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Condi and Hillary - sexual decoys for democracy

By Zillah Eisenstein - posted Thursday, 14 June 2007

In 2006 Condoleezza Rice referred to the unrelenting bombing in Lebanon as “the birth pangs” of a new democratic Middle East. But these bombs create lasting damage and devastation, and are not fleeting pangs of any sort. And they birth nothing, instead they kill, maim and destroy everything in their path. The only thing birthed here are new hatreds and horror. The war in Lebanon is a miscarriage of justice - a still-birth.

Do not use the language of female bodies to camouflage this atrocious war.

Hillary Clinton has spoken in support of Israel defending itself against Hezbollah and says the US will continue to stand behind Israel because it stands for American values.


Since when is the wanton destruction of civilian communities, and the killing of 60 innocents as in Qana, Lebanon, an American value that any of us would want to make claim to? How can we abide turning Lebanon into a country of refugees and displaced persons and call this “American”?

Condoleezza Rice has orchestrated the war in Iraq for Bush, and Hillary has given her support for this reckless war and continues to do so. She has also said that enforcing a pull out date in Iraq would be counter productive. But is that true? Both Condi and Hillary are doing the dirty work of a hyper-militarised government that makes war across the globe. As such they stand as sexual decoys for democracy. They play a role of deception and lure us into a fantasy of gender equity rather than depravity.

A decoy is a misrepresentation - one thinks one sees something that is not really there. If gender were not malleable in the first place, it could not be used as a decoy as readily. Gender here applies to the cultural construct of “woman”; as distinguished from biological sex - “female”.

So Hillary and Condi are female, but don’t confuse this with women’s rights or democracy of any sort. Condi jets around the world meeting with dignitaries and Hillary’s senate coffers are filled and over-flowing. They are both monied power-houses. But their agendas are masculinist, militarist, and neo-liberal.

Hillary will win her Senate seat again. Supposedly this is because she moved herself to the centre and has since been moving from the centre towards the right. This is partly wrong, and partly right. She did not have to move towards the centre from the left because neither she nor Bill were elected in ’92 as old liberals. It was the Democratic Leadership Council (DLC) that she and Bill were beholden to. They were “new” - leaner and meaner - Democrats at the start; better known as neo-liberals who argued that the global economy required a heightened competitiveness and competition.

Hillary’s health care initiatives failed not because she was too radical, but because she was not radical enough. She never seriously backed single payer health coverage even though universal health coverage had been promised to the electorate.


She had centrist politics then and it wasn’t very feminist - even if she said she didn’t want to make chocolate chip cookies. And it wasn’t very liberal either, as she sat on Wal-Mart’s board and remained silent about worker’s rights and the minimum wage. Both she and Bill endorsed the limited status of abortion as needing to be “safe, legal, and rare”. Notice there is no mention of availability.

As senator from New York she was asked by the Pentagon to join a select panel that is considering improving military readiness. Given her voting record she ranks among the dozen most conservative Democrats in the Senate. She is the perfect sexual decoy. She is depicted as too liberal, too feminist, and too critical of women who bake cookies. In the process she de-sexes gender while re-gendering sex.

And so does Condoleezza Rice. Thinking of either of these women as feminist or as icons of democracy makes about as much sense as the wars they authorise.

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Sexual Decoys: Gender, Race and War in an Imperial Democracy by Zillah Eisenstein, Spinifex Press

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About the Author

Zillah Eisenstein is a political activist and professor of politics at Ithaca College, New York. Author of The Female Body and the Law (Univ. of California Press, 1988), Against Empire: Feminisms, racism and the West (Spinifex Press, 2004) and Sexual Decoys; gender, race and war (Spinifex Press, 2007) as well as many other books related to changing political formations of sex, race, class and gender.

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All articles by Zillah Eisenstein

Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

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