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Depicting the Veil

Depicting the Veil

Robin L. Riley


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This powerful book exposes how gendered Orientalism is wielded to justify Western imperialism. Over the last ten years, Western governments and mainstream media have utilized concepts of white masculine supremacy and feminine helplessness, juxtaposed with Orientalist images depicting women of color as mysterious, sinister, and dangerous, to support war. Oscillating between Mrs Anthrax, female suicide bomber and tragic, helpless victim, representations of 'brown women' have spawned both rescue narratives and terrorist alerts. Examining media and pop culture from Sex and the City 2 to Vanity Fair and Time magazine, Robin Riley uses transnational feminist analysis to reveal how this kind of transnational sexism towards Muslim women in general and Afghan and Iraqi women in particular has led to a new form of gender imperialism.
'Riley frames her analysis of the ways Western media depict the "veil" around the valuable concept of transnational sexism, which diffuses into American politics and popular culture racist and sexist stereotypes about Muslim women. This unquestioned "knowledge" has helped to sustain support for brutal US imperialist wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.' Eric Hooglund, editor of Middle East Critique 'Robin Riley is going to make a lot of us uncomfortable. That's the good news! Her careful investigation of the myriad ways in which US media have constructed diverse Iraqi and Afghan women reveals how we ourselves, especially readers and viewers in North America, can become complicit in transnational sexism.' Cynthia Enloe, author of Nimo's War, Emma's War: Making Feminist Sense of the Iraq War 'Robin Riley dissects the transnational sexism that structures transnational Orientalism with its global militarism. In this process she unveils the Western mind and exposes the possibility of a de-racialized future for women in Afghanistan and Iraq. This is an important read for anyone who seeks to inhibit the use of misogyny for imperial purposes and wishes to keep the next US war from happening.' Zillah Eisenstein, Distinguished Scholar in Residence, Ithaca College
Robin Lee Riley is an assistant professor in the Women's and Gender Studies Department, Syracuse University.

Table of Contents

Section Title Page Action Price
About the author i
Title iii
Copyright iv
Contents v
Acknowledgments vi
Introduction 1
The study 4
Propaganda 7
Learning war 9
Reading the news 12
Transnational sexism 13
Depicting the veil 15
1 Rescuing Afghan women 17
Thank you for the rescue 18
Victims or villains? 21
Burqa, hijab, chador, niqab: veiling Orientalism 24
Orientalizing Afghan masculinity 32
‘Strange sex’ and ‘dancing boys’ 34
Elections, immolation, safe(r) spaces 37
2 ‘Real housewives’: married to the enemy 43
Married to bin Laden 44
Another kind of rescue tale 50
All in the family 52
Dr Germ and Mrs Anthrax 60
More dangerous women: suicide bombers 66
‘Survival sex’ 71
Enjoy your freedom. Goodbye 74
3 ‘Where are the women?’ Muslim women’s visibility and invisibility 76
Bibi Aisha, Bibi Ayesha, Aesha Mohammadzai, or the Afghan girl without a nose 78
Visibility = liberation? 88
Aafia Siddiqui 91
Transnational visibility 105
Here’s the dilemma 110
4 We are all soldiers now: deploying Western women 112
Female engagement teams 122
This is what ‘liberation’ looks like 127
The enemy is us 132
Doing the empire’s work on page and screen 135
No sex in the desert 138
Another blond hero 140
5 This is what liberation looks like 143
Leaving Afghanistan and Iraq 144
Question to Western media: Are we at war? 145
Hugh Hefner as liberator 147
Where do we go from here? 148
Notes 151
Bibliography 157
Index 176
About Zed Books 184