Terrorism and Gender

In Sue Malvern’s and Gabriel Koureas’ piece on terrorism, and gendered representations of the terrorist, the way in which terrorists and the “orientalist other” are portrayed as hyper feminine, asexual or sexually perverted, and physically weak is discussed. The portion of the essay that was most illuminating in terms of my own Anglo-American perspective was when the authors discussed the process of torture, and how torture was handled by masculine American soldiers. I, like many of my American peers, was raised to see terrorists and therefore, all male Arabs, as being somehow sexually deviant and hyper feminine. Similarly, the authors noted that Osama Bin Laden was portrayed as effeminate and sexually depraved by western media, therefore the hegemony of heterosexuality as the default or appropriate norm is brought into question. This concept recalls the documentary “The Ghosts of Abu-Ghraib” in which the prisoners were forced to strip down naked and take demeaning and humiliating positions under the scrutinizing eye of a camera lens. This is a mechanism used by the U.S. military in order to perpetrate the ideology that terrorists and Arabs as a whole are not adequately masculine, that they are sexually depraved, and possibly perverted. The fact that U.S. soldiers forced the prisoners into these compromising positions does not call into question the perversion or sexual deviancy of the soldiers themselves. In fact, the soldiers are seen as masculine, strong, and clearly fitting into heterosexual hegemony. Clearly this is a problematic double standard imposed in favor of the western perspective, but the authors would also argue that it implies that the U.S. soldiers could “handle” torture better in a reversed situation because they inflicted such pain on their prisoners. In this way, U.S. soldiers are the embodiment of heterosexuality, masculinity, and mental fortitude, while Arab prisoners, the ones being forced into torturous situations, are seen as sexually deviant, effeminate, and physically and mentally weak.

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One thought on “Terrorism and Gender

  1. Hi Sabine. You made a great point regarding how this article and concept reminded you of the documentary “The Ghosts of Abu-Ghraib”. I totally can see how this mechanism relates to terrorism. I didnt even think of this comparison. Great job!

    Liked by 1 person

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