Kathleen Barry

PH.D. – Professor Emerita, Penn State University

Host: Basima Farhat

Previously Aired On: Tuesday, March 22, 2011 – Listen to the Show!

Kathleen Barry holds two doctorates – in sociology and in education – from the University of California, Berkeley. A university professor for twenty years, she was on the faculty of Brandeis University and is Professor Emerita of Penn State University. A Distinguished Visiting Professor at several universities, she was the recipient of a Fulbright Scholarship to Ireland and an invited scholar at the École des hautes études en sciences sociales (School of Advanced Studies in the Social Sciences) in Paris. The author of five books and an internationally recognized feminist-human rights activist, she lectures widely in the U.S. and abroad.

Sociologist Kathleen Barry first broke new ground with her landmark book FEMALE SEXUAL SLAVERY (1979) which has been translated into six languages. This book launched a new global movement against trafficking in human beings. She reframed prostitution as a violation of human rights which led to the formation of the United Nations Non-Governmental Organization, The Coalition Against Trafficking in Women which she co-founded. Her book and activism earned her the Wonder Woman Award and she is featured in the famous Canadian film on pornography, Not a Love Story.

Her book, PROSTITUTION OF SEXUALITY: Global Exploitation of Women (New York University Press), presents the new international law against sexual exploitation she developed in collaboration with UNESCO. The law that makes sexual exploitation a violation of human rights has been adopted as state law on prostitution in Sweden and Iceland among other countries. For this work, she was named by Marie-Claire as one of the hundred women who most changed the world for women and she received an International Achievement Award from Penn State University.

She brought her feminist activism together with her empathetic writing as a biographer and the author of SUSAN B. ANTHONY: A Biography of a Singular Feminist. She is featured in the movie for television “One Woman, One Vote” and in Ken Burns’s PBS special “Not for Ourselves Alone: The Story of Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony.”

Kathleen Barry’s international work led her to Vietnam in 1991 where she began a collaboration with Vietnamese women in the Women’s Research Program. Her edited volume, VIETNAMESE WOMEN IN TRANSITION captures an extraordinary moment of change, for better and for worse, in the condition of women as Vietnam. This book issued in Vietnamese through the Institute of Social Science in Ho Chi Minh City is recognized in Vietnam as the first published social science collaboration between the Americans and Vietnamese since the US war there.

Kathleen Barry’s new book is UNMAKING WAR, REMAKING MEN: How Empathy Can Reshape our Politics, Our Soldiers and Ourselves. Introducing new concepts such as core masculinity and expendable lives, this book exposes how masculinity and the military prepare men for killing and introduces new approaches to world peace and a new masculinity that is already in the making.

She is completing a new book on single women and spontaneity, THE SPONTANEOUS SELF, Women, Identity and Spirit. Her study of three generations of women in the Troubles in Northern Ireland is the subject of her next book.


One day at a beach Kathleen Barry witnessed an accidental death. Seeing how empathy drew together the bystanders – strangers until that moment – in shared human consciousness, she asked: ‘Why do we value human lives in everyday moments but accept the killing in war as inevitable?’

In Unmaking War, Remaking Men, Kathleen Barry explores soldiers’ experiences through a politics of empathy. By revealing how men’s lives are made expendable for combat, she shows how military training drives them to kill without thinking and without remorse, only to suffer both trauma and loss of their own souls. She turns to her politics of empathy to shed new light on the experiences of those who are invaded and occupied and shows how resistance rises among them.

And what of the state leaders and the generals who make war? In 2001, a fateful year for the world, George W. Bush became President of the US; Ariel Sharon became Prime Minister of Israel; and Osama bin Laden became the de facto world terrorist leader. Analyzing their leadership and failure of empathy, Unmaking War, Remaking Men reveals a common psychopathology of those driven to ongoing war, first making enemies, then labeling them as terrorists or infidels.

Kathleen Barry asks: ‘What would it take to unmake war?’ She scrutinizes the demilitarized state of Costa Rica and compares its claims of peace with its high rate of violence against women. She then turns to the urgent problem of how might men remake themselves by unmaking masculinity. She offers models for a new masculinity drawing on the experiences of men who have resisted war and have in turn transformed their lives into a new kind of humanity; into a place where the value of being human counts.

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