Disguising Empire: Racialized Masculinity and the 'Civilizing' of Iraq

8 Pages Posted: 3 Mar 2017

See all articles by Nancy Ehrenreich

Nancy Ehrenreich

University of Denver Sturm College of Law

Date Written: March 2, 2005


I'm interested in exploring the gender-based messages conveyed by current popular discourse on the recent American invasion of Iraq. Not only public discussion in general, but also anti-war discourse in particular, rarely mentions gender in analyzing (and critiquing) Gulf War II or the so-called War on Terrorism. Yet, in ignoring the subtle gender messages deployed in support of U.S. actions, critics impoverish their critiques and leave unchallenged important contributors to, and legitimators of, American acts of aggression.

I will argue here that popular discourse on war and terrorism enacts and reinforces an image of masculinity as nationalistic, racially aggressive, homophobic, and sexist. Yet that discourse also disguises these negative attributes by presenting masculinity as principled, civilizing and beneficent. Media coverage of Gulf War II, in particular, has expressed and enforced this construction of masculinity, disguising American imperialism as noble expressions of civilizing, manly power.

A brief caveat before beginning: The ideas presented here are just that, ideas. It is not my goal, in this short essay, to prove every assertion, to provide numerous examples, or to establish contentions as "fact" through the marshalling of extensive evidence. I simply offer some personal impressions in the hope that they will be sufficiently thought-provoking to motivate others to explore the role that gender plays in popular discourse on war and terror.

Suggested Citation

Ehrenreich, Nancy, Disguising Empire: Racialized Masculinity and the 'Civilizing' of Iraq (March 2, 2005). Cleveland State Law Review, Vol. 52, No. 131, 2005, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2926590

Nancy Ehrenreich (Contact Author)

University of Denver Sturm College of Law ( email )

2255 E. Evans Avenue
Denver, CO 80208
United States

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