The woke-washing of war
It’s time to lean into the military-industrial complex, ladies! The US defense department is one of three cabinet agencies – the others are treasury and veterans affairs – that have never been led by a woman; now, however, it looks like one of the last glass ceilings is about to get smashed. It is widely expected that Joe Biden will appoint Michèle Flournoy as America’s first female female defense secretary.
There has been a lot of rhapsodizing about this historic appointment: “Biden likely to break barriers, pick woman to lead Pentagon,” an Associated Press headline proclaimed. The piece goes onto note that Flournoy’s appointment “would be consistent with Biden’s pledge to have a diverse cabinet”.
Excuse me if I’m not particularly excited about all this diversity. Flournoy, who was a senior defense adviser in Bill Clinton and Barack Obama’s administrations, might become the first woman in charge of the Pentagon, but it seems unlikely that she’ll do anything to actually change America’s foreign policy for the better. Flournoy was widely considered to have been one of Obama’s more hawkish advisers and helped masterminded the escalation of the disastrous war in Afghanistan. She has called for increased defense spending, arguing in a 2017 Washington Post op-ed that Trump was “right to raise the need for more defense dollars”. She has complained that Obama didn’t use military force enough, particularly in Syria. She supported the wars in Iraq and Libya. She has lucrative ties with defense contractors, and serves on the board of Booz Allen Hamilton.
Look, I get it, anyone with a chance of becoming defense secretary is going to be problematic in some way. It’s not the sort of job you tend to get if you’re anti-war or if you’re opposed to American imperialism. But that doesn’t mean that we should be acting like Flournoy’s likely appointment as head of the Pentagon is some kind of win for feminism. There is nothing remotely feminist about women in rich countries dropping bombs on women in poor countries.
Nor is there anything feminist in the way that some people are already cynically weaponizing Flournoy’s gender to detract from meaningful critiques of her policies. According to Mieke Eoyang, senior vice-president for national security at a thinktank called Third Way, for example, criticizing Flournoy is sexist. “White progressives training their fire on women and women of color who are under consideration to lead the [national security] departments makes me deeply uncomfortable about their allyship for those communities,” Eoyang tweeted last week. “Especially when the [national security] community is dominated by white men.”
Got that? If you want to be an ally to women, you have to support them no matter how many bombs they want to drop. That’s what genuine “allyship” looks like! Three cheers for intersectional imperialism!
I worry that we’re going to see a lot of this kind of meaningless identity politics over the next four years. I worry that Biden is going to be applauded for appointing women and non-white people into powerful positions and this “diversity” will help woke-wash harmful policies.
I worry that anything unethical the Biden administration does will be shrugged off because it’s not as bad as the trauma of the Trump years. I worry that we’re going to go back to business as usual and forget that it’s business as usual that got Trump elected in the first place.
Prenatal testing and the future of Down syndrome
Advances in prenatal testing mean parents can now easily screen for conditions like Down syndrome very early on in a pregnancy and then decide to have an abortion. “Few people speak publicly about wanting to ‘eliminate’ Down syndrome,” Sarah Zhang writes in this thought-provoking Atlantic article, “yet individual choices are adding up to something very close to that.” They’re also reinforcing a narrow view of normal. “Genetic testing, as a medical service, is used to enforce the boundaries of ‘normal’ by screening out the anomalous,” Zhang writes. “[B]ut seeing all the anomalies that are compatible with life might actually expand our understanding of normal.”
‘We can exclude that the “like” came from the Holy See’
Pope Francis’s official Instagram account “liked” a photo of a scantily clad Brazilian model, causing quite the kerfuffle. The Vatican has claimed they had nothing to do with it and are demanding an explanation from Instagram. Must have been an act of God.
Kim Ng becomes first female general manager in Major League Baseball
Ng, 51, was hired by the Miami Marlins last week and is the first female general manager in any of the four major US sports league.
Harry Styles wore a dress, triggering rightwingers everywhere
To be fair, I was a little upset by Styles posing in a ballgown on the cover of Vogue myself. He looks far better in it than I would.
Meet Gladys West: she helped invent GPS but prefers paper maps
Do read this profile of the incredible 89-year-old.
New Zealand police introduce hijab for female officers
Constable Zeena Ali will become the first officer to wear the official hijab.
The week in Ponziarchy
What do you do when the FBI come after you for running a $35m Ponzi scheme? Escape underwater using a submersible scooter, obviously. That’s what Matthew Piercey did anyway. According to official documents Piercey “spent some time out of sight underwater where law enforcement could only see bubbles”, but eventually had to emerge dripping wet to face justice – and, most likely, a horrible cold.
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