Mohammad Abdul-karem Yousef
2021 / 7 / 13
By Mohammad AbdulkaremYousef 2021
It is not easy to argue that women’s violence is given more media attention than men’s violence, not just because it is less prominent´-or-because there are not as many women soldiers´-or-militants than men.
A woman maintains that traditional stereotypes of women as “black widow spiders”´-or-“femme fatales” who use their pretty smiles and their sex appeal to lure men to their deaths play into media representations of women’s involvement in recent military action.
Because of the way that stereotypes of women’s sexuality as inherently dangerous and women’s violence as more threatening than men’s, the issue of women’s participation in the theatre of war is complex. She examines how, when military leaders´-or-jihadists use women strategically as weapons, and when the media figures them as weapons in their very presence in the theatre of war, women’s agency in violence is complicated.
The prominent dilemma is that we describe war features as unwomanly ,severe and fierce.
A woman ,whether in the east´-or-west , is connected with humanity and social welfare rather than warfare .So , one who sees women who indulge themselves with warfare shall definitely question the behavior as it contradicts the nature of woman . Man is the hunter and the woman is the builder .
Unfortunately, we met women of different nature starting with the American war on Iraq where American used women in torturing the Iraqi captives in Abu Ghraib and ending with the war on Syria where ISIS used Women to lead operations and slaughter the victims on TV Screens in a different landscape that contradicts the nature of women throughout history.
The situation demonstrates how within the rhetoric of the traditionalists, these women are free agents who chose to burn themselves--;-- but within the rhetoric of Western feminists, these women are the victims of repressive and deadly patriarchal customs of a “backward” culture.
The double-bind in this situation is that, on the one hand, we don’t want to perpetuate the stereotype that women are merely passive helpless victims who don’t possess any agency of their own--;-- but on the other hand, we don’t want to embrace a practice that not only serves patriarchal inheritance laws but moreover kills women.
So, which is it?
Do these women jump on the burning pyres of their own free will,´-or-does their culture push them, so to speak? It is precisely our stereotypes of women, and subaltern women in particular, that constructs this dilemma in which women do have agency but only the agency to kill themselves. The new emerging situation complicates any simply idea that women’s choices are the result of their own autonomous free will apart from social pressures and political situations.
The analysis of the dilemma´-or-double-bind when it comes to women’s violence is apt as we consider recent representations of women’s violence in the Middle East. From the young American women soldiers involved in abuses of Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib prison, to captured American and British women Private Jessica Lynch and Seaman Lynn Turney, to women suicide bombers, women are figured as dangerous, even more dangerous than men, especially because of the cultural association between sex and violence.
How come ?
One may question whether Women are pushed´-or-do they jump, so to speak? How should we interpret women’s violence in the theatre of war? What is the status of women’s agency in situations where their roles are circumscribed by patriarchal stereotypes of femininity, female sexuality, and the association of sex and violence?
Women’s violence is given more media attention than men’s violence, not just because it is less prominent´-or-because there are not as many women soldiers´-or-militants than men. Rather, traditional stereotypes of women as “black widow spiders”´-or-“femme fatales” who use their pretty smiles and their sex appeal to lure men to their deaths play into media representations of women’s involvement in recent military action.
Because of the way that stereotypes of women’s sexuality as inherently dangerous and women’s violence as more threatening than men’s, the issue of women’s participation in the theatre of war is complex. Indeed, as we will see, when military leaders´-or-jihadists use women strategically as weapons, and when the media figures them as weapons in their very presence in the theatre of war, women’s agency is difficult to locate.
On the other side, and under the name of women’s freedom and feminism, both conservatives and feminists suggest the need to “save brown women from brown men,” as we may put it. The role of women in military action is complicated by stereotypes of femininity, maternity and sexuality that inflect their violent actions with a titillating aspect that captures the imagination and puts them in the media spotlight.
Women soldiers’ rapes and deaths get little attention in the media´-or-from the American public, women’s involvement in abusive treatment of detainees at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq and at Guantaná-;---;--mo Bay prison in Cuba continue to haunt debates over acceptable interrogation techniques and American sentiments toward these “wars.” According to the United States Pentagon’s own Rand Report, approximately one third of the women soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan have been raped´-or-sexually assaulted by their fellow soldiers.
