chapter  4
24 Pages

Melisa Brittain

The figure of the emancipated western woman, most often represented as white,

circulates in a variety of ways to support the imperialist violence carried out in the

name of the US-led war on terror. White western women are the tacit models of

female emancipation that enabled US President George W. Bush to claim that the

war on terror would liberate Afghan women from their ‘barbaric’ fundamentalist

male counterparts (Hunt, Ch. 3; Zine, Ch. 2). In addition, images of white female

US and UK soldiers deployed in Iraq were used in the first months of the 2003

invasion as icons of female liberation to illustrate the supposed benevolence,

moral superiority and progressiveness of the west. However, at the same time that

white female soldiers were held up as models of female emancipation and western

benevolence, they were also presented as helpless and vulnerable in the face of the

perceived threat of sexual violence on the part of Arab men.1 These representations

of the liberated-yet-vulnerable white woman in Middle-Eastern space draw on

European colonial narratives of rebellious natives as sexual threats to white women

to rationalize imperialist violence in the present. This figure of white femininity

evokes the imperialist fantasy that white men are civilized in contrast to non-whites,

and that they are superior to all women, since they are the only ones who can and

will protect women against the injustices of a barbaric Arab masculinity. This fantasy

helps to justify the claim that the US government, a bastion of white male privilege,

is the rightful arbiter and instigator of global western-style democracy, which it

claims to be initiating in Iraq. The production of US Army Private Jessica Lynch as a

modern-day heroine, whose alleged vulnerability at the hands of Iraqi male soldiers

necessitated a dramatic ‘rescue’ by US special forces, is a stunning example of how

colonial memory and fear of the Other have been effectively evoked to rally support

for Bush’s war on terror.