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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…)

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…)

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.

What do Jessica Lynch and Meg Ryan have in common? April 27, 2007

Posted by rachaelg in Courage Under Fire, in the news, Jessica Lynch, Meg Ryan, new york times, stereotypes, wartime politics, women in the military.
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In today’s New York Times, Michael Delong’s Opinion article, Politics During Wartime, immediately reminded me of our class discussion of Meg Ryan in Courage Under Fire.  Delong’s job (like Denzel’s in the film) was to find out what really happened before Jessica Lynch became a prisoner of war, while politicians urged him to just award her a Medal of Honor. (more…)