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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…)

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…)

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.

motherhood trumps all? April 25, 2007

Posted by Wasik in bodies, careerwomen, female bounty hunters, Female Power, gender, motherhood, Sri Lanka conflict, the state, The Terrorist, Uncategorized, women and war.
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Both “The Terrorist” and “The Long Kiss Goodnight” raise the question: when a woman’s kickass body is an essential tool in her job (in the former, because she is a suicide bomber, and the latter because she is a counter-assasination agent for the State Dep’t), is it possible for her to also be a mother?
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The problem with the military training movie hero April 20, 2007

Posted by Liz in G.I. Jane, women and war.
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An interesting point was made in the article “No Pain, No Jane” by Charles Taylor of Salon.com regarding the big problem faced by G.I. Jane and, in fact, all military training movies. The gist is that the essential element of a military training movie, the degradation and abuse, psychological and physical, that a military trainee must go through to achieve success, inherently contradicts the qualities that we the people hold near and dear in our “standard”
Hollywood hero- “independence and instinct and distrust of authority.” I think that Taylor’s point is an interesting one, and that the contradiction that he describes may be even more relevant to the case of the female military trainee. The Oxford English Dictionary defines Girl power as “a self-reliant attitude among girls and young women manifested in ambition, assertiveness and individualism.” When a person goes through military training, at least as it is depicted by Hollywood, he or she is stripped of many of the cornerstones of “girl power”, most distressingly individualism. For in order to succeed, a woman in such a situation must conform, must fit in (to some extent). So though female characters like Lt. Jordan O’Neil do triumph at the end, it is difficult to call they victories displays of girl power.

real-life Mallis April 18, 2007

Posted by sindhub in Ayesha Dharkar, in the news, Sri Lanka conflict, The Terrorist, women and war.
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I found this link to some photos taken by the BBC of Tamil women training with the LTTE (Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam/the same group that the woman that Malli is based on fought with) in the conflict with the Sri Lankan government.  I think it’s notable that a lot of the captions point out that the reason the women fight is to protect their people, and also that their male relatives have been killed or are ill.

Malli’s Choice April 18, 2007

Posted by rachaelg in Female Power, motherhood, Power, The Terrorist, women and war.
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Did anyone else notice how the cause Malli was fighting for was never really explained?  I don’t even think we ever learned the country she was in (though it seemed clear it was India).  The “Leader” remained nameless and so did the “VIP.”  By leaving these kind of details ambiguous, The Terrorist (more…)