Thursday, September 29, 2005

female bomber

it's interesting how the headlines for yesterday's suicide bombing in iraq all feature the fact that the bomber was female. (see e.g. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10, and many many more) but the articles don't explain why the sex of the bomber matters.

well, i guess some of the articles somewhat explain:
She slipped into the town, passing checkpoints where women are not searched. Donning a man's dishdasha -- a traditional white robe -- and kaffiya headscarf, she blended in with the men waiting in line to join the Iraqi army.


The move exploits a hole in security that is tough to fill, especially ahead of a coming referendum on the country's new constitution, in which men and women are expected to be lining up at the polls. Iraqi officials are worried about having to step up searches of women at the numerous checkpoints that guard facilities across Iraq -- a process that requires extra resources and irritates cultural sensitivities.
actually, it seems like a rather gaping hole in security to me to not search women. even if only men were doing the bombing, they could easily dress up as women if women aren't screened at all. the weird thing is that this bomber did precisely the opposite--she bypassed the screening as a woman and then disguised herself as a man to bomb.

but it's still odd why so many articles are featuring the female bomber angle on this one. i think the multiple cross-dressing bit is more interesting. (admittedly they are related). the femaleness of the bomber could also indicate that the insurgency goes beyond the sunni religious fundamentalists it is usually attributed to. but none of the articles i read seem to make that point.

but i wonder if some of the emphasis in the coverage reflects a lingering sense that women should not be combatants. and i wonder whether anyone thinks that a suicide bombing any worse when a woman is a bomber. the articles present the femaleness of the bomber as some kind of rubicon that was crossed. is it really? or is it just a small detail that is all we have to distinguish this bombing from an endless stream?