Islamophobia and Sexism: Muslim Women in the Western Mass Media
Navarro, Laura, Human Architecture
Abstract: This paper reflects on the role of mass media in the social reproduction of one form of racism: Islamophobia. Firstly, the article focus on the dominant representations of "Muslim women" in the western media in general and in Spanish media in particular, in order to highlight the specific characteristics of the image of the female Muslim "other" and, likewise, in order to analyse- from a gender perspective-the symbolic mechanisms legitimising certain Islamophobic thoughts and practices. To this end, the author gathers the results of many researches which prove how dominant representations transmitted in the hegemonic media discourse in Spain reinforce today many stereotypes about Muslim women in general and migrant Muslim women particularly. In the second part, the article looks specifically at the treatment of l'affaire du voile ("the veil affair") by the French media. Through the analysis of the origin and social implications of this law and its media treatment, the author tries to demonstrate how the defence of "women's rights" was instrumentalised in the public debate and how claims identifying the racist aspects of the law were ignored by the majority of media and politicians, in spite of the fact that this law affected mainly the Muslim community-thus fuelling division and discrimination. In short, these issues reflect specially on the mechanics behind the "interlinking" of sexism and racism, from a material standpoint and, above all, from a discursive and symbolic point of view.
By claiming to champion objectivity and report "real" news, the informative discourse of the mass media conceals their important role as "builders of realities1" and, consequently, their key role in the processes of imagination-and social construction- of the communities to which they belong (either national2 or transnational3). This article analyses knowledge of these processes, the discursive strategies that reveal ethnic differences and, in particular, the different representations of Muslims in the Western mass media.
While depending on the ideological color of the government in power it is possible to observe changes in the way the media construct certain events related with Islam and the Arab world4, there exist a continuum in the media representations about "what is taking place in the world" that transcend the interests of any political party in power. This situation may be defined-to quote Deputy Commander Marcos-as "a monologue with various voices." This paper analyses this dominant monologue, without addressing other minority or "minoritorised" discourses that undoubtedly exist, and that constitute a less distorted and stereotyped vision than that examined in this article.
Different authors have studied the media discourse in news on Arabs and Muslims5, including most notably Saddek Rabah (1998), Vincent Geisser (2003) and Thomas Deltombe (2005) in France. In Spain, pioneering studies have been carried out on this subject, such as El Mundo Arabe y su Imagen en los Medios ("The Arab World and its Image in the Media"6), and more recently the work by Eloy Martín Corrales (2002), Laura Navarro (2007, 2008b) and Pablo López et al. (2010), the articles by Gema Martín Muñoz (1994, 2000) and Teun A. Dijk (2008) and, finally, doctoral theses such as the one by Mohamed El Maataoui (2005). However, the most studies on this subject have been published in English. Noteworthy examples include the work by Edward W. Said (1997), Mohammad A. Siddiqi (1997), Karim H. Karim (2000), Elisabeth Poole (2002) and John E. Richardson (2004).
Practically all these studies highlight the "otherisation" caused by establishing "us and them" oppositions, assigning positive elements to "us" and negative elements to "them," as well as treatment in the media that instead of facilitating better knowledge of "others," exacerbates feelings of rejection and incomprehension. Many of the abovementioned authors …
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Publication information: Article title: Islamophobia and Sexism: Muslim Women in the Western Mass Media. Contributors: Navarro, Laura - Author. Journal title: Human Architecture. Volume: 8. Issue: 2 Publication date: Fall 2010. Page number: 95+. © Ahead Publishing House Okeir Press Spring 2007. Provided by ProQuest LLC. All Rights Reserved.
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