By Emma Weisberg
Something I just could not get over when reading “Unveiling Imperialism: Media, Gender, and the War on Afghanistan,” was the United States’ constant depiction of itself as a war hero and the resulting romanticism that diminishes the realities of violence and destruction during wartime. For instance, when discussing the US depiction of violence against women in Afghanistan, Stabile and Kumar mention the logic of the protection scenario, ‘established through three categories that stand in unstable conjunction with one another: the protected or victim (the person violated by the villain); the threat or villain (the person who attacks the victim); and the protector or hero (the person who protects or rescues the victim or promises such aid’ (770). To justify going to war with Afghanistan, the United States claimed that the Taliban was a villainous power structure oppressing women, the targeted victims of violence and denial of human rights. However, this claim is vastly simplifying the truth of the situation: Afghani women’s rights had been violated long before the Taliban went into power. However, while the United States had influence on the mujahideen leaders—who were in power before the Taliban—our nation decided to turn its head from the daily sufferings occurring in Afghanistan. To put it bluntly, the United States only decided to help these women when we could profit from it. I found these facts to be incredibly sickening, and it has made me look at our government and military in a completely different light.
Not only does the United States romanticize war, but we also “otherize” our opponents through the Orientalist approach. This theory allows the western world to isolate ourselves from issues going on in places such as Afghanistan, while in reality we are dealing with many of the same issues in our own country. For instance, there is an “absence of coverage of issues involving women and violence in the US media in general” (777). However, when violence against women is covered on television or in the newspaper, rarely are the lethal consequences such as death revealed. In “Death by Culture,” Narayan believes this issue of invisibility of gender based violence caused death is a result of “lacking a term that ‘specifically picks them out’ from the general category of ‘domestic violence’” (95-96). This claim does make a lot of sense; if we do not have a term for an issue, how could we stand up against it? The more conversations we have with one another, the more we can understand and define our experiences and begin to raise awareness about issues such as gender-based violence.