Since the President announced his decision to deploy American forces to Libya, news commentary from across the political spectrum has been wrought with criticism of Obama for bowing to his “hawkish female advisers.” The emerging storyline is that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice and National Security Advisor Samantha Power stampeded over the (male) heavy-hitters like Defense Secretary Robert Gates and National Security Adviser Thomas E. Donilon to convince Obama to take military action in Libya. With headlines such as “Was Obama Henpecked into War?” this criticism is heavy with misogynistic overtones, with many commentators expressing shock and dismay at female support for war. Women, it is argued, are supposed to be against violence. Some go so far as to complain that the increase in female policy makers has not made our government less prone to military action.
These sexist claims have incited a few strong responses on the op-ed pages, including pieces by Katha Pollit of The Nation, and Maureen Dowd of the New York Times.
Pollit’s column, “This Just In: Women are Not All Pacifists,” is written in response to fellow Nation Blogger Robert Dreyfuss’ piece “Obama’s Women Advisers Pushed War Against Libya.” Pollit strongly condemns Dreyfuss for his chauvinist argument and language, arguing his column demonstrates misogyny still stands as the last acceptable prejudice of the left.
Dowd’s column, Fight of the Valkyries, similarly laments the preoccupation with the female administrator’s push for military action. Dowd argues that in their obsession with the “guy v. girl narrative” currently unfolding in the White House, news commentators and White House aids alike are missing the real issue. Rather than question the Obama Administration’s decision to deploy American forces, the media has been swept into the upset caused by female support for action against Qaddafi.
It is surprising and deplorable that the gender issue raised by female support for military action is dominating headlines, especially in a time of such tremendous upheaval and crisis around the world. Rather than look to Clinton, Rice, and Power’s reasoning and credentials for supporting military action in Libya, we continue examine their efforts through the lens of gender alone. If you have any thoughts about the apparent obsession with the gender dynamic in the White House, please take the time to voice them now.