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cindy sheehan and the social vs. the political May 10, 2007

Posted by sindhub in 911, bill o'reilly, cindy sheehan, controversy, female politicos, Female Power, G W. Bush, gender, in the news, iraq war, jersey girls, jersey widows, morality, motherhood, nationalism, news stories, politics, Power, rush limbaugh, the state, wartime politics, women and war.
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I wanted to talk a little bit more about something I brought up in class today, about how women’s traditional gender roles in the U.S. involve upholding social and cultural mores, and possibly aiming to ‘better society,’ but never being explicitly political about it.  I realized after class what I meant by ‘explicitly political’: placing the blame on someone.  Politics is very much about finger-wagging, appeasing constituents, and placing the blame for something on somebody or something.  Traditionally, it’s been more socially approved for women to try to ease society’s ills, e.g. the temperance movements of the late nineteenth century.  Although women took on leadership roles in these organizations and argued in favor of women’s right to vote, their main focus was on maintaining the ‘traditional’ family structure (the Women’s Christian Temperance Union is strongly against same-sex marriage), not shaking up society.  However, and I think this has something to do with us living in the post-9/11 era, when a woman blames someone explicitly for breaking up the family (and not just alcohol), there can be a severe backlash.  Even flippantly critical comments like Natalie Maines’ can do that, but I think the best example in the current Bush presidency is Cindy Sheehan.

I’m sure you’ve heard of her; she’s the mother whose son died in the Iraq war, and became an anti-war protester, going so far as to camp outside President Bush’s Crawford, Texas ranch for five weeks, insisting on speaking with him personally (which he never agreed to, though he did send top officials).  I remember when this happened in the summer of 2005, and it just being all over the news.  Surely a mother’s grief for her lost son is newsworthy.  But Sheehan’s story only took the vitriolic, polarizing turn that it did, dominating the nightly news for the summer, because she took her traditionally social role as a mother and used it politically.  Antiwar groups rallied against her because she was so beneficial to their cause, and Bush’s supporters criticized her for being ‘treasonous.’  Her critics didn’t question what she was saying–that the Iraq war wouldn’t make us any safer, and that she herself would fight to protect the country–rather, they questioned her. (more…)

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veil-burning in somalia May 10, 2007

Posted by sindhub in Ayesha Dharkar, bodies, deception, Ethics, fashion police, Female Power, female soldiers, gender, ideology, in the news, International, islam, modesty, morality, nationalism, news stories, politics, Power, somalia, the state, The Terrorist, wartime politics, women and war, women in the military.
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There have been news stories in the past two days about government soliders in Somalia, which is currently in a state of civil war with explosions taking place recently in capital Mogadishu, taking women’s veils (ones where only the eyes are uncovered) and burning them.  When I first heard about it, I thought it seemed like what happened in pre-1979 revolution Iran, when women weren’t allowed to dress in religious garb in an avowedly secular state ruled by a monarch, but it turns out that the recent veil-burning wasn’t government-sanctioned.  The soliders did it because they wanted to make sure that the women weren’t part of the ‘rebel’ Islamist movement, and hiding bombs or weapons under their veils.

I thought this situation was interesting in its similarity to The Terrorist.  Malli is valued within her organization because she’s a woman, which means that she is underestimated and seen in a de-politicized way, which will enable her to get past security checkpoints–while carrying the ammunition she needs in the basket on her head, and not firewood or whatever the soliders may assume it is, showing that it is precisely her femaleness that allows her to get by–and get close enough to the politician to assassinate him.  It seems that the Somali soliders were concerned that they were letting Muslim women who might pose a threat get by because of their female religious need/desire to cover themselves modestly, and decided to take action, for their own safety presumably.

Something else that comes to mind is how this fits women into nationalism.  (more…)

Bush or Backlash? May 9, 2007

Posted by lindamc in 911, Bill Clinton, class, controversy, Dixie Chix, Female Power, feminism, G W. Bush, Girl Power, nationalism, politics, Power, relationships with men, sexual power, sexuality, Shut up and Sing.
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I can’t remember who made the comment about the post 911 reversion into a sort of white-boy southern American pride on Sunday’s class, but watching Shut up and Sing really got me thinking about Bush’s influence on aspects of our popular culture (more…)

The fight over the veil May 7, 2007

Posted by Wasik in bodies, careerwomen, controversy, fashion police, Female Power, feminism, ideology, in the news, iran, islam, morality, nationalism, politics, religion, the state, The Terrorist, Uncategorized, women and war.
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[This started out as a comment to sindhub’s post on Women’s Bodies and Ideology, but then quickly became very long so now it is a normal post. But sindhub– thanks for bringing this topic up!]

