Huda, Rihab, and Jessica: Orientalism and the Construction of Gender in Representations of the War on Iraq

Citation:

Riley, Robin. 2009. “Huda, Rihab, and Jessica: Orientalism and the Construction of Gender in Representations of the War on Iraq.” Presented In Le Centre Sheraton Hotel, Montreal, Quebec, Canada: International Studies Association. 

Author: Robin Riley

Abstract:

The volume of news coverage generated around Jessica Lynch's capture by the Iraqis, her rescue, and her subsequent return to the US, hid from view not only other US American women who were similarly situated like Native American, Lori Piestewa, and African American Shoshona Johnson, but it also obscured the peril and devastation that first sanctions, then the war, imposed on Iraqi women. Instead, the Iraqi women westerners were made familiar with were the ominously nicknamed, Dr. Germ and Mrs. Anthrax. The suffering of Iraqi women due to sanctions, was not a part of Western consciousness, and in the build-up to the war, women were not the focus of the western press who were obsessed with the detailing of Saddam Hussein's sins and predictions of his future actions. Even as the war commenced, we, in the US were rarely treated to images of ordinary Iraqi women who attempted to go about their lives while the bombs dropped around, and sometimes on, them. Today, we still have little knowledge about whether Iraqi women were imprisoned by US American or British troops as they swept across Iraq, or how many Iraqi women were killed as a result of American aggression. Consequently, Rihab Taha and Huda Salih Mahdi Ammash, two evil women who worked in Saddam Hussein's administration came to represent all Iraqi, indeed, all Arab women. The news stories about Rihab Taha and Huda Salih Mahdi Ammash were used in US American popular culture to buttress Orientalist ideas about the West and its relationship to Iraq and the Arab world, and to reinforce old ideas about mysterious, often sinister woman of color. These narratives work not only to support the Bush administration's foreign policy and aggression against Iraq, but they also reinforce male supremacy and white supremacy. This research is an analysis of popular news accounts of the time including newspapers, magazines and television news stories. These stories reveal how the US thinks of itself in relation to the rest of the world and how enforcement of the proper practice of gender is always the subtext of these accounts.

Topics: Armed Conflict, Democracy / Democratization, Gender, Women, Gendered Power Relations, Patriarchy, Violence Regions: Africa, MENA, Americas, North America, Asia, Middle East Countries: Iraq, United States of America

Year: 2009

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