- Nimo's War, Emma's War: Making Feminist Sense of the Iraq War
Cynthia Enloe is Research Professor of Women's Studies and International Development at Clark University and is one of the pioneers of the field of Feminist International Relations. In the past, she has cast her feminist eye on a variety of issues in international politics, including militarism, ethno-nationalist conflicts, and international trade. She uses her "feminist curiosity" to explore how international politics depends on the wielding of particular notions of femininity and masculinity, thereby training us to see how the personal is political.
The focus of this book is the US-led invasion and occupation of Iraq. Drawing on some excellent journalism of the Iraq War, the author examines the stories of four Iraqi and four American women. She skillfully contextualizes the accounts of these women's lives within "the national and international histories of women and of patriarchy" (p. 4) and, in so doing, she reveals the gendered dynamics of the Iraq War.
For Enloe, paying attention to the gendered dimensions of war means taking seriously how marriage, motherhood, women's sexuality, and women's access to paid work and education shape how wars are prosecuted and how ordinary people deal with the consequences of war. The book begins with Nimo, a beauty salon owner in an upper-middle class neighborhood of Baghdad. Her salon represents a space where Iraqi women — albeit those who can afford to get their hair done — feel comfortable to discuss political events. Through Nimo's story, the author investigates the gendered history of Iraqi women's access to the labor market and the rollback in women's employment under US occupation. The book ends with the story of Charlene, the mother of Michael, a US military enlistee who drove trucks in Iraq. Charlene, the only breadwinner for her extended family, nurses her son through depression after he loses his leg in an improvised explosive device (IED) explosion. In this chapter, Enloe explores the significance of family caregivers to the functioning of the US military.
We also learn about Shatha al-Musawi, a community organizer and single mother, who ran on the list of religious Shi'i parties in the January 2005 elections. The author situates Shatha's story within the gendered history of Iraqi women's organizing and the more recent international history of gender quotas in elections. She notes the conflict between secular and religious women's rights agendas, and between women's "political autonomy in the intralegislative workings of political party discipline, patronage, and patriarchal control" in the new Iraqi Parliament (p. 110). Emma, the mother of a teenage son targeted for military recruitment in 2005, enables Enloe to survey the gender-, race-, and class-sensitiveness of military recruitment strategy, in addition to the history of patriotic motherhood and its role in supporting US militarism.
Enloe is sensitive to the shifting gendered dynamics of the Iraq War. In the initial phases of the war, Iraqis, including Nimo in her beauty salon, suffered from limited water and electricity supply. Later, "as new masculinized political groups assumed for themselves responsibility for policing women's behavior and appearance in public, women and girls were more and more confined to their homes ..." and water [End Page 148] and electricity were not the only problem faced by women (p. 34). Meanwhile, in the US, it was not until the "middle stages" of the Iraq War that the issue of "the government's care — and neglect — of wounded soldiers became a major political issue in American politics" (p. 199). By 2009, the number of Iraqi civilian and US military casualties had decreased in comparison to 2006. However, in this so-called "postwar" moment, Iraqi women reported little increase in their security due to a lack of housing, limited essential services, missing husbands and fathers, injured and traumatized family members, and lack of access to employment. In the US, women continue to live with the consequences of injured and killed husbands, fathers, and brothers...