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Images of International Women

Class: Women and Peacemaking CRS-3242


Instructor: Dr. Anna Snyder
By Carsten Kaefert (3012875)

Table of Contents
Images of International Women.............................................................................................................1
Image 1: Women as Sex Objects.......................................................................................................1
Image 2: Miss Landmine Malanje.....................................................................................................2
Third World Women as Sex Objects..................................................................................................3
Empowerment through Cognitive Dissonance..................................................................................3
Conclusion.........................................................................................................................................4

Image 1: Women as Sex Objects

Illustration 1: Orientalist depiction of a woman as a 'eroticized, unclothed "native"'. © Lulu.com,


http://www.lulu.com/items/volume_62/1241000/1241666/1/preview/dec.jpg (Retrieved: 2008-09-27)

Carsten Kaefert: Images of International Women→Image 1: Women as Sex Objects


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Image 2: Miss Landmine Malanje

Illustration 2: Miss Landmine Malanje, Filomena Domingos Da Costa. ©Miss


Landmine, http://www.miss-landmine.org/misslandmine_candidates.html (Retrieved:
2008-09-27)

Carsten Kaefert: Images of International Women→Image 2: Miss Landmine Malanje


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Third World Women as Sex Objects
In her critique of the Women in Development (WID) regime, employed by the World Bank and other

international development agencies, Chowdhry describes (among others) an eroticizing, orientalist

view on Third World women. It is this perspective that I chose – for a variety of reasons. First of all

there is it's precedence in current society and popular culture. Chowdhry mentions sex tourism and

post cards as examples, another one is illustration 1.

It is taken from a calendar called Vintage Harem Girls, described by one online merchant as:

„A sultry selection - fit for a sultan! Harem girls from yesteryear, Arab and Moorish

courtesans, Bedouin beauties, veiled, a dozen topless or nude photo art portraits and vintage

postcard prints...“1

It is pretty clear, that this is not just coincidentally demeaning, but almost intentionally so. Thus it is

exemplary for a perspective that obviously has way more intent in it's marginalizing ways than the

alternatives: Depicting a person as a sex object is a conscious act requiring at least some ill will,

while the depiction of women reduced to traditional roles or as victims can happen subconsciously or

even in good will.

FishesEye Publishing, the publisher of the calendar containing illustration 1, capitalizes on

publishing vintage photos, on which the copyright has run out. Out of several other publications

bearing names like “Ethnic Tattoos”, “Mauresque Beauties” or “Ethnic Dancing Girls”, the above

picture was chosen rather for it's file size than it's special demeaning qualities – it is just one of many

1 LuLu.com: 2008 Calendar - Vintage Harem Girls by FishesEye Publishing, http://www.lulu.com/content/1241666


(Retrieved: 2008-09-27)

Carsten Kaefert: Images of International Women→Third World Women as Sex Objects


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reinstating age old views and cheaply profiteering off another humiliation of the depicted persons

after the first one of being coerced to the taking of these images, as Chowdhry describes it.

Empowerment through Cognitive Dissonance


On a first impression, illustration 2 seems to have similar qualities to the first picture: Both are

obviously staged, both show on women posing for beauty rather than acting within their actual

livelihood and both focus on their objects non-western cultural background. Nevertheless, the

message they are conveying is fundamentally different: Illustration 2 is actually empowering.

First of all, illustration 2 comes with the depicted womans name, Filomena Domingos Da Costa,

which makes it by far less objectifying. Furthermore, on closer inspection one detail catches the eye:

Miss Domingos Da Costa is missing her right leg. This points to the context of the image: It is a set

photo of the Miss Landmine Angola 2008 beauty pageant.

This is, where the cognitive dissonances begin: The terms beauty pageant and landmine do not

usually appear together in one sentence, as well as severe injury and beauty usually are separate

thoughts. By throwing these together and confronting the viewer with these perceived contrasts, the

photo incites a process of thinking.

The outcome is empowering and liberating. It places the women in the active role of survivors

instead of victims2, thus taking the stigma of being landmine victims away from them. It invokes

pride, thus enabling self-realization and expression3. And it also has outreaching effects: It raises

awareness of the problem of landmines without repeating the usual pity-inducing imagery of the

helpless African and thus without recreating a dichotomous colonial perspective.

2 Miss Landmine – News: http://www.miss-landmine.org/misslandmine_project.html (Retrieved: 2008-09-27)


3 Ibid.

Carsten Kaefert: Images of International Women→Empowerment through Cognitive Dissonance


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