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From the Annals of Asinine Headlines

jpozners Icon Posted by Jennifer L Pozner

June 30th, 2007

Women In Media & News has since our inception worked to impress upon the media that war, and peace, are women’s issues and can be reported as such. Unfortunately, even when journalists attempt to produce in-depth stories that take a gendered lens to the topic of military conflict, institutional sexism often compromises the end result.

Take, for example, the headline of a BBC News piece about women peacekeepers in Liberia from Thursday. I’ll mention the headline below, but first, the article’s topic:

“The world’s first all-female unit of United Nations peacekeepers has been deemed a success, and has had its mission extended for another six months.

“A 105-strong paramilitary police unit of women from India has been based in Liberia since January, working to help keep the peace in a country which is still recovering from 14 years of civil war.”

[snip]

“The women are part of India’s Central Reserve Police Force, and were hand picked from across the country for this mission.

“They are experts in crowd control and veterans of many conflicts in India, including Kashmir and fighting in the north-east of India.”

[snip]

“The UN is experimenting with all female units because female soldiers are seen as less threatening and more approachable in post-conflict situations, where populations are recovering from years of violence and fear.

“In Liberia this is of particular importance because the country has experienced an epidemic of sexual violence against women.

“Lucia Williams, a midwife who works at a free medical centre with Medecines Sans Frontiers in Monrovia, says rape is on the increase and “has become a sport.”

“As part of the ongoing campaign to end sexual violence, it is hoped the visible presence of female soldiers will empower local Liberian women and encourage them to join the police force.”

[snip]

“But the Indian women are not just good at the softer, more people orientated work; they have also been on drugs raids and supported law enforcement officers responding to crimes.”

So, what was the headline of this fascinating article? “All girl UN squad a success.”

Apparently, even when they’re seasoned soldiers armed with semi-automatics, adult women are still “girls.” I wonder if the BBC’s headline writer would be so quick to condescend to these women in person, what with their riot gear and all…

Thanks to Jessica Valenti for the link.

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