The Patrimony

In politics, everything is relatives

Tag: gender

The NSA, gender, and some second thoughts

by fpman

“NSA analysts spied on spouses, girlfriends: documents,” says this headline from NY Daily News.

And then, below it, you eventually find the following excerpt from a document recently released by the National Security Agency upon a request from the American Civil Liberties Union:

NSA

Quote: “she had searched her spouse’s personal telephone directory without his knowledge” (highlighting in red by me)

In the case referenced there, the analyst in question was clearly a woman, not a man.

The headline, with its reference to “girlfriends” (in the plural), displays a very gendered view of espionage and life in general. Spying, serious work with data and even excesses in the process are seen as having a manly quality, whereas being the victim is a feminine thing. But there you have it. Life (i.e. empirical reality) is just more complicated than that.

Having said that, beyond the insensitivity (at least in the title) to details like that, another way in which the whole affair is somewhat misrepresented is by suggesting this is all about the abuse of a tool in the state’s repertoire for purely private purposes. Consider the following example, of another case cited in the article (by the way the only case involving a girlfriend as opposed to the reference to girlfriends in the plural in the title):

“An NSA intern reported his colleague for allegedly spying on his foreign girlfriend.”

There should be no question that spying on someone in this way is an abuse. But the reasons may be more complex. A foreign girlfriend, or even a foreign boyfriend for that matter, may always be interesting in the world of espionage. Not only from the purely private perspective of whether they are a loyal partner to the intelligence officer in question but also from the point of view of whether someone else may be using them to gain access to sensitive information (which is one of the reasons why no intelligence officer should try to deal with this in private).

Life is just complicated. In espionage, surely even more so.

Younger sister Minister Bishop

by fpman

Reading this short piece about current Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop’s older sister I was in for a few tactical surprises.

MaryLou Bishop, the older sister in question is currently pondering whether to run in local government elections (Council elections) in November, feeling she could do something for her community in Medindie (Walkerville, Adelaide, Australia).

The first surprise was this remark: “If elected, Ms Bishop said she would not copy her high-flying sister’s famous death stare.” The context, promptly investigated: younger sister Minister Bishop is apparently famous for a terrifying glance she gave to someone in the audience for a televised debate a couple of years ago. Along with a certain notoriety — and Facebook groups founded in commemoration of this — it also earned her a kind of respect…

JuliaBishop_DeathStareThe famous death stare (source)

Video of the same…

The second surprise in the article was how MaryLou Bishop responded when asked about any higher ambitions she may have in politics, beyond the as yet uncontested local government elections. She said “There is nothing about a politician’s life that I envy … It’s soul destroying.” She may be right but her sister is out there at this point doing that very thing for a living.

With regards to the death stare, MaryLou goes further in fact, and offers this analysis of it — and why she won’t need it whereas sister Julie always did:

“I was the eldest and could out manoeuvre and out smart my sisters in an argument. Julie was the youngest and needed all the weapons she could muster — this was the death stare.”

This kind of explanation may sit well with some observers who attribute Julie’s success in politics to her ability to be tough enough with the boys (so cliché, I know). In an article setting out to explain “So how did Bishop cut through the boys’ club of The Liberal Party?,” the author notes that Bishop “can hold her own in debates,” that she made the tough decision that “women can’t have it all,” and eventually goes on to mention how “Her death stare is the most famous facial expression in Australian politics and has launched Facebook groups and twitter hashtags.”

From other sources you can learn, however, that Julie Bishop has many faces to show to the world, and the simple narrative of the repressed little sister (with two older sisters and a younger brother) who fought back to grow into debating champion, corporate lawyer, and then a master of politics does not necessarily work all that neatly. In her friends’ perspective:

“Her friends struggle to understand why this colourful, energetic woman seems so prickly on television. “Julie seems to have developed this tough bitch persona, and I’m constantly saying she’s not like that,” says one. Adds another: “Julie is a party girl, she loves kicking up her heels. In the public eye you have to be careful how that manifests itself.”

MaryLou may be developing her own persona through those remarks about her sister now, with a view to the upcoming Council elections. A persona fit for size of ambition and purpose.