How Gender Intersects With Political Violence and Terrorism

Authored by: Candice Ortbals and Lori Poloni-Staudinger

Categories: Violent Conflict
Sub-Categories: National Security Forces and Armed Groups, Nonviolent Resistance, Political Transitions, Sexual and Gender-Based Violence (SGBV), Violent Extremism
Region: No Region
Year: 2018
Citation: Ortbals, Candice, and Lori Poloni-Staudinger. "How Gender Intersects With Political Violence and Terrorism." Oxford Research Encyclopedia. February 2018.

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Executive Summary

A gendered interpretation of political violence recognizes that politics and states project masculine power and privilege, with the result that men occupy the dominant social position in politics and women and marginalized men are subordinate. Many historical and current examples, however, demonstrate that women have agency, namely that they are active in social groups and state institutions responding to and initiating political violence. Gendercide, which can occur alongside genocide, targets a specific gender, with the result that men, women, or those who identify with a non-heteronormative sexuality are subject to discriminatory killing. Rape in wartime situations is also gendered; often it is an expression of men’s power over women and over men who are feminized and marginalized. Because war is typically seen as a masculine domain, wartime violence is not associated with women, who are viewed as life givers and not life takers. Similarly, few expect women to be terrorists, and when they are, women’s motivations often are assumed to be different from those of men. Whereas some scholars argue that women pursue terrorism for personal (and feminine) reasons, other scholars maintain that women act on account of political or religious motivations. Women’s groups and individual women respond to situations of violence by protesting against violence, testifying at tribunals and truth commissions, and constructing the political memory of violence.