Response to Inderpal Grewal’s “Security Moms”
In light of the vacuum produced as government in the United States caves to neoliberalism’s doctrine of ‘good governance’—which transfers power and resources to the private sector — Grewal argues the private domestic space of American women has been expanded (e.g gated communities, shopping mall, suburbs) in an attempt to transfer the responsibility of security to a new breed of mothers coined by Republicans in the 2004 election as “security moms”. Neoliberalism’s global expansion relies on an imperialist US army that can spot out the other/enemy and take them out if they oppose an expansion of a neoliberalism ‘free market’. In order to supply these soldiers in the fight to create one global world market, neoconservatives in the US employ ‘security moms’ to produce sons who “know there are bad men in the world trying to kill americans everywhere” (Grewal p. 26). Grewal led me to connect the hyper vigilance witnessed in “security moms” like Michelle Malkin to a neoliberal strategic plan to “move its work of security into spaces that are deemed to be private in multiple ways . . . [and] has come to invest the mother-subject as essential to the privatization of welfare and security” (p. 29).
Neoliberalism, according to Grewal, suggests that the state is a clunky and bureaucratic apparatus not equipped to provide security and protect all citizens Thus, women and mothers are increasingly expected to pick up the slack. This shifting of the burden onto these women’s backs is representative of a “neoliberal state push[ing] at the nation to do what it no longer wishes to take on when it is faced by its own limits” (p. 31). The transfer of this burden costs nothing budget wise to the neoliberal state and allows them to follow their neoliberal doctrine of ‘good governance’ in terms of fiscal efficiency. Grewal argues that one of the ways in which this transference of the security burden is enacted is by constantly “circulat[ing] daily alarms regarding how dangerous the world now is for young girls and boy” towards white suburban mothers. This shrewd play on mothers fears raises their anxiety and lays the foundation for a fertile ground that breeds “virulent nationalism in which home is joined to homeland and motherhood is about protection by the state” (p. 26). This leads ‘security moms’ like Malkin to say things like, “Nothing matters to me right now other than the safety of my home and the survival of my homeland” (p. 26).
Grewal illustrates how the obsessive surveillance ‘security moms’ partake in is particular in its targets. Grewal argues that neoconservatives co-opted the 1980s feminist argument that the home is a site of domestic violence for many women in the US and shifted the discourse to one in which the home becomes a fortress for ‘security moms’ to protect against “Islamic terrorists” and “criminal illegal aliens”. This ties into a neoconservative and neoliberal goal of diverting women’s attention from the ever-present and real threat of domestic violence while simultaneously reinstating the home as a site of patriarchal power via the promotion of family values. Grewal remarks, “the discourse of safety...provides the government apparatus through which surveillance becomes widespread, and the family is seen to be threatened” (p. 35). This cunning use of a “distorted notion of risk in the United States” (p. 27) to displace women’s vigilance away from intimate partners and onto the rare “Islamic fanatics” (p. 37) is not only racist but acts to disempower women.
Grewal forces us to make the link between our nations recent past when a “discourse of safety from rape for white women justified the lynching or imprisonment of black males” and how this mirrors the present use of “the safety of middle-class women [as a requirement for] the detention of Muslim males as well as the surveillance of everyone” during the war on terror (p. 34). This increased anxiety creates more individuality and less sense of community between ‘security moms’ and their neighbors--tying in perfectly with a neoliberal agenda that believes at the core of its economic policy that everyone is out for their own personal self gain. Again, this “externalizing danger and moving it onto the bodies seen to be the foreign threat to the nation or to proper citizens” (p. 37) is done at no cost to the neoliberal state.
In closing, I question what types of children our neoliberal and neoconservative US government is forecasting that these ‘security moms’ will raise. Who better than these ‘security moms’ to raise a new generation of nationalistic young men to fill our military industrial complex as we ‘protect’ our offshore investments and expand our neoliberal concept of a ‘free market’ into resource rich resistant nations? Meanwhile, the creation and promotion of this new category of voters recently spearheaded by the likes of 2008 republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin whose comments likening mothers with “grizzly bears” went viral, attempts to capture women’s vote in elections for neoconservative candidates. Unfortunately, Grewal does not provide us with solutions or guidance on how to go back to square one and change the point of departure on the recent ‘security mom’ trend in an otherwise stunning exposition of the links between ‘security moms’ and neoliberalism’s racist anti-Muslim agenda. I could infer though that a solution focused on the root causes of Grewal’s argument should include resistance to neoliberalism as well as capitalism, globalism, militarism, Islamaphobia, the war on terror and conservative family values. Instead, we need to refocus our attention to the home as a space of violence that is not perpetuated “from the outside, from aliens, from non- Christians—especially Muslims” (p. 36) but as a space where exorbitant rates of intimate partner violence persist everyday in the United States.
Grewal, Inderpal. (2006). “Security moms” in the early twentieth-century united states: The gender of security in neoliberalism. Women’s Studies Quarterly: 34, 1/2. pp. 25-39. The feminist press at the city university of New York