The Woman Behind the Man: Politicized Portrayals of Afghan Muslim Women in Wartime

Faiza Hirji
School of Journalism and Communication, Carleton University
April, 2002
 

Abstract


This thesis examines ways in which misrepresentations of Muslim women in mass media may constitute the basis for arguments justifying military action in times of international conflict. Specifically, the notion of female oppression was central to media coverage of the war in Afghanistan. Empirical examples of such depictions are drawn from three different newspapers, The New York Times (United States), The Globe and Mail (Canada), and Dawn (Pakistan), within a specific seven-day period during the war. The newspaper articles are analyzed utilizing methodological tools such as critical discourse analysis, myth and ritual analysis, propaganda models and dramatism. The findings confirm, to varying degrees, the presence of politicized depictions of Afghan Muslim women in all three newspapers. These findings are discussed from various theoretical perspectives, including Orientalism and feminist theory, particularly in terms of the scission that has arisen in the latter due to postcolonial critiques of liberal feminist ethnocentrism.
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We wish to acknowledge the financial support of the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council for their financial support through theAid to Scholarly Journals Program.

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