Gendered Representations of the Terrorist

Terrorist transgressions: exploring the gendered representations of the terrorist presents interesting arguments about the clashing masculinities of the western world and the “terrorist.”  This writing highlights the western tendency to degrade the  masculinity of the terrorist visually since, “Terrorist acts are seen as threatening Western masculinities because they are the ultimate manifestations of hypermasculinity, a willingness to give up one’s life in an act of powerful violence, to serve a perceived greater goal”.  This specific phrasing alone conjures images of classic Bogart-esq Hollywood heroes, which is particularly intriguing and points to the fact that “one terrorist is another’s freedom fighter.”  This points to the fact that oppositional forces are often coming from similar viewpoints of masculinity, which clearly, are highly important to a sense of nationalism or cultural identity.  Thus when the very western (Christian?) idea about heroically laying down one’s life for a greater cause becomes problematic when it’s used oppositional to the west.  Therefore rather than combat the shared hypermasculine ideals and displays, it seems the natural response is a cultural backlash that aims to target and deflate the masculinity of that opposition.  While reading, I felt that the effects of this are evident in the fact that when this article prompted me to think about Osama Bin Landen’s physical appearance, the first attribute I could think of was an almost cartoonish lankiness.  In addition to the efforts to de-masculinize the terrorist physically, the article also points out that the terrorist essentially is deflated through the absence of certain images that give the terrorist a sense of power.  Pointing to the images circulated by the press regarding the final assault on Osama Bin Laden, the “terrorists” were completely absent from the imagery.  The images circulated contained displays of the Seal team’s show of force, the empty house, and interestingly of President Obama watching these actions being carried out remotely.

The article’s framing of masculinity as an essential part of a culture and by extension a nation’s sense of identity points out an interesting through-line having to do with warfare in general.


One thought on “Gendered Representations of the Terrorist

  1. I found it interesting that you pointed out how when two hyper-masculine cultures are clashing–one of them has to react by undermining that culture’s representation and making their own the legitimate one. This obviously creates problems, especially when one culture is trying to delegitimatize an entire culture and ideology through acts of extreme violence.


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