Clinton’s Orwellian feminism

In: Uncategorized

3 Apr 2010

In Wednesday’s Times (London) the American secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, repeated her call to put women at the heart of US foreign policy (see 9 January 2010 post). Superficially this may appear to represent the world’s most powerful country supporting the important cause of liberation. In reality it represents a pernicious redefinition of equality from a material understanding to what could be called a therapeutic one.

Clinton is not suggesting an economic transformation in which poor countries can become rich. That would be a key component of true equality between nations. Instead her focus is primarily on relationships between individuals. From this perspective inequality is primarily a question of men, backed by traditional governments or movements, discriminating against women. The solution therefore is primarily about external forces, such as America, promoting intervention to “empower” women.

Clinton’s discussion of Afghanistan gives the game away. It is one of the poorest countries in the world and under American military occupation. Yet it is keen to promote women’s rights as a way of enhancing American security:

“In Afghanistan, the participation of Afghan women in decision making about the future of their country is critical for sustainable development, better governance and peace.

“That is why we have included a Women’s Action Plan to promote women’s leadership in both the public and private sectors to increase their access to education, health and justice, and to generate jobs for women, especially in agriculture. In short, women are essential to securing a better future for Afghanistan. “

It is hard to imagine more Orwellian notions of equality and freedom than embodied in contemporary American foreign policy.