomb, Smashing the Patriarchy, Ray Acheson provides a detailed account of how a global ban on nuclear weapons was achieved. From inception to ratification, Acheson takes the reader on a journey showing the struggles, commitment, and dedication it took to make the impossible possible. Acheson’s work provides much needed hope for the future and tells the story of when millions around the world decided to speak with one voice in saying: No More Hiroshimas.
Ray Acheson's fascinating book on how the nuclear ban treaty was won is essential reading for everyone. Bringing years of rigorous reporting on the UN and disarmament labyrinths, she explains and unpacks this exciting story with feminist understanding, wisdom, and subversive wit. Beautifully written and accessible, this is a brilliant achievement of academic analysis and feminist-humanitarian activism.
Banning the Bomb, Smashing the Patriarchy is courageous and inspiring. Ray Acheson beautifully articulates the complex background and evolution of the antinuclear movement. The success of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons is due to the laser-focus placed on the humanitarian perspective on nuclear weapons. As a second generation Hibakusha, I had an epiphany reading this book and it clarified my role in this far-reaching, collaborative social movement. I shed tears several times in appreciation for the many people who fought so hard for decades.
An illuminating insider account that cracks the code of disarmament diplomacy to explain how a movement came together with key governments to ban the suicidal, genocidal, and ecocidal nuclear bomb. Acheson tells the story of seven decades of activism transforming an impossible dream into international law.
Ray Acheson tells a profoundly important and timely story of movements and resistance, of protest and vision, of diplomats and activists who have committed to banning the bomb. This book will make you understand the urgent need to prohibit and eliminate nuclear weapons.
A comprehensive and engaging account of the history and efficacy of the fight to eliminate nuclear weapons. Acheson uses this careful case study to illuminate the nuanced and powerful process of collective action for social change. An inspiring read!
This timely book by Ray Acheson is an imperative read for all who are deeply concerned about the survival of life on earth. Summarizing the many attempts by wonderful people and organisations over the past 75 years to induce nuclear disarmament, a startlingly new initiative to ban nuclear weapons at the United Nations is about to reach fruition and Ray has been one of the leaders.
Banning the Bomb, Smashing the Patriarchy is more than just an informative negotiating history of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. By placing the Treaty in the context of the movement that created it, Ray Acheson has written an authoritative account of nuclear disarmament efforts from a civil society and feminist perspective.
This vitally important book tells the story behind the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, one of the most significant international agreements of this still-young century. Ray Acheson, an insider to the process, captures in rich personal detail the motivations, emotions, political obstacles, strategic maneuvering, and successes and failures of the activism and negotiations that brought the Treaty to reality. It’s a story of relevance to all those who believe it’s still possible to change the trajectory of human civilization in a positive direction and who want to see how it can be done in practice.
Written from the perspective of an activist who is intimately involved in the process of shifting the discourse of nuclear weapons from deterrence and national security to humanitarian considerations, this book is an excellent case study on how interests, identities, and norms can change—how these are socially constructed. The material from the author’s interviews with diplomats and activists provide essential strategies for effective campaigning.
12/7/22, International Affairs: This book was the #1 recommended book on International Affairs’ 2022 Christmas reading list.