Collections > Electronic Theses and Dissertations > Cover Story: The Rhetorical Construction of Afghan Women in a Time Feature

Some mass media scholars have argued that U.S. news coverage of Afghan women after September 11 helped the Bush administration define its 2001 invasion of Afghanistan as a humanitarian mission. Building on this research, I performed a feminist rhetorical analysis of Time's December 3, 2001, cover story, which promised to deliver "an inside look" at Afghan women's lives. Ironically, the article, "About Face," created an Orientalist distance between readers and Afghan women by constructing the women as objects of the readers' Westernized, masculinized gaze. Furthermore, in casting women as passive victims, the article upheld disempowering ideologies about women and legitimized the war as a rescue mission. In one exception to the victim portrayal, Afghan mothers were cast as brave, determined protectors of their children. Although the "determined mother" portrayal confounded the victim archetype, it still followed the gendered logic of wartime reporting, which confines female agency to the domestic realm.