Is the United States really so innocent?

By Emma Houser

Throughout the course of this section on media I have begun to question even further the nature of the news we are subject to in today’s society. After reading these three articles though I really began to see just how biased the information that we are constantly exposed to really is. Stabile and Kumar’s article highlights the Afghan women’s issues in the media and how this has been systematically fed to the US public as a cover for the war. Many of us have at some point heard that the government in many ways uses the media to their advantage, controlling the information that the public hears. In the context of this article though it was interesting to see how blind most people really are. If we really looked back at the information we can see that the US played a fairly significant role in the development of the situation that Afghan women face today, but most of us would never know this. We fall prey to the information that is being fed to us and fail to question anyone’s intentions when the media suddenly takes notice of women’s issues.

When I turn on the TV or open a newspaper I rarely question the news I see. I read about what’s going on in other countries and take the reporters word, but this article really opened my eyes to the fact that we have to take everything we hear with a grain of salt. Stabile and Kumar discuss the fact that the news surrounding Afghan women and the war was focused on the burka and education and ignored other issues that the war would actually make worse, such as issues surrounding refugees. Further, when they actually looked back at the issues in the news, there was very little coverage on Afghan women’s tragic situation until it proved useful to the United States’ decision to invade, specifically after the September 11th attack.

Similarly, Uma Narayan’s article discusses the way that we process a lot of the news that we hear about other countries and how we use this information to form ideas about their cultural and religious practices. In her article, Narayan compares the practices of dowry-murder in India and domestic-violence in the United States as well as the news surrounding them. What really stood out to me was the difference in the way that these two issues were reported on the US. She mentions that in doing research she had a difficult time coming across information on how many women die as a result of domestic-violence. In our society we tend to focus on the victims ho have survived as we discuss the issue of domestic-violence as a whole, but when we look at the practice of dowry-murder in India, we focus on the fact that women are being murdered. In both cases women are dying at the hands of their families, but in India it is the result of the Hindu tradition. Little do most people know, and for that matter care, that as a practice dowry-murder is nearly extinct.

It seems that the US is always innocent. Our issues are due to external factors, such as alcoholism and sexual jealousy, and don’t have any connection to the cultural practices of American’s as a whole. Narayan’s proposed a book titled “May You be the Loser of 100 Pounds in her article. It was really interesting to think about such a book finding it’s way onto bookshelves in the United States. We so often look at other societies and judge them based on the cultural practices that we hear about them, but we rarely ever question our own cultural practices and the effect that they have on our own society. Why is it that we feel the right to attribute all of the negative aspects of other countries to their cultural as a whole, but we blatantly ignore similar aspects within our own culture?

“The Burka and the Bikini” really drives these points home. We are so unaware of the effect that our own cultural practices have on our society and on societies around the world. We judge other cultures based on their cultural and religious practices, but here we have young girls and women suffering from eating disorders as the result of our cultural norms. We are so quick to judge the Taliban as cruel, and rightfully so, but we also need to look at the role that we play. In many ways our cultural values and norms are just as cruel and hurtful to the women in our society. As Burmberg and Jackson state in their article, “the burka and the bikini represent opposite ends of the political spectrum, but each can exert and noose-like grip in the psyche and physical health of girls and women.”

6 thoughts on “Is the United States really so innocent?

  1. Gina Pol

    I agree that the readings we had for this week shed light on a lot of aspects of the media that we should not always take in, but rather be skeptical on the reliability of these sources. I like how you mentioned that the United States always wants to play innocent as if we are never responsible for any issues, yet we held a significant amount of responsibility for the unfortunate events that occurred in Afghanistan. Along with this innocent front is also the power that is being enacted through the actions that the United States takes. We chose to spend billions of dollars on military spending instead of using any portion of that budget to help rebuild Afghanistan. In order to be seen as a strong nation, we use our military forces to scare other nations away. This shows that the United States would rather appear heroic through use of military forces rather than appear heroic through the help of rebuilding another nation.

  2. Sophie Furman

    I was in the same position as you before reading these articles and having our discussions in class I never really thought about the fact that our government and reporters were filtering our news to only talk about what they want us to see. I now have been looking at news, media articles etc. in a new way. I have noticed how dramatized they make a lot of situations out to be, in order for us to have small spectrum on the opinion to view it a different way than the writer. Therefore we’re lead to judge and point fingers, it’s almost as if our media is trapping us.

  3. Sarah Wills

    Just like Emma, I was also very surprised to see how systematic the media is at portraying different stories in the news in order to persuade the audience one way or another. Due to the timing of 9/11 and the portrayal of Afghani women in the media, it is hard to overlook what the media was trying to do. This is a clear indication that the American media and government were trying to portray Afghani men in the most horrible form that they could. So, they approached this situation from all angles to insure that the audience was not in favor the these men. The article, “The Burka and the Bikini” builds on the same idea that our perception of Afghani women can be skewed due to our perception. While most Americans find the Burka oppressive, I bet that hardly anyone would find the portrayal of women in America to be oppressive. This is because we view over exposure of the female body as liberating and freeing without questioning the origin of this idea.

  4. Bianca Scofield

    I thought it was interesting how you mentioned that we rarely have a critical eye when consuming the daily news, whether it be a newspaper or a televised news program. I think that America in general blindly consumes the news. Its not to say that there a good amount of educated informed people out there that know how to properly examine media. However, a common myth is that the news and media are always truthful and unbiased. There are some people out there that believe Fox News is even unbiased! I mean seriously? What is so frustrating is that the mood of our country after 9/11… you really could have told the American people anything to convince them to invade because we were so heartbroken from the tragedy. The media spoon fed us information about Iraqi women, and we took the bait, no questions asked. It’s clear that the government influences the media, but ideally the media would be a short of check and balance on the government exposing what truly goes on, but that seems the be a rarity.

  5. Brittany Juliano

    Like many others that read Narayan’s article, I first thought about how I personally absorb the news that is available to me. Often times, I do not stop to question what news I do read or see on TV because, to be honest, like most people I do not have the time to research what information I do absorb. It is important, however, to be aware that news broadcast in the United States is also from the American perspective and therefore will be full of certain biases. In addition to this discussion from Narayan’s article however, I was also interested in the points she makes about recognizing the internal issues that our nation has instead of always focusing externally. Essentially, the messages we often see on the news are horrific humanitarian issues that exist in other countries (often third world countries). Often times the focus on the “other” situation deters what is going on in our own backyards and makes it much easier to criticize.

  6. Sophie Sharps

    Similar to Emma, these readings also made me reflect on the information I digest and where it comes from. Recently, I have been thinking of the rise in social media as a source where people receive information. Through Facebook, Twitter and other social media sites, people do not hesitate to share their interests and opinions. While I encourage these sites as sources of expression, it worries me that these posts then become outlets for other peoples’ news. In an age where we can find almost anything on the internet, how do we know what to trust? Is the Huffington Post a reputable new source or a gossip blog? Where do we draw the line? As Narayan mentioned, we tend to “edit” and “frame” information so frequently taken out of context and twisted to fit our own interpretation of an issue.

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