by Mary Harrington
Monday, 7
February 2022
Spotted
14:20

German propaganda casts women as defenders of Ukraine

A film about a Ukrainian mother is designed for a liberal Anglo audience
by Mary Harrington

America’s internal argument about whether or not it still wants to be the global policeman is producing some curious side-effects. This apparently now includes liberal internationalist propaganda representing Ukraine’s volunteer defence force as a battalion of middle-aged women.

The video is produced in English and features an English-speaking heroine. Like the English-language placards that appear at (for example) pro-abortion rallies in Poland, its implied target is not a domestic audience but virality on the liberal Anglophone — thus, overwhelmingly, American — internet.

 

At stake in current tensions with Russia is Ukraine’s putative membership of NATO, a body principally funded and resourced by the US and founded to project American interests and values under the banner of ‘rules-based international order’. That international order, today, is an increasingly explicitly progressive one, which flies the rainbow flag and has an ‘Office of the Gender Advisor’ whose mission is to ‘integrate a gender perspective into all aspects of NATO operations’.

Not everyone is convinced by this turn, or indeed by the prospect of continued military adventures under the NATO banner full stop. One of the leaders of the newly muscular realist faction in US foreign policy, Senator Josh Hawley, recently called on the US to drop support for Ukrainian NATO membership, arguing that, from a pragmatic rather than an idealistic perspective, antagonising Russia is worse than foolish when the real US rival lies further east, in China.

Against this stands the still-powerful perspective that views US-led, military-backed global enforcement of democracy and gender rights as a moral obligation. If that’s you, then even if you’d find images of white men shouldering guns to protect their border bit ‘nationalist’ or even redolent of ‘toxic masculinity’, you might nonetheless be touched by the tale of a 51-year-old woman doing so to protect her way of life.

As a formula, it brings together both the 20th-century internationalist ideal — Woodrow Wilson style ‘national self-determination’ — and the 21st century one of individual self-determination under the banner of ‘gender’. Strikingly, though, this stirring message doesn’t come from within that American ecosystem at all. Its origin is Germany: a nation potentially more directly affected than the USA by Russian revanchism, both in terms of geography and also resources.

First among these German vulnerabilities is the decision to shut down the last three German nuclear plants, in the process leaving Germany acutely dependent on Russian gas to keep the lights on. Germany presumably felt able to embrace this risk thanks to the reliable presence of a US-backed international order, both able and willing to keep Putin in check. It’s thus unsurprising to find German media outlets contributing enthusiastically to an internal American debate about the ongoing wisdom of continuing to act as Europe’s policeman – and doing so in terms calculated to stir the souls of those Americans still committed to that worldview.

In other words: whether emotively oppressed under a burqa or pluckily wielding a gun, 21st century geopolitical propaganda enthusiastically centres women. But while the visuals may tilt at gender stereotypes, and the talk focus on international values, the real stakes are, as ever, national interests.

Join the discussion


To join the discussion, get the free daily email and read more articles like this, sign up.

It's simple, quick and free.

Sign me up
Subscribe
Notify of
guest
16 Comments
Most Voted
Newest Oldest
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
James Joyce
James Joyce
3 months ago

Interesting. I watched the video and immediately thought it was for American eyes and ears. Very similar to Afghanistan, where every woman given air time on the BBC spoke English well, wanted to be a doctor or an engineer, despite being steeped I the gender studies language of inclusions, and was afraid of the Taliban. Fair play, but this was not representative of the country–in fact only a small minority in Kabul. I suppose Western reporters rarely ventured out.
I sympathize with Marta, but it’s not my business. Why is it the job of Western youth (read American youths) to fight and die in Ukraine? Even on BBC I heard two Ukranian guys–one wanted to fight, one didn’t. Representative? If so, is NATO supposed to pull the weight of the 50% who wish to stay on the sidelines? WHY?
Trump was right. NATO is useless–rainbow flags, gender advisors–disband NATO! NATO won! It was designed as a counterweight to the USSR, that’s over, so if needed, come up with a new military (not “equity”) organization to meet 21st Century needs.
And Germany! Germany! Pay your 2%, Germany. Germany won’t let EU countries such as Estonia send military kit to Ukraine. Will Germany be behind the Mother of All Sanctions–I think not, taking Russia out of SWIFT (international banking system) would mean Germany can’t pay Russia for oil and gas? Mutti’s completely moronic decision to kill nuclear in Germany coming back to bite. And what is so great about sanctions? Is there a real desire to create a criminal class–even bigger than the existing criminal class–which is exactly what sanctions will do?
Back to Marta. If the Russians invade, her life expectancy is about 7 seconds. Not a smart move. Her husband was onto something, about making the cost of invasion very high. Marta being a target, though well-intentioned, is not the way. Look to Finland. Something like a guerrilla war. Good luck Marta, but be smarter.

Martin Logan
Martin Logan
3 months ago
Reply to  James Joyce

You forget the small detail that Putin wont invade.

James Joyce
James Joyce
3 months ago
Reply to  Martin Logan

Maybe. He doesn’t have to–he’s already won.

Ian Stewart
Ian Stewart
3 months ago
Reply to  James Joyce

Really, Putin’s won? At best he gets to preserve limited Russian influence in Europe for 10 years at most. Instead of seeking to build strategic relationships with Europe that will help Russia.
When Putin leaves the stage in 15 years or so Russia is done – like every other succession failure in dictator states. Strong dictators are never replaced adequately. And there will be far reduced demand for their oil and gas as net zero is pursued, so their current economy is screwed, and he isn’t building it to do anything else.
We just need to make sure their nuclear weapons don’t fall into the wrong hands when he goes, probably like Stalin with submissive helpers too scared to ask if he’s dead yet, or is assassinated.

Last edited 3 months ago by Ian Stewart
James Joyce
James Joyce
3 months ago
Reply to  Ian Stewart

Putin has won by showing what a useless organization NATO is, by dividing the West, and by showing that Russia is a great power and entitled to a sphere of influence.
Putin has won by showing how feckless and unreliable Germany is, and how Mutti’s completely stupid decision to kill nuclear has come back to bite.
Putin has won by showing he is not afraid of sanctions–though perhaps Germany is, if Russia is taken out of SWIFT (international banking system), it will really hurt Germany, which may not be able to pay for oil and gas.
Putin has won by showing what a doddering, demented dotard Biden is, though in fairness this was already widely known, but sometimes a picture is worth a thousand words: Putin alone, the senile “leader” of the free world surrounded by aides, lest he say something off script as often happens, as his mind is gone. Biden says that Nord Stream 2 will never go live. Really? Does anyone believe that? What a dunce!
All points to Putin. He has won, though I don’t disagree much with your 10-15 year prediction.

Norman Powers
Norman Powers
3 months ago
Reply to  Ian Stewart

Russia isn’t Saudi Arabia. One of the topics in my professional community right now is whether possible sanctions would impact our industry’s widespread usage of Russian-made software products. They have a very serious and growing economy that’s not oil/gas based.
Putin is probably doing the right thing – giving Russia years of relative stability into which genuinely competitive firms can grow. That seems to be his appeal, more or less, along with the fact that him and the people around him consistently come off as pretty dramatically more competent and well informed than western leaders. The Truss/Lavrov incident isn’t the first time this sort of thing has happened. Read a transcript of Putin’s open address to the nation+phone-ins some time. He is apparently not pre-briefed on the questions yet provides complex, in depth answers to serious questions on the hoof. I also recall when he wrote an article on Syria and got it published in the NYT as an op-ed. The clarity of thought and deep understanding of US culture compared to US politicians was impressive.

Ray Zacek
Ray Zacek
3 months ago
Reply to  James Joyce

A convenient means, perhaps, for middle-aged Ukrainian men to be rid of their harridan wives for a time while they chat on internet sites with single young Russian women.

George Glashan
George Glashan
3 months ago

Have progressives been learning from Vladislav Surkov?
if I’m understanding correctly, which I’m probably not and that’s part of the point, a German based progressive group is funding a Ukrainian propagandist video for the benefit of American Democrats / Progressives. did i follow correctly? With the aim being to get America to defend the borders Germany has undermined? or has Surkov been funding the German progressive group all along?
I feel for the plight of Ukrainians, they are being left to twist in the wind, Germany has traded eastern Europe’s stability for cheap access to Russian gas. But the notion of an army of Hilary Clintons is hardly going to dissuade Russia, I’m sure it’ll get likes and retweets from the actual Hillary Clinton but will it actual lead to any meaningful American support? Am i really supposed to believe that the administration that fumbled the evacuation of Afghanistan is now looking to start a war in Russia?
My instinct on it is that these progressives are toothless they want others to fear the power of the institutions they have taken over, but they have hollowed them out, is Russia really in fear of the gender fluid CIA disrupting its operations?

Last edited 3 months ago by George Glashan
Lindsay Snoman
Lindsay Snoman
3 months ago
Reply to  George Glashan

An army of Hilary Clintons! Hahaha I can’t say I’d be in a hurry to run to their defence. Might be more inclined to encourage Russia to “ get Ukraine done!”

Andrew Dalton
Andrew Dalton
3 months ago
Reply to  George Glashan

It reads like a spinoff of Yes Minister with Humphrey replaced by a 20 something liberal arts graduate.

Martin Logan
Martin Logan
3 months ago
Reply to  George Glashan

They seem to be doing rather better than Trump.
A low bar easy for almost anyone to step over.

Lennon Ó Náraigh
Lennon Ó Náraigh
3 months ago

What happens to the feminists in Ukraine when the West gets bored of backing them? Look no further than Afghanistan for the answer.

Lennon Ó Náraigh
Lennon Ó Náraigh
3 months ago

I’m terribly confused. The NATO Office of the Gender Advisor aims to utilize the “the complementary skills of both male and female personnel”. This sounds suspiciously like Complemenatarianism – a theological point of view that is the polar opposite of egalitarianism. Woke theory will collapse very soon under the weight of its own contradictions.

Hersch Schneider
Hersch Schneider
3 months ago

A portent for the future of the liberal West? Women doing the fighting for weak, Beta males

Martin Logan
Martin Logan
3 months ago

The simple fact is: the more revisionists like Putin and Xi there are in the world, the less stable the world order.
Every nation on the planet has had some territory outside its present borders–and bad actors play on that for their own ends.
Going back to the Hundred Years War…or the Thirty Years War…or the Napoleonic Wars, is not “muscular realism.” It’s historical naivete, masquerading as something more.
Learn a little history.

William Shaw
William Shaw
2 months ago

Men have died for centuries to protect their countries and families.
It’s high time equal numbers of women were on the front lines in any future conflict.