Understanding Female Terrorists: An Analysis of Motivation and Media Representation


Shedd, Juliette. 2006. “Understanding Female Terrorists: An Analysis of Motivation and Media Representation.” Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Political Science Association, Philadelphia, August 31- September 3.

Author: Juliette Shedd


Individual, societal, and group factors contribute to the involvement of women in terrorist activities. The presence of women in terrorist groups is explained here as a result of a combination of individual and societal factors that support a woman’s involvement in political violence and group decisions to include women. From the literature review, it was hypothesized that one advantage of using women in terrorist acts is differences in how male and female terrorists are covered by the media. Newspaper coverage of terrorist activities committed by ETA in Spain, the LTTE in Sri Lanka, and Chechen separatists in Russia were analyzed to determine if gender was related to the amount and type of coverage attacks received. The number of articles written about an attack, the motivations presented in the article, and the order information was presented in was used to measure gender based differences. In two of the three cases, terrorist acts committed by women received almost double the number of written articles about the event as opposed to attacks committed by men; the third case did not have enough data to analyze for this variable. In all three cases, articles about female terrorists were more likely to present individual, group, and societal motivations for the actions than were articles about male terrorists. The differences in media coverage due to gender can be a factor in the group’s decision to use women in terrorist activity. If media coverage is a goal of the group, the use of female terrorists may be a way to achieve that goal.

Topics: Gender, Women, Media, Military Forces & Armed Groups, Non-State Armed Groups, Violence

Year: 2006

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