August 19, 2005

Girls of the Constitution


Given that the deadline for a new Iraqi constitution expired almost a week ago, I was again looking at posters showing support for the document.

What I found — which I didn’t notice before — is that most of the images on the newswires feature young women or girls.  An almost identical version of the shot above, for example (with two women instead of one), accompanied a "Constitution update" in the NYT on Wednesday.



In response to the constitution poster I offered on Monday, I was pleased to see the level of intelligence in the comment thread regarding the interests of women in Iraq.  Sidestepping a "typically American" or stereotypical "feminist model," the discussion/debate centered around the definition of women’s rights in a social, cultural and psychological climate that is, in many ways, more than a world away. 

When it comes to political images, however, they are dependent on conventions and stereotypes and typically aim to exploit them.  As such, I am confused about the visual politics of these posters.  These are my questions:

1.  Looking at these images from "over here," is it accurate to assume
these posters are dominated by (secular) images of young Iraqi

2.  Is it possible that the newswires are highlighting these types of
posters (or photographers are drawn to them) because this is what sells
in the West? 

3.  Is it possible the Iraqi government is producing these types of
images to try and placate those who dictate the terms of their
political and economic structure, and are now applying a heavy hand in
shaping/shoving through a constitution?

4.  Are these images inspired by Shiite interests wishing to
minimize lectures and criticism — particularly from Bush women (on and
off the payroll) — over women’s rights?

5.  Is it possible the PR apparatus behind the campaign is actually
Western (which was the case in the Presidential election, with a London
firm handling the splashy, big budget Allawi campaign)?


6.  Could I be looking for a political angle that just isn’t there?
In other words, are the pictures and the pattern "just natural sugar
and spice?"

(Although I’m not putting her forth as an authority, I am also writing to Najma — the author of the popular blog, A Star From Mosul — who has previously weighed in on the BAG, and does happen to be a young woman on the scene — to see if she’ll comment in the thread.)

(image 1: Karim Sahib/AFP. August 16,
2005. In YahooNews. image 2: Ahmad al-Rubaye/AFP.  August 7, 2005.
Baghdad. In YahooNews.  Image 3: Namir Noor-Eldeen/Reuters.  July 24,
2005.  In YahooNews.)

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Michael Shaw
See other posts by Michael here.

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