29 December, 2006

Feminism and Media Representation of Gender-Selective Atrocities

Posted in Gender Issues, Iraq, Male Disposability, Reposts, War at 11:06 pm by Daran

(Originally posted at Creative Destruction. Here slightly edited.)

Look at this headline on Boston.com

Men in Iraqi police grab kidnap scores in raid

Notice how the perpetrators are gendered, but the victims are not. In fact there’s no mention of the victims’ sex anywhere on the first page. It’s not until you get to the second that you find out what happened:

The gunmen speedily weeded out the men from the women. The women were taken to a room and locked up, witnesses said. The men were pushed into the trucks and driven away. The kidnapped included employees and visitors to the agency, janitors, and PhDs, even a deputy general director of the agency. Some were blindfolded and tossed into the backs of pickup trucks, said witnesses.


There’s some small comfort to be drawn from the fact that – unusually for this kind of atrocity – many of the men were released alive. Some of them were tortured. Many others are still missing, probably among the dozens of bodies floating down the Tigris, with electric-drill holes in their skulls. What’s not unusual for this kind of atrocity is its gender-selectiveness. Almost all of the bodies being washed up in Iraq are male.

But you wouldn’t know that from the media. A day later, and the victims had been completely desexed.

These reports exemplify incidentalisation and displacement which, together with exclusion are the three strategies commonly used in the media to marginalise and conceal the gender-selective victimisation of men.

Feminists make the opposite complaint. According to them it’s violence against women, which is marginalised and concealed in the Media. For example, Echidne of the Snakes complains about the media coverage of the Amish School Shooting.

And only a few days earlier another murderer selected smaller teenaged girls for his violence in another school. Yet this is something the radio news last night didn’t mention when discussing “school violence”. Indeed, the Air America news avoided a single mention of the victims’ gender.

That last sentence in particular caught my eye. What Echidne has just described in the vocabulary of the three strategies is displacement, and I have yet to see an example of it applied to female victims. Echidne’s remark motivated to me several weeks ago to examine the first hundred returns from Google News on the atrocity. Apart from some very early “news just in” bulletins when the victims’ gender wasn’t known, every single one of the reports identified them as female. Nor did I find any examples of incidentalisation (nor exclusion, but the nature of the crime made that strategy impossible). Echidne’s observation, while notable, seems to have been an isolated case.

And you need to read far down into the newspaper stories before you come across a one-sentence-aside about the hatred for girls these horrible acts clearly demonstrate.

Why this silence, this looking-aside? Why make loud comments about possible motives but not look at the obvious one: that these men hated girls? Is it because on some level the society accepts such a hatred, because if we start focusing on it we have to ask some mighty unpleasant questions?

I could ask the same questions of her. Why the silence about the gender-selective slaughter of males in Iraq, which she’s certainly aware of? Why haven’t any of the major feminist blogs as far as I can see done a post about the this kidnapping atrocity? If men had been locked in a room while scores or hundreds of women were kidnapped and tortured, the femisphere would have erupted.

The answer, of course is that gender-selective atrocities perpetrated against men don’t fit the feminist narrative. Girls being killed because they’re girls is evidence, in feminist eyes, of widespread societal misogyny. Women being spared because they’re women is because… err… Let’s talk about something else.

More about the mass kidnapping can be found here.

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