Check out CNN’s video on “the girls gossiping” in a Baghdad beauty shop. Not one of “the girls” looks a day under 35 and most look middle-aged. I guess what “the boys” do in Baghdad barber shops is “discuss affairs of state.” Given that much of “the girls” “gossip” revolved around wondering whether that thing in the road was a bomb or not and whether they’ll be bombed in their sleep, it says volumes about the world’s need to juvenilize women, no matter how dire their circumstances. It’s as if, to honor their bravery in congregating in a verboten place, the world must first regress them to childhood. It’s just perfect that the reporter was a woman. Sorry, girl.
When I saw the headline (“These Girls Will Gossip, Even in Baghdad”), I clicked, expecting to see teenaged girls taking a break from the drudgery of their lives, doing each other’s all-too-hidden hair and teasing each other about that cute boy down the road. So, it was jarring to watch those mothers and grandmothers reduced to silly teens. No doubt, that reporter thought she was helping show that Iraq’s women have to be brave too and how life goes on if you’ll let it, but all she did was embarrass herself and demean them. Hard to take Iraq’s women seriously when they’re constructed as gossiping teens.
You can say this is a minor point, but you’d be wrong. Not all stories from war zones need be about the war, as this very piece proves. Sometimes stories from war zones can inadvertently highlight how half the population has yet to be taken seriously, no matter how serious their lives.