Ever since Eve tempted Adam with her apple, women have been
regarded as a corrupting and destructive force. The very idea that
women can be used as interrogation tools, as evidenced in the
infamous Abu Ghraib torture photos, plays on age-old fears of women
as sexually threatening weapons, and therefore the literal
explosion of women onto the war scene should come as no
From the female soldiers involved in Abu Ghraib to Palestinian
women suicide bombers, women and their bodies have become powerful
weapons in the Afghanistan and Iraq wars. In "Women as Weapons of
War," Kelly Oliver reveals how the media and the administration
frequently use metaphors of weaponry to describe women and female
sexuality and forge a deliberate link between notions of
vulnerability and images of violence. Focusing specifically on the
U.S. campaigns in Afghanistan and Iraq, Oliver analyzes
contemporary discourse surrounding women, sex, and gender and the
use of women to justify America's decision to go to war. For
example, the administration's call to liberate "women of cover,"
suggesting a woman's right to "bare" arms is a sign of freedom and
Oliver also considers what forms of cultural meaning, or lack of
meaning, could cause both the guiltlessness demonstrated by female
soldiers at Abu Ghraib and the profound commitment to death made by
suicide bombers. She examines the pleasure taken in violence and
the passion for death exhibited by these women and what kind of
contexts created them. In conclusion, Oliver diagnoses our cultural
fascination with sex, violence, and death and its relationship with
live news coverage and embedded reporting, which naturalizes
horrific events and stymies critical reflection. This process, she
argues, further compromises the borders between fantasy and
reality, fueling a kind of paranoid patriotism that results in
extreme forms of violence.
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