Purnima Mankekar in Ms. Magazine:
As women gain more seats in public office, why is the world not a safer place for women (or, for that matter, for children and men), Zillah Eisenstein asks in Sexual Decoys. She suggests this is because some of these women, as well as some people of color, are sexual and racial decoys: They mask the damage caused by sexism, racism and avaricious forms of capitalism while also contributing to it. Pointing to the (in)famous examples of Condoleezza Rice and Colin Powell, she describes how the appointment of women and people of color to positions of power neither reflects a just social order nor results in one. Instead, as decoys, these individuals participate in the reinforcement or aggravation of the unequal and violent treatment of women and people of color.
Gender decoys, for instance, were central to the scandalous abuse of prisoners in Abu Ghraib. The different roles performed by women — ranging from Lynndie England, an inmate-processing clerk, to Janis Karpinski, the brigadier general in charge of the prison — raise complicated questions about culpability and accountability. Karpinski was one of the few senior officers punished for the abuses. And, as Eisenstein points out, England and some of the other low-ranking women who perpetrated the abuses were pawns who supported “disgusting practices that they should have refused to perform.” As decoys, these women covered up the “misogyny of building empire, while also actually building it.”