Feminism & the so-called “Hillary Effect”…

January 11, 2010

Best Buds

I was browsing HuffingtonPost.com today and found a delicious link to a Washington Post report by Mary Jordan, “The Hillary Effect“. Of the 182 legitimate envoys to the US (meaning that we actually acknowledge their presence), twenty-five foreign ambassadors are female, five times more than were present in the late ’90s. [Is 25 of 182 something to be proud of?] Analysts attribute this increase to the visibility and favorable opinion much of the world holds for current Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Her very public battle with Bam for the Democratic Presidential nomination, her efforts on behalf of women rights as First Lady to hubby Bill and her all around sex appeal, helped to keep her in the world’s spotlight and provide a platform or starting point for consistent career achievement. And she does a damn fine job as Secretary, staying out of Washington’s cock fights while pulling the strings of other world powers to ensure Bam’s policies succeed.

Little credit is awarded to the other women who have filled her role previously, though: most recently (cuckoo) Condaleeza Rice and (the fantastic) Madeleine Albright, our first female Secretary of State and one of the world’s most brilliant minds. I realize the last decade passed quite fast, but to forget two of our most important political figures altogether. Why pretend that this time is a “game changer?”: this past decade of US diplomacy has given birth to today’s prominence of female envoys. Why would foreign countries now try to stay abreast of gender politics, especially when Hillary’s whole campaign meant to make gendered authority irrelevant? Things like this change over time (women’s suffrage only became legal in Liechtenstein in 1984), and go in cycles: women may not be in those same positions forever. Period.

But does the nomination of women to these ambassador positions signify real progress or rather mollification? Statements like this trouble me: “Some American diplomats said the appointment of a woman can be a visible way for a country to signal that is modernizing and in step with the United States.” Sure, allow child labor, support the punishment of rape victims and amass uranium stockpiles for use against our disliked neighbors. But remember to send that girl to Washington, then the Americans can pat us on the back for our adoption of Western-ideology.

NO!

If you do not believe that things can be so simple, look to the countries themselves that sent the female ambassadors.

“Eleven of the 25 female envoys in Washington are from Africa. Four are from Caribbean nations. The others are from Bahrain, the Netherlands, Croatia, Kyrgyzstan, Singapore, Oman, Colombia, India, Liechtenstein and Nauru, an eight-square-mile Pacific island with only 14,000 people.”

None of the biggies (though no less important). Where are these modernized countries already “in step with the United States?” Where is (papa bear) Britain? Where is (freedom fries) France? Wo ist (David Hasselhoff?) Deutschland? Even our own program of Foreign Service, which I would love love love to enter into, is out of step. While more than half of new recruits are female, only thirty percent are mission leaders. Only after State Department policy shifts in the 1970’s were women allowed to retain their jobs after getting married. One of the many benefits of the feminist movement.

This cracks me up...look at her face

Of the women ambassadors they interviewed, several seem to play into the system of token gendering. Because of (ludicrous Oxford-esque) “male-female seating patterns, [Ambassador Chan] often gets prime spots, including next to George W. Bush and Henry Kissinger.” Is that really something to brag about (not just the George Bush part, but the whole system that is attached with it)? Many women also feel that they bring lesser discussed issues to the fore, such as poverty, education, discrimination and female marginalization. But I think they are just playing another part, which probably contributes to their own marginalization.

Fight with the big dogs. Tackle any issue you care about. Smoke a cigar with the boys and then slap your secretary on the ass. Do what you have to do. Your role as an ambassador is to represent your country’s best interest and push them forward. Gender is irrelevant. You need not to say that your gender “opens doors” for you or that “[P]eople are curious to see [you].” This should be a non-issue.

The world needs a new (game-changing) feminism humanism. One that emphasizes our joint duty to protect the interests of one another. Not as males or females, but as people. Until we all stop playing the games of gender, fighting it or performing it, we can never go beyond it. Come on, people: man up androgynate yourself!

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