These women return home suffering from the double whammy of post-traumatic stress disorder and sexual assault. At the extreme, women are dying from dehydration for fear of having to go out to the latrine at night
where they risk being raped. Although rapes and deaths of women soldiers receive little attention, reports of violence and abuse by women capture public imagination.
Why does women’s violence generate so much press and media speculation? In this essay, We take up this question by analyzing both the media coverage and the events themselves within the context of a connection between sex and violence that has become endemic to ideology.
There we argue that the American occupation of Iraq follows in a long line of colonial and imperialist ventures executed by the “West” in the “East.” If we trace this history back to the 19th Century when the latest technology, namely the camera, was already being used by British military to document everyday life in colonial India for family back home.
Photographs of violence and war were taken along with pictures of family and British high tea. The proximity of war and everyday life in these photographs served to normalize violence for those participating in it and for those back home--;-- violence appears as a part of everyday life along with having tea´-or-women playing with children. The same ideology ia used by Americans and ISIS today.
The camera extracts a particular scene from a particular perspective from the landscape and thereby renders invisible the colonial context´-or-background against which this “slice-of life” is taken. In this way, violence becomes part of the landscape rather than imposed on it by the occupying army with its image-making technologies along with its weapons of war .
If we go back to the events at Abu Ghraib and their media coverage within the historical context of Western colonial violence allows us to see how they are a continuation of military practices that normalize violence, particularly in relation to women and sex, along with scenes of camels, street scenes, and daily life. These photographs were then sent via email to friends and family as so many post-cards from Iraq.
When the photographs of abuse first became public, there was a flurry of outrage and accusation. These photographs of pretty young women giving thumbs up over dead bodies and naked prisoners stacked in piles´-or-in sexual poses were considered “shocking” and mind-boggling--;-- some considered the photographs themselves to be the real problem. Yet, at the same time, there was something strangely familiar about these photos. And, it is that combination of shock and familiarity that we must seek to understand. Remember, the smiling faces of Private Lyndie England and Sabrina Harmon, the poster girls of Abu Ghraib. One of the most famous images was of Private England, cigarette dangling from her mouth, holding the end of a leash around the neck of a naked Iraqi prisoner. And, Harmon was shown smiling giving the thumbs up signal over a dead body. The faces of the perpetrators suggest that they could be photographs in a high-school yearbook.
These “shocking” images, however, are not only familiar to us from a history of colonial violence associated with sex, but also they are familiar to us from a history of associations between women, sex and violence. Indeed, in some sense, the association between sex and violence trades on stereotypical images and myths of dangerous´-or-threatening women upon which our culture was, and continues to be, built. Women have been associated with the downfall of man since Eve tempted Adam with forbidden fruit. It is productive therefore to analyze recent media representations of women from war in the Middle East, including Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and Palestine, in terms of both the legacy of colonial imperialism and the legacy of patriarchal associations between women, sex, and death.
The military’s “strategic” use of women both in Guantaná-;---;--mo and at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq have been described as techniques to “soften-up” prisoners. And a recent article published in the U.S. military’s own journal Small Wars discusses the use of all female Marine units currently being used in Afghanistan to “wield the culture as a weapon” to “soften” interactions with local men and children.
At the same time that women are being used to “soften-up” the enemy, women also are used to “soft-up” public perceptions of abuse and torture. Women are imagined as soft and vulnerable, but this seemingly is also what makes them so dangerous. Their seemingly innocent pretty smiles seduce and kill. The fantasy is that women’s bodies and female sexuality are in themselves dangerous. Age-old stereotypes play into the military’s use of women as strategic “weapons” because their very presence, particularly their sexuality, is imaged as dangerous and threatening. Again, it becomes difficult to discern women’s agency in these situations. Internet blogs and late night talk shows suggested that female interrogators performing the equivalent of a “lap dance” is titillating rather than abusive.
Now , conservative politicians employ feminist rhetoric to justify war even as they cut programs that help women at home, including welfare, state sponsored childcare, Planned Parenthood (a nonprofit organization that gives poor women access to birth control and other services), and affirmative action. They can simultaneously blame feminism for the abusive women at Abu Ghraib and invade Afghanistan and Syria to liberate women. Women are seen as both inherently blameworthy because of the supposed natural connection between sex and violence and as vulnerable victims in need of protection.
The new trend of using women in the middle east by Americans and ISIS is suppressive to both Humanity , belief ,and nature of woman. The use of women in war did not reduce war s unwomanly face, ever.