Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

MSNBC Graphic (1/3/20) celebrating female heads of weapon-making corporations and military agencies.

MSNBC Graphic (1/3/20) celebrating female heads of weapon-making corporations and military agencies. 

Bombing People Is Not Feminist, No Matter How You Spin It

That this structure still exists, reaping untold violence across the world, only it is now headed by women, is hardly a step forward for feminism.
Fox: US Air Force pilot call sign 'Banzai' becomes first woman to fly F-35A stealth fighter into combat

Have you heard the good news, ladies? You too can bomb the Middle East!

Some corporate media have recently been taken with the “inspirational” story of Emily Thompson, the first woman to pilot the super-costly F-35 jet in combat. At an unspecified time earlier this month, Thompson took off from her base in the United Arab Emirates to bomb an unnamed country.

The New York Post (6/13/20) described her as “breaking the glass ceiling—at lightning speed.” Other outlets used the words “historic” (Fox News, 6/12/20), “awesome” (Australian, 6/15/20) and “empowering” (Jerusalem Post, 6/11/20) to describe the event. “What an inspiration,” concluded Unilad (6/12/20).

Thompson’s ground crew was also all-female, a number of outlets reported, with the International Business Times (6/13/20) including a quote from her bomb loader, telling young girls: “Be confident and never let anyone tell you that you can’t do something because you can.”

The story was picked up primarily in the military press (e.g.,Task and Purpose, 6/10/20; Air Force Times, 6/11/20) and in more conservative media (Breitbart, 6/13/20; Epoch Times, 6/16/20), with notable right-wing figures like Ivanka Trump (Twitter, 6/14/20) and Fox anchor Martha MacCallum (Twitter, 6/15/20) hailing the event as a step forward for women.

Many of the reports gave background about Thompson’s life, the cost of the F-35 and other military matters. But none questioned whether this was really a victory for equality, nor the ethics of nearly two decades of continuous US warfare and occupation in the region. The effect was to use the language of social justice to cloak the violence of wars in the Middle East, which were started under false pretexts (FAIR.org, 3/19/07, 7/6/16) and have killed huge numbers of women, men and children.

While Thompson’s story was primarily retold by conservative media, outlets with more liberal audiences have also put a progressive face on inherently violent, oppressive institutions. Last  year, CNBC (1/16/19) essentially presented the CIA as a feminist institution, now that women head its key directorates for the first time, while many outlets (ABC News, 7/13/18; LA Times, 8/8/18; The Week, 1/2/19; MSNBC, 1/3/20) cheered the news that four of the five largest weapons manufacturers were headed by female CEOs.

CNBC: Women head the top three CIA directorates for the first time in history

Politico (1/2/19) described the news women now headed the major weapon-producing corporations  as a "watershed" moment in what "has always been a male-dominated bastion." Women "knocked down" the barriers of machismo, the outlet declared, quoting individuals who praised the defense industry as a "meritocracy” that now "generally rewards high performers regardless of color or creed or gender." The piece, headlined “How Women Took Over the Military/Industrial Complex,” included a section entitled “questioning orthodoxy,” but at no point did it examine the unstated Washington orthodoxy that endless wars are necessary, a premise that industry depends on.

The term “military/industrial complex” was popularized by President Dwight Eisenhower in his farewell address to the nation, where he warned that weapons contractors were beginning to dictate state policy for their own benefit:

Now this conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry is new in the American experience. The total influence — economic, political, even spiritual — is felt in every city, every state house, every office of the Federal government…we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military/industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.

That this structure still exists, reaping untold violence across the world, only it is now headed by women, is hardly a step forward for feminism, which is about the emancipation of billions from an oppressive system that hurts everyone.


© 2021 Fairness and Accuracy In Reporting (FAIR)
Alan MacLeod

Alan MacLeod

Alan MacLeod is a member of the Glasgow University Media Group. He is author of "Bad News From Venezuela: 20 Years of Fake News and Misreporting." His latest book, Propaganda in the Information Age: Still Manufacturing Consent, was published by Routledge in May 2019. Follow him on Twitter: @AlanRMacLeod

This is the world we live in. This is the world we cover.

Because of people like you, another world is possible. There are many battles to be won, but we will battle them together—all of us. Common Dreams is not your normal news site. We don't survive on clicks. We don't want advertising dollars. We want the world to be a better place. But we can't do it alone. It doesn't work that way. We need you. If you can help today—because every gift of every size matters—please do. Without Your Support We Simply Don't Exist.

Please select a donation method:

AOC Slams Conservative Dems Who Would Rather Skip Town Than Vote to Extend Eviction Ban

"We cannot in good faith blame the Republican Party when House Democrats have the majority."

Jake Johnson ·


'A Devastating Failure': Eviction Ban Expires as House Goes on Vacation and Biden Refuses to Act

"We’re now in an eviction emergency," said Rep. Cori Bush. "Eleven million are now at risk of losing their homes at any moment. The House needs to reconvene and put an end to this crisis."

Jake Johnson ·


With Election Days Away, Bernie Sanders Headlines Get-Out-the-Vote Rally for Nina Turner

In his keynote speech, Sanders said corporate interests are pulling out all the stops to defeat Turner because "they know that when she is elected, she is going to stand up and take them on in the fight for justice."

Jake Johnson ·


Bush, Pressley, and Omar Sleep Outside Capitol to Demand Extension of Eviction Moratorium

Rep. Cori Bush, who was formerly unhoused, slammed her Democratic colleagues who "chose to go on vacation early today rather than staying to vote to keep people in their homes."

Jake Johnson ·


As Progressives Call for End to Blockade, Biden Announces More Sanctions Against Cuba

The move comes after Democratic leadership in the House blocked an amendment to roll back limits on how much money people in the United States can send to family on the island nation.

Jessica Corbett ·