Jihadi Brides and Female Volunteers: Reading the Islamic State's War to See Gender and Agency in Conflict Dynamics

Citation:

Sjoberg, Laura. 2017. "Jihadi Brides and Female Volunteers: Reading the Islamic State’s War to See Gender and Agency in Conflict Dynamics." Conflict Management and Peace Science 35 (3): 296-311.

Author: Laura Sjoberg

Abstract:

Decades ago, Cynthia Enloe called for a research agenda looking for where women are in war and conflict. Enloe recognized that women play active roles in and are affected by wars and conflicts, but are often ignored in news coverage, policy analysis, and scholarship. The current conflict in Syria and Iraq appears as a counterexample: hundreds of millions of Google results mention women and the Islamic State (IS). Subjects vary widely: the stories cover female victims of IS, female recruits to IS, and women who fight IS. This article explores the hypervisibility of women in this conflict, looking for lessons about sex, gender, and conflict. The first part analyses discourses in a sample of major news reports, evaluating how different women around IS are represented. It finds that agency is removed from both female victims and female IS partisans, while it is exaggerated for women who fight against IS. This corresponds with emphasis on different gendered traits for differently positioned women. After tracing these gendered representations, the article applies theories of gender and conflict to understand how women have become central to the fighting and coverage of the conflict in Syria and Iraq. It concludes that paying attention both to the empirical presence of women and to the co-constitution of gender, war, and conflict augments understanding of this war, and across conflicts.

Keywords: feminist theory, gender, Islamic state, media coverage, terrorism, violence, war

Topics: Armed Conflict, Combatants, Female Combatants, Conflict, Feminisms, Gender, Media, Military Forces & Armed Groups, Non-State Armed Groups, Terrorism, Violence Regions: MENA, Asia, Middle East Countries: Iraq, Syria

Year: 2017

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