'Dangerous Beauty' : a feminist analysis of the U.S. and the U.K. media’s portrayal of female soldiers through the case of Private First Class Lynndie England
Abstract: The aim of this thesis is to understand how, and why, the media is sustaining traditional gender norms in their portrayal of female soldiers. The primary material of the study consists of articles published by newspapers in the United States and the United Kingdom, describing PFC. Lynndie England and her actions in the Abu Ghraib scandal. To meet the purpose, the thesis addresses the following research questions: In what ways are Lynndie England and her actions portrayed by the U.S. and the U.K. media, and how can this be understood from a feminist perspective? What kind of gendered images are constructed of female soldiers through this portrayal, and are there any differences or similarities between the media narrative in the selected newspapers? To answer these questions a qualitative content analysis is applied together with a theoretical framework consisting of Laura Sjoberg’s feminist theory of war, and Cynthia Enloe’s concept of militarised femininity. By analysing the source material, I have been able to confirm earlier scholars’ results about how female soldiers are victimised, trivialised and demonised by the media. This result demonstrates that traditional gender norms and perceptions of women’s roles in the military specifically, and in the society in general, remain intact. Additionally, my study has revealed that social class intersect with gender in the media’s portrayal of female soldiers. This study has also concluded that the selected newspapers’ media narrative is similar, but that the British has been worse when it comes to sustaining traditional gender norms.
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