Samantha Power of the flowing red hair

9 Apr

Since the Obama administration moved to work with the United Nations, the Arab League and France (among other European countries) to engage in military force against Colonel Gaddafi’s regime in Libya, much has been made of the fact that several women internal to the administration allegedly convinced Obama to act.

Samantha Power, member of the National Security Council, and Hillary Rodham Clinton, the Secretary of State, in particular campaigned strenuously to  convince President Obama that letting things take their course in Libya without external intervention would lead to mass deaths and country-wide chaos. Because of their determinations, Clinton and Power have been branded as “furies,” “Valkyries,” and “Amazons.” In her Op-Ed piece on March 23rd, the NYTimes columnist Maureen Dowd relished the series of mythic names, even as she concurrently critiqued the cultural reaction towards assumptions of castration when women are seen to be those in charge:

Furies are members of the Greek mythic canon, and are those females who served as chtonic deities of vengeance. Valkyries reside in Old Norse mythology, and are those women who decided who went to battle (the assumption here that the “who” in question is male).

What the names might be for those men in the Obama administration (and others) who engage daily in matters of international affairs and war  remain unknown. And yet, there is no reason to provide catchy, mythic names for them, for the simple reason that each man’s ideologies and administrative duties are observed according to the individual: there is no need to position each unnecessarily according to stereotypes, gut reactions, and gendered assumptions. When Robert Gates takes a position, it has absolutely nothing to do with women and their anatomy. When Hillary Rodham Clinton, and now Samantha Power, take a position, suddenly the male member is everywhere–if only because it is apparently about to be cut off.

Samantha Power’s current position towards the Libyan crisis stems from her in-depth research of the genocides in Rwanda and Bosnia. This knowledge has worked to convince her that inaction leads directly to death.

Whether or not she has “flowing red hair” (as quoted in the above article) or bears ideological resemblance to misunderstood mythologies remains far from the point. Becoming bogged down in her sex, her hair, her femaleness allows her to be judged according to extraneous cultural conceptions that have zero to do with the administration’s decision to engage the U.S. military in the affairs of another country without Congressional debate or approval.


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