Where Are The Women?
But it seems whenever a news report is about violence in the Middle East, and the reporters use such words, the accompanying pictures are of men only.
For example, Associated Press writer, Bushra Juhi reports today in his article, Iraqis Cheer Crash of British Helicopter that
"British forces backed by armored vehicles rushed to the area but were met by a hail of stones from the crowd of at least 250 people [emphasis - mine], who jumped for joy and raised their fists as a plume of thick smoke rose into the air from the crash site."
The accompanying photos are of men. So, it's not really "Iraqis" that are cheering, but Iraqi men that are cheering. Where are the women? Not in the streets cheering. Perhaps at home, trying to tend to their families, trying to stay alive.
I am aware that cultural differences abound. In traditional Islamic culture, women are not as visible as in other cultures. But I am speaking of the Western (not Islamic press) and their reporting practices, and of Western culture and our language use.
Remember all the pictures of "Muslims" rioting over the Danish cartoons? Did you see any women? I didn't. Muslim men were rioting - not Muslim women.
Is my concern simply political correctness run amok? I don't think so. Words are signifiers - they matter.
There's a big difference between people - men and women - and just men cheering violence. There's a big difference between Muslims - men and women - rioting in the streets and Muslim men rioting in the streets.
In western culture, beginning in the 70s (and continuing today), linguists, social activists, and rhetoricians began examining our use of language for gender bias and exclusion and we noted that women were actually excluded conceptually from the symbolic representation of such words as "people" and "mankind." Our awareness brought a shift - we moved from "mankind" to "humankind," from the standard use of "he" as a common pronoun denoting both male and female to the awareness that "he," despite some linguistics claims of a historic denotation of both genders, is a pronoun which in a connotative capacity signifies a man. We began to use either gender-neutral, gender-inclusive and gender-specific terminology, to insure that women were INCLUDED in the symbolic representation of ideas - words. We - women - want and deserve to be signified in the texts of our culture.
Now women are included even when we are not really there.
I find fascinating and curious the way we, as readers and viewers in concert with the media, are socially-constructing the story through the use of images and words that are at odds with each other.
I think both the exclusion and inclusion matters. What do you think?
A few photos:
Iraqis throw stones at British troops. Reuters, May 6, 2006.
Where are the women?
Newsweek, July 1, 2004
See any women?
And follow this link to see Palestinians pelting an Israeli tank with stones (ain't no women doing that).