Saturday 21 Jul 2018 | 18:15 | SYDNEY
Saturday 21 Jul 2018 | 18:15 | SYDNEY

Rodger Shanahan is not the enemy


Sam Roggeveen


This post is part of the Women and the foreign policy commentariat debate thread. To read other posts in this debate, click here.

1 September 2011 09:43

This post is part of the Women and the foreign policy commentariat debate thread. To read other posts in this debate, click here.

Yesterday's reader riposte from Jennifer Bennett was hostile and unduly personal in its attack on Rodger Shanahan, and it was a borderline decision to even publish it. But I figured it was better to air the email and rebut it rather than be accused of censorship. In any case, some of Bennett's arguments are so laughable that they reflect poorly on her while doing Rodger no harm at all.

The dreary, heavy-handed sarcasm about 'poor delicate dears' and 'delicate shimmering flower of Australian womanhood' is presumably meant to suggest that Rodger's piece is sexist. The debate over whether women might, as Rodger suggests, prefer 'more intimate modes of communication' is a legitimate one. To imply that it is sexist to even raise this possibility and cautiously endorse it, as Rodger did, is absurd. (BTW, some of Rodger's cautious language on this point was edited out at my request.)

Jennifer makes much in her email of doing basic research, but she evidently failed to take the few minutes required to look up Rodger's history on The Interpreter. We staged a debate in 2009 on women in international relations, and although there was broad agreement that the female perspective was under-appreciated, the only Interpreter writer — male or female — to actually do something about it was Rodger Shanahan, who produced a three-part series on women in Arab politics.

Rodger has also tried to deflate media alarmism about Muslim headscarves and female terrorists, and he's about to do another series on women in the Middle East.

Jennifer also says: 'Claims that there are no women writing about security are lazy and insulting to those who are and there is absolutely no excuse for making them.' True, no excuse, a sentiment Rodger presumably shares, since he made no such claim. 'Lazy' and 'insulting' are two words that come to mind to describe such misreading.

Jennifer's email addresses two substantive questions: (1) how do we explain the under-representation of women in the foreign policy commentariat?; and (2) what is the role of women in the Arab Spring? But with her high dudgeon and cheap theatrics (presumably intended to play to her Twitter gallery), Jennifer has done more to shut down these important debates than open them up.

Photo by Flickr user dgies.