This was quite a heavy week of reading… on top of a heavy media and entertainment week; thus, I was angry quite a bit this week.
I’ll start with the Brumberg and Jackson reading because it was straightforward and drew a really interesting relationship between an unacknowledged oppression in the U.S. and the one in which we almost glamorize in the middle east. The statement “The burka and the bikini represent opposite ends of the political spectrum” perfectly summarizes their thesis. One is a more overt symbol of oppression (due to the way the global West has portrayed it) and the other is a newer kind of oppression that still forces women to present their body in a way that is unknowingly forced.
This conversation is really interesting – specifically for our generation – for a number a reasons. The first being that our generation sees “liberation”, “physical freedom” and “sexual expression” in line with less clothing. We have been socialized to believe that the less clothes we wear, the more free we are – which of course, is not the case. This therefore creates the perception that the more clothes one is wearing, the more oppressed they are. I also believe that this is in line with our generations push away from religion (and religious figures who must cover certain parts of their bodies). We have become obsessed with freedom of material and physical expression – specifically regarding clothes. When in reality, “American girls and women have been stripped bare by a sexually expressive culture whose beauty dictates have exerted a major toll on their physical and emotional health.”
I also just really love this quote: “Now that the Taliban’s horrific treatment of women is common knowledge, dieting and working out to wear a string bikini might seem to be a patriotic act.”
This ties right into Stabile and Kumar’s article about the U.S.’s media and PR obsession with women in Afghanistan. Of course we depict women and children to be the most marginalized and oppressed – which is sometimes the case but the way in which we do so is unproductive, entitled and invasive – it could not have been more perfectly depicted than it was in this article. Most of these things I knew (kind of) but had not really conceptualized… when they so clearly spelled out how obviously the U.S. uses women as a means to sell the war to the U.S. public, my stomach dropped. This was probably the most sick and twisted thing to digest so far this semester. Before September 11th, 2001, I was too young to notice or pay attention to political issues of gender in the media (unless your Professor Jafar’s children and are probably smarter than all of us…) But examining the progression of Afghan women and children in the media, NGO’s, and Think Tanks.. it makes sense that this issue became “sexy” for politicians and NGO’s due to the increased media coverage… “Until Afghan women proved rhetorically useful, their tragic circumstances merited little coverage in the mainstream media.” The rhetoric that they were proved useful for was quite literally justifying the U.S. invading the middle east, and framing Afghanistan’s culture and ‘oppression’ against women as “backward” It is so distressing that in a 60 minute segment on the women in Afghanistan.. “There was no mention of outbreaks of diseases like polio and measles, of chronic hunger or dreadful poverty.” regardless of how relevant or accurate
But who really is backward here? It is one thing for a country to still have laws and policies that oppress women and children and there needs to be more of a fight for equality – but for another country to CAPITALIZE on this for its own selfish gains, essentially as a PR stunt – is just disgusting. In my opinion, you can’t really get more backwards than that.
I also loved their point about the lack of media coverage on refugees throughout this entire wave of covering Afghan women and children… As I just finished a class on refugees and how they are portrayed in the media, most refugees are women and children and that is one of the greatest internal political battles that the middle east faces today (specifically now with Syria). But this has been proven as un-useful and in fact harmful for American media to cover these stories…
“We should assert that the rhetoric of women’s liberation was a lie as monumental as the claims about WMD. But in a society as deeply sexist as the US, and a media system more engrossed with weapons than with women’s issues, we can expect that this lie will go unchallenged.”
These articles reminds us at how critical we have to be when consuming even our “most trusted” news sources and constantly question what the news is failing to report.. As well as who is in charge of framing the news.
As I sit here writing this while simultaneously watching the Oscars (muted in the background) and I count how many women and people of color are represented in these films I remember how absolutely terrifying it is how much power the patriarchy really does have. That 94% of the voters for the Academy are white and 77% are men…
I would love to know these statistical break down of who controls our news…
Oh, also – for those of you interested in the gender gap in the Oscar nominated films: http://mobile.nytimes.com/2014/03/02/movies/awardsseason/cinemetrics-extracts-statistical-data-from-movies.html?smid=fb-nytimes&WT.z_sma=MO_TGG_20140228&bicmp=AD&bicmlukp=WT.mc_id&bicmst=1388552400000&bicmet=1420088400000&_r=1&referrer=