Being a woman is a natural Ghillie suit in the Washington Asia policy Bush.
A Ghillie suit, for those of you who are not hunters or snipers, is a head-to-toe camouflage outfit made so that its wearer blends as completely as possible into its environment. They can be made specifically for bushy terrain, forested areas, and even urban environments. The name is Scottish for servant.
The point is that women who work on Asia are essentially invisible.
If we are in the room, we might as well not be there. If our questions are not ignored, some “well meaning” male rephrases them or tells the speaker not to answer. It is not unusual for us to not be invited to an invitation-only program because we "can be disruptive."
On the rare occasion we are invited to participate in a program we are usually asked only to moderate. One or two moderator or commentator slots are sometimes reserved for women to show diversity. And these slots are almost always given to only a handful of unmemorable women like Ellen Frost or Kristen Lord.
A case in point was the all-Sasakawa Foundations'-funded June program on the US-Japan Alliance that had only one pesky woman speaker. Of the 37 public presenters at the two-day conference, there was only one woman: Ms. Takako Hikotani. She was not on the original agenda (and is still not on the web-posted agenda). Of course, unlike the male speakers she came prepared, organized, and spoke excellent English. It was embarrassing.
Ms. Yuriko Koike the vice secretary of the LDP was the only female among the keynote speakers for the pricey, invitation-only conference meals. Two other men joined her that evening to speak. Amb Ichiro Fujisaki and foreign policy gadfly Robert Kaplan. I assume they did not want her to speak alone.
Her job was to spew gender-appropriate venom upon the opposition DPJ. Her talk was a less coherent version of her January Project Syndicate essay on "it's the security, stupid." Aside from a string of bitchy catty remarks, she left the audience with the impression that the LDP got “nuttin, just plain nuttin.”
Kristen Lord was allowed to sit at the square table of luminaries, but not given an opportunity to speak. After all, the organization that employs her, CNAS, did organize the program.
So, I think that it would be appropriate, in the future, for women to wear real Ghillie suits to these programs. If you are going to be unnoticed you might as well go all the way.
And if the women of Washington had the imagination and courage of the Guerrilla Girls of the New York art community they would go en masse in their Ghillie suits to a Brookings or CSIS event and just sit in the back row…