After reading Gill’s article last week on the way that women are completely underrepresented in today’s news stories, it was interesting to read Stabile and Kumar’s “Unveiling Imperialism: Media, Gender, and the War on Afghanistan” in order to see actual examples of how the plight of women was kept out of the media until it could serve a useful purpose to the white, male government officials in charge. The part that stuck out to me the most in accordance with last weeks readings was the figures of how many prominent US newspapers featured articles on the Bush twins versus how many they featured on the severe problems women in Afghanistan were facing. From January 1, 2000 to September 11, 2001, only fifteen articles were written about the women in Afghanistan. This was a time when, under the strict regime of the Taliban, women were not allowed to have jobs, were not allowed to attend school, were required to be covered up in their burkas at all times, and could not even leave their homes unless they were accompanied by a male relative. Horrible things were happening to these women (horrible things that the US actually indirectly afflicted on them which I’ll talk more about later) yet hardly anything was said about it in the national news. On the other hand, during that same time period, there were 179 articles written about the Bush twins. When doing last week’s readings, the conclusion I came to was that news companies were trying to dumb things down for the American people and to provide them with more fluff, human-interest pieces because that is what they thought the American people enjoyed. Now it is clear that this isn’t the only reason they do that, they manipulate the stories they feature in the news in order to benefit the people ‘in charge,’ namely white government officials. Because of course as soon as the government wanted to justify declaring war on Afghanistan, the news was flooded with stories about how oppressed Afghan women were and that we needed to ‘save them’ from this. This had been going on since 1996, or even earlier, however, so it is quite obvious what the people in charge of the media were trying to do. It is rather appalling how untrustworthy the media has become.
Something that was touched on in both the “Unveiling Imperialism” and “The Burka and the Bikini” articles was the way in which the US media focused on the oppressiveness of Afghan women being forced to wear burkas but never touched on the American issues that have to do with this. As Stabile and Kumar pointed out in their article, it wasn’t until after the US funded the mujahideen military leaders in Afghanistan that the Taliban were able to come to power and inflict a horrific war on women that led to them being severely restricted. When Americans celebrated the fact that their involvement in the war on Afghanistan led to women having more freedoms (such as being allowed to remove the burka) it was hardly ever brought up that in fact the US indirectly gave way to women being treated this way in the first place. Americans can celebrate all they want about how the war ‘saved women’ but they might find it interesting to know that the reason why we went to war had nothing to do with wanting to save women, but was really done in order to make money from oil. And that women in Afghanistan aren’t actually saved, they are still living in a country that has been torn apart by a war.
The final reading tied together nicely with the “Burka and the Bikini” article. It made it clear that people in the US have a much easier time recognizing the ways in which women are oppressed and harmed in other cultures but not our own. We see women forced to wear the burkas and are outraged by this, yet we cannot see the harm that our own country has inflicted on young girls by presenting an ideal body type that is almost impossible to attain by a normal person. We recognize the horrors of dowry-murders in India yet we struggle to find the numbers of how many women are killed a year from domestic violence in the US. It is much easier to look at people in other cultures and to condemn their behaviors but it is much harder to do it to ourselves. Clearly there are a lot of problems in the US but we are currently unwilling to face them head on as a nation.