Gendered Orientation, Representation, and its Repercussions of Pakistani Gendered Issues


This paper explores the US media’s appropriation of the Malala Yousafzai case in terms of voicing the concerns of the Taliban affected areas. The assessment of how the US media situates Yousafzai in the representation of Pakistan provides concrete rhetorical occasions to explain the neglect of underlying power structures that need to be focused. Through the rhetorical analysis of Adam B. Ellick’s 2009 documentary Class Dismissed in Swat Valley: The Death of Female Education, this study argues that through the portrayal of Malala, Western media—encompassing only region’s religious and cultural problems—gives a partial coverage of feminist issues. The aforementioned documentary was published by the New York Times few years before Yousafzai became famous in a shooting incident that nearly killed her in the Swat valley. With little or no attention to historical and political issues in Pakistan, the documentary represents feminist issues under a particular lens that does not manifest predicaments faced by Pakistani females.

My essay explores the complex entanglements of power in Pakistan that generally impinge upon issues such as Yousafzai and are generally ignored in her presentation. Ellick’s documentary here is a perfect case in point. Malala Yousafzai’s story reveals the everyday struggle that thousands of women are battling in the country; but the struggles and problems of these women are conceived to be understood under the notions of patriarchal and cultural societies with no heed to complex power structures that lie within society. With Sara Ahmed’s Queer Phenomenology, I argue that rhetorics generated for gendered issues in Pakistan lack a holistic approach. The appropriation of Malala Yousafzai’s case under a fragmentary lens serves to downplays disenfranchised voices. Considering Edward Said’s Orientalism as an exercise of power, Sara Ahmed (2006) reminds us that orient is ‘made’ oriental as a submission to the authority of the Occident (114). My argument, thus, in this essay entails the making of orient—in this case, Pakistan—through American presentation of gendered problems that Yousafzai faced in her hometown. In other words, this essay contends that gendered issues have a central focus in the uses and abuses of power across borders, and their representations bear repercussions that are manifested in orientalism and imperialism. Also, this paper is highly aligned with the theme of “Marginalized Sexualities: representations and resistance” of the division of Gender and Communication.