The debate about traditional islamic dress for women– loosely referred to in Western discourse as ‘the veil’– is probably the most complicated, intricate and endlessly controversial way in which, as you mention, nationalist and religious (though the two are often inextricably tied) movements use women’s bodies to enforce ideology.

In Western media and popular culture, the issue is often presented very one-sidedly, ignoring the nuance involved which has perpetuated this debate for so long. I distinctly remember one episode of “Seventh Heaven” in which taking up the veil was seen as an absolute tragedy to be lamented; throughout the episode, Mrs. Camden was haunted by visions of her daughters veiled and oppressed, and the end of the program featured many of its actors speaking out against the treatment of women in states under sharia law. (more…)

women’s bodies and national ideology May 4, 2007

Posted by sindhub in bodies, Ethics, fashion police, ideology, in the news, iran, islam, modesty, morality, nationalism, new york times, politics, Power, religion, the state.
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There’s an interesting article in the New York Times today about the ‘fashion police,’ quite literally, in Iran.  Ever since the 1979 Islamic revolution that made Iran an Islamic state, there have been certain policies about how women should dress in public (modestly, in the chador) that are enforced by the police.  I think it’s important to note that before the 1979 revolution, Iran was an avowedly secular state, which meant that women actually weren’t allowed to publicly dress in ‘modest’ Islamic clothes.  I think this just goes to show that in a state that has a lot of power over its citizens, women’s bodies are one of the tools used to enforce its ideology, no matter how seemingly ‘repressive’ or ‘liberal’ that ideology is.

Here are some of the bits from the article that I found particularly amusing: (more…)

Motherhood, “Aliens,” and Nationalism May 3, 2007

Posted by kelly in Aliens, Courage Under Fire, G.I. Jane, motherhood, nationalism.
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After our discussion in class and re-watching the scene in “Aliens” where Sigourney Weaver’s character rescues Newt I realize just how much that scene enforces the idea that women will choose motherhood over nationalism. (more…)

Gender Equality in Israel May 1, 2007

Posted by Melissa in bodies, careerwomen, controversy, female executives, female politicos, female soldiers, G.I. Jane, gender, general considerations, Girl Power, in the news, Israel, nationalism, Spain.
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I found this article earlier today about the status of gender equality in Israel. I don’t find the statistics surprising, women have been paid (more…)

more on Malli/Dhanu and nationalism April 30, 2007

Posted by sindhub in Ayesha Dharkar, nationalism, rape, Sri Lanka conflict, The Terrorist, wartime politics, women and war, women in the military.
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Hm, this is something I didn’t find out about until now somehow: the woman who the character of Malli from The Terrorist is based on was raped by an Indian ‘peacekeeping force’ previous to joining the rebel movement.  Apparently the Tamil Tigers used this for political gain; according to Wikipedia, “Her alleged rape is seen to be an offense to the Tamil people as a whole and a source of passion for the Tamil Tiger Organisation.”  I just thought this was an interesting factoid in light of our discussion about nationalism and women.  It’s another example of how women are seen as the ‘property’ of whatever group they can be identified with, and how that can be used for political gains under the auspice of nationalism.

nationalism and the ownership of women April 29, 2007

Posted by sindhub in big brother, controversy, in the news, india, janet jackson, justin timberlake, nationalism, richard gere, shilpa shetty, superbowl incident.
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Our class discussion about nationalism and women’s role in it as mothers who continue their people’s bloodlines, and therefore need to be protected, seems particularly in light of a recent controversy: Richard Gere kisses Shilpa Shetty

Shilpa Shetty is a popular Indian actress who most recently made headlines for being a contestant on the UK version of Big Brother and being the target of racist namecalling by one of her housemates.  Last week, Richard Gere kissed her at an HIV awareness event, which caused a big hullaballoo among the right wing in India, who claimed that it not only offended their sensibilities, but that it was also an affront to India as a nation.  They burned effigies of Gere and criticized Shetty (who laughed the whole thing off), and recently a local court called for Gere’s arrest, prompting him to apologize…

So yeah, I thought the whole idea of women needing to be protected–not just their physical well-being, but their ‘honor’ and ‘reputation’–for the sake of a nation’s pride, was particularly relevant in this instance.  I also think it’s interesting that the nation will turn against the woman (the ‘blame the victim’ mentality), and not just the other side’s man.  What I find bothersome about the whole thing is that Shetty was completely unaware that Gere was going to get as physically affectionate with her as he did (the whole thing is just really awkward to watch).  It sort of reminds me of the Superbowl incident with Justin Timberlake and Janet Jackson and her nipple; everyone was outraged by her nipple, but no one was bothered by Timberlake basically ripping her shirt apart.

The video of Gere & Shetty is behind the cut: (more…)