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Executioner shocking for being a woman

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Summary from Muslimah Media Watch 6 September 2011

In a wide ranging article about the role women played in the Libyan revolution, blogger Tasnim argues that media reports are skewed to confirm female stereotypes or express shock when they stray from the stereotype.

Women on the frontline of both sides of the conflict have largely gone unreported, with many reports focussing on women helping out in hospitals and playing a supportive role, she writes.

Tasnim argues that when pro-Gaddafi news anchor Hala Misrati appeared on Libyan TV brandishing a gun, it received far more Western media attention than when a male news anchor had previously made a similar gesture.

Tasnim also points to the focus on “Gaddafi’s Girl Executioner” who has admitted shooting 11 rebel prisoners.

This story was given prominence in the Daily Mail whose descriptions of imprisoned Niseen Mansour Al Forgani were aimed at highlighting their view that it was incongruous for a woman to be an executioner.

The Daily Mail is quoted as saying: “First you see her large brown eyes and rosebud lips, framed by a pink headscarf. Then you notice that her bruised feet are secured by manacles to the foot of her bed.”

CNN’s Arwa Damon similarly describes her as having “soft features, warm brown eyes and full lips.”

Tasnim comments: “First, it implies the fact a woman killed 11 prisoners in cold blood would not be as starkly inconceivable if she were older and/or uglier.

“Second, this shock at the idea of a “girl executioner” can only be based on an assumption of female moral superiority: women don’t execute people.

“Third, in its focus on the incongruity of female violence it naturalizes male violence. If Nisreen were Nasser, would this article have been written?”

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