Food for Our Grandmothers: Writings by Arab-American and Arab-Canadian Feminists

By Joanna Kadi | Go to book overview
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Military Presences and Absences

Arab Women and the Persian Gulf War *

THERESE SALIBA

In the postmodern era, news media, with their subservience to corporate advertisers and government interests, have come to emulate the disinformation of fashion magazines, popular films, and talk shows, suggesting that the discourses of fashion and politics are not so disparate. U.S. political discourse on the Persian Gulf War created an illusion of consensus to a fashionable war with "picture perfect" bombing assaults that were supposedly "saving" Iraqi lives. ** The marketing of the Gulf War to U.S. audiences was consistent with popular culture's marketing of the Arab world to the West through the circulation of stereotyped images of Arabs which alluded to the benevolence of the United States or Western influence in their lives. The specifically gendered representations of demonized Arab men and captive or absent Arab women fed a revival of colonialist attitudes, and heralded George Bush's new world order to reassert U.S. dominance in the Middle East.

The absent Arab woman has been deployed within the U.S. media both as a resonant and as an efficient signifier of so-called Western cultural superiority over the Arab world. By the absent Arab

____________________
*
This essay was originally presented at the Modem Language Association conference in San Francisco, December 1991. A longer version was published in Seeing Through the Media: The Persian Gulf War, ed. Susan Jeffords and Lauren Rabinovitz, (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1994). My special thanks to Laura Brenner, Susan Jeffords, and Tom Wright for their challenging suggestions and comments on various versions of this piece.
**
The Newsweek cover for February 18, 1991 read "The New Science of War/High Tech Hardware: How Many Lives Can It Save?" Cited in "Gulf War Coverage: The Worst Censorship Was at Home," EXTRA!, May 1991, 7.

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