Academic journal article Women's Studies Quarterly

"Security Moms" in the Early Twenty-First-Century United States: The Gender of Security in Neoliberalism

Academic journal article Women's Studies Quarterly

"Security Moms" in the Early Twenty-First-Century United States: The Gender of Security in Neoliberalism

Article excerpt

The issue of security/insecurity that pervades the United States at the beginning of the twenty-first century has led us to think about feminisms in newly urgent ways. How do we understand what is happening with feminism when feminist discourses are used to bomb and to liberate, when feminist discourses, strategies, and injuries become available in new and unintended ways to empower, to secure, and to destroy? While most "security" expertise addresses questions of states and geopolitics while ignoring gender, race, or sexuality, many feminist scholars have brought in these categories usefully for a critique of masculinity and militarism and by linking feminism with peace, victimhood, and innocence.' But feminists also have discussed the ways in which women and feminists have participated in nationalism and militarism or the ways in which domestic ideologies have supported national and imperial goals.2 To add to this conversation, I want to discuss the security state, not in terms of the victimization of female subjects by a militant masculinity, but rather to see how militant masculinity within neoliberal contexts brings forth a rearticulation of the public/private division that has consequences for feminist and female subjects and citizens. The particular female citizen-subject that is the focus of this essay is the 2004 American figure called the "security mom"-that subject called forth in the last presidential election by the Republicans and that brings even more to the forefront the ways in which the neoliberal state maintains and disavows its powers and limits through the dynamic of public and private. While some critiques of neoliberalism suggest that it implies the reduction of the state and increasing power to private realms, for feminists neoliberalism has come to mean new collaborations and dynamism between public and private patriarchies.

In the national election of 2004, one issue of gender that made its way into the newspapers was the existence of a new category of voters, the "security moms." The manifesto of the security mom appeared in USA Today on August 20,2004, and was written by syndicated columnist Michellc Malkin.3 In this document, we are told that Malkin owns a gun, votes, is married, and has two children. From her Web site we see that she is also Asian American and calls herself a Generation Xer.4 Here is what she writes: "Nothing matters to me right now other than the safety of my home and the survival of my homeland. ... I am a citizen of the United States, not the United Nations." Since 9/11, she writes, she has been monitoring everyone around her:

I have studied the faces on the FBI's most-wanted-terrorists list. When I ride the train, I watch for suspicious packages in empty seats. When I am on the highways, I pay attention to larger trucks and tankers. I make my husband take his cellphone with him everywhere. . . . We have educated our 4-year-old daughter about Osama Bin [sic] Laden and Saddam Hussein. She knows there are bad men in the world trying to kill Americans everywhere. This isn't living in fear. This is living with reality. We drive defensively. Now, we must live defensively too.

She quotes "[conservative activist, Kay R. DaIy, a security mom of two in Northern Virginia who says: Hell hath no fury like a momma protecting her babies."

There are two figures she fears most: "Islamic terrorists" and "criminal illegal aliens." She claims she will vote for whoever provides the most security: "Do they have what it takes to keep suicide bombers off our shores and out of our malls?" She ends by saying, "To paraphrase the Iron Lady, Margaret Thatcher: Gentlemen: this is no time to go warm and fuzzy. security moms will never forget that toddlers and schoolchildren were incinerated in the hijacked planes.... As they [the terrorists] plot our death and destruction, these enemies will not be won over by either hair-sprayed liberalism or bleeding-heart conservatism."

There is much to take apart here, at the very least the reliance on children as innocent victims; the reference to Margaret Thatcher-the mother of neoliberalism-the virulent nationalism in which home is joined to homeland and motherhood is about protection by the state; the distorted notion of risk in the United States, in malls, and inside the state; Malkin's fascistic surveillance of everyone around her, including her husband; the education of her daughter; the articulation of a nationalist motherhood project; and the designation of liberals as "hair sprayed" (this description better characterizes innumerable Republican women from Lynne Cheney on); and of conservatism as "bleeding heart," which bizarrely and deliberately mixes up political ideologies for an election-year spin. …

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