Jihad sheilas or media martyrs?: Muslim women and the Australian media

Julie Posetti

    Research output: Contribution to conference (non-published works)Paper


    Muslim women are both highly visible members of one of the most marginalised groups in Western society and the most vulnerable to vilification and media stereotyping, often suffering the ‘triple- whammy’ effect of sexism, racism and religious bigotry. Ubiquitously portrayed as veiled, they are concurrently represented as oppressed and radical non-conformists; as threatened and threatening; as passive sex-slaves and exotic, erotic beings. Symbolised generically by the distinctive religious clothing some choose to wear, Muslim women of all cultures have become the most recognisable targets of racism on the streets. Yet at the same time they are almost invisible and voiceless in news coverage. Negative stereotyping and reactionary reporting have historically typified Western media coverage of Islam and Muslims, and Muslim women are no exception. Said’s theory of Orientalism, which contends that the Muslim world and its inhabitants are considered backward, barbaric and outsiders to Western society, is most notable in the media’s coverage of Muslim women. The traditional religious dress adopted by some Muslim women has provided powerful media discourses which reinforce these stereotypes – particularly the notions of oppression, threat and alienation. This paper examines the impact of problematic Australian media coverage of Muslim women as perceived by Muslim women themselves. Drawing on qualitative interviews, focus groups and surveys, it reveals the effect of media coverage of Muslim women on their lived experience, identity formation and their attitudes to mainstream journalism. In the process, it gives voice to their demands for changes in reporting practice. The women describe their fear of media-induced vilification; their loathing of media stereotyping and reductionism; their suspicion of mainstream journalism and reporters; their disinclination to engage with news media and their resort to alternative information sources. They collectively highlight debates around traditional Islamic dress – particularly veiling – as critical to their experiences as Muslim women consumers of news
    Original languageEnglish
    Number of pages36
    Publication statusPublished - 2010
    EventThe Second World Journalism Education Congress (WJEC 2010) - Grahamstown, Grahamstown, South Africa
    Duration: 5 Jul 20107 Jul 2010


    ConferenceThe Second World Journalism Education Congress (WJEC 2010)
    Abbreviated titleWJEC
    Country/TerritorySouth Africa


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