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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

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February 26, 2024
An inside look at Bobby B. Beacon’s insides. Illustrated by Bianca Oppedisano/ Mass Media Staff.
Bobby's Inside Story
February 26, 2024

Iraq documentary shows the truth many of us do not see

In September of 2003 a group of female soldiers that later became known as “Lioness” was stationed in Ramadi, Iraq. Although they had been trained to be supply clerks, engineers, and other non-combat positions, their role in Iraq changed when the US recognized that Iraqi culture permitted only female soldiers to perform body searches on Iraqi women. “Lioness” would accompany male soldiers on combat missions, and when there was an Iraqi woman who needed to be searched, the female soldiers would step in. As the US military has a policy that forbids female soldiers from participating in combat situations, the women in “Lioness” were to act solely as body searchers, and were to step back when the men began fighting. However, due to the blurred line between combat and non-combat activity, and the general level of chaos in Iraq, the women in “Lioness” ended up fighting in combat situations, and dealt with every aspect of the war that their male counterparts did.

The new documentary, Lioness, explores this little-known part of the Iraq war through interviews with the “Lioness” women and their families, footage of “Lioness” in Iraq, and interviews with other members of the military. Through bleak, gray shots of a “Lioness” soldier’s home in rural Arkansas and interviews driving on rainy highways, Lioness creates a somber, depressing mood that allows the viewer to empathize with the soldiers’ depression and post-traumatic stress disorder, which really become the focus of Lioness.

The directors of Lioness, Meg Mclagan and Daria Sommers, picked a great topic to make a documentary about, as it seems that most people are uncertain about womens’ role in Iraq. After the showing of the documentary at the Jamaica Plain Forum, there was a group discussion of people’s reactions. I was happy to hear that before watching the film, I was not the only one who kind-of knew that women were serving in Iraq, but didn’t really know what the U.S.’s policy on female soldiers was.

Lioness’s unique angle also changed my perception of war in general. In most popular depictions of war, it seems women are almost always depicted as caretakers. Somehow through their maternal powers they appear to remain above the horrific situations and emotional effects that war presents. In Lioness, however, women are placed in the same situations and suffer the same emotional effects as men. To me, this makes war seem all the more omnipotent and relentlessly human.

Lioness will be broadcast nationally on the PBS program Independent Lens on Thursday, November 13 at 9:00pm.