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Jessica Lynch

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After reading the book “Security and the War on Terror” my understanding how gendered identities are manipulated for emotional and moral means developed and gave me a clearer outlook on the media.

There were two high-profile American female soldiers in the war, which triggered an emotional reaction from the whole world in two very different ways.
One of them being Lynndie England and the other being Jessica Lynch.

The story of Jessica Lynch is as follows:
Jessica Lynch was a 19-year-old soldier from West Virginia who was sent over to Iraq as a supply clerk with the US army.  She was a member of the member of the US Army’s 507th Ordnance Maintenance Company./
On the first of April 2003 they took a wrong turn near Nassiriya and were ambushed. Nine of her fellow soldiers were killed. Lynch, who was wounded, was taken to the hospital where she was ‘held’ for eight days.

She was then dramatically rescued by the US Navy Seals and the Army Rangers.
There were reports that claimed that Lynch was interrogated and slapped, and had a shot wound. However this was denied by the doctor who examined her: I examined her, I saw she had a broken arm, a broken thigh and a dislocated ankle” concluding that this was a typical car accident injury.
He also claimed that they gave her the best treatment available and the only specialist bed in the hospital.

“They want to distort the picture. I don’t know why they think there is some benefit in saying she has a bullet injury.”

It had also been reported that the US army knew that one day before Lynch’s rescue, the Iraqi military had fled, but the US army still made a grand entrance.

“We heard the noise of helicopters. We were surprised. Why do this? There was no military, there were no soldiers in the hospital” her doctor said.

Their rescue operation was described as:
“It was like a Hollywood film. They cried ‘go, go, go’, with guns and blanks without bullets, blanks and the sound of explosions. They made a show for the American attack on the hospital – action movies like Sylvester Stallone or Jackie Chan.”
They came in boosting down the doors and “they were said to have come under fire, but they made it to Lynch and whisked her away by helicopter.”
The whole operation was filmed on a night vision camera and then made into a 5-minute feature by the US.

On her arrival home she was seen as a heroine, greeted by a load of media and public interest. She wasn’t a hero for saving others’ lives but for being saved by a masculine hero-like figure, so for ‘being an object, not a subject” (Howard&Prividera, 2004, p.04)

Her story was covered by a drama series called “Saving Jessica Lynch”, a documentary called “Saving Private Lynch” and a biography called “I am a soldier, too” written by journalist Rick Bragg. There are even fridge magnets that quote “America loves Jessica Lynch”.

The reason why this story was covered so much is because it was good and rare news that came from a brutal war zone.

She fitted into those ‘social norms’, unlike Lynndie England, so the consumers of those media texts could easily relate to her. Though Lynch and England have common grounds, as they are from the same place, they are pretty much the same age, and they both joined the army in order to save up some money to be able to afford university; Lynch had a factor that England didn’t:

the girl-next door image.

Lynch came was the typical blonde haired, blue eyed pretty girl, who valued her family and the community she came from. She had won the beauty pageant when she was younger.

So in a way she represented the typical feminine image.

For the media and the US Army, she was a metaphor for the purity and innocence of the US nation, who was attacked by terrorists from the east, In lynch’s case the Iraqi military, and then saved by the US army, just like the US government claimed to be democratizing and freeing Iraq.

Takcas: “This exclusive yet reassuring image of national identity conforms to the Bush Administration’s own conception of the homeland as a vulnerable community in need of militarised protection.” (2003:302)

Jessica Lynch stood for everything the US claimed to defend in the ‘war on terror’. She represented conventional beauty, “freedom, equality and modern entitlements” which strongly contrasted Iraqi women’s restricted liberal rights whose bodies and therefore identities were mostly covered up.

Lynch was said to have been in a gun battle before she was taken to the hospital, which later was proven to be false. But this did remind the nation of how liberal it was, ‘allowing’ women to be ‘heroes’

However “her heroism is tempered by sexist notions of woman’s bravery” (Kumad 2004:301)

She had to be aggressive therefore, arguably, masculine and, at the end of the day, she had to be saved be masculine protectors. Similar, again to Iraq’s position in this: “feminised Iraq, who was brutally raped by Saddam and rescued by America.”

Alex J. Bellamy says, “The public acceptance of the multiple metaphors of Lynch’s rescue relied upon, and needed to be unsuspicious of, deep seated gendered politics manipulated by the pentagon and the Bush Administration.”

These gendered politics strongly promoted and glorified a “hegemonic hyper-masculinity” and once again reminded us of their mission that they will do whatever it takes for the greater good by protecting the weak and powerless (even feminine?),

Lynch commented on her representation by the media as: “they used me as a way to symbolize all this stuff.”

[Alex J. Bellamy (2008). Security and the war on terror, Taylor & Francis. p. 42-49.]

[ accessed on 23/11/2010]

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Written by coskufertingercmp

November 26, 2010 at 4:58 am

Posted in Uncategorized

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