‘The Greatness of Her Position’: Comparing Identitarian and Jihadi Discourses on Women

Authored by: Ashley A. Mattheis and Charlie Winter

Categories: Human Rights, Violent Conflict
Sub-Categories: Countering Violent Extremism, Democratization and Political Participation, Sexual and Gender-Based Violence (SGBV), Violent Extremism
Region: No Region
Year: 2019
Citation: A. Mattheis, Ashley and Charlie Winter. "'The Greatness of Her Position’: Comparing Identitarian and Jihadi Discourses on Women." International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation. 2019.

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Executive Summary

The role of women in extremist movements today is as multifaceted as it is extensive. They are active across the ideological spectrum and, in the context of identitarianism and jihadism in particular, are considered to be especially fundamental for in‑group survival, both as child‑bearers and vehicles for the socialisation of future generations. Through this lens, their ‘choice’ to prioritise domestic life is framed as a heroic and altruistic deed in service of the community – this is a form of extremist maternalism that couches conservative, stay‑at‑home values in radical terminology and bestows counter‑cultural appeal upon the very idea of patriarchal subservience.

In this report, we explore this phenomenon, assessing similarities in how identitarian and jihadi extremists delineate what it is to be a woman in their respective in‑groups. We do this by cross‑examining two texts published by two disparate manifestations of political extremism (in terms of both ideology and praxis): one a speech by Lana Lokteff given in 2017, a leading member of the identitarian right in the United States; the other a manifesto from 2015 on gender published by the Islamic State