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Feminist Professor Says 9/11 Widows Exploited To Justify Bombing Afghanistan

Images and interviews of grieving wives who lost their husbands in the 9/11 terrorist attacks were exploited to wage war in Afghanistan, a University of Michigan professor of feminist studies argued in a recent guest lecture.

These women became the “ideal vessels of pathos,” according to Dr. Ruby Tapia, who spoke Thursday at Kalamazoo College for its annual American Studies Lecture.

Americans banded behind these women, wanting to express feelings of hatred and sorrow with them, she said.

“These pregnant widows were expected to take the lead after the attacks,” Tapia said. “(The women acted as agents) upon which the public could project feelings of anger, grief, and fear. They served as the invaluable breeder of patriotic fervor.”

Tapia used the graphic novel “American Widow,” written by Alissa Torres, to frame her thesis. Torres was pregnant when she lost her husband in one of the World Trade Center towers on Sept. 11, 2001. Following the media coverage of the grieving wives and mothers-to-be after the tragedy, Torres declined media requests and shied away from any press coverage.

Tapia praises Torres’ opposition, which the professor described as resisting the “gendered politics of a hypermediated national trauma.”

Constantly in the public eye, Tapia argues that the tragedy of these women was expropriated to justify war in Afghanistan. Generating a national sentiment of hatred that these mothers were left vulnerable, war became justifiable, she argued.

“The nursery can also be used to justify bombs,” she said.

Tapia added that the sole purpose of placing these “American widows” into the public eye was to take advantage of the reproductive nature of the female body.

She used the cover of the February 25, 2002, issue of People magazine to extrapolate on her point. It showed a photograph of the widows with their “9/11 babies” to highlight the feature story, “New Life, New Hope.”

Said a visibly upset Tapia: “Although the collective national body is renewed in this image, reproductive power is harnessed and used here.”

Now that these “9/11 babies” are talking, the mourning mother has been cast into the background, Tapia added.

“Now that their flesh has nothing to contribute to the ghost forms of their husbands, they are now ‘empty vessels,’ ” she said, noting their “reproductive and patriotic triumph” has come to an end, and they have been cast to the wayside.

Fix contributor Jenna Neumann is a student at Kalamazoo College.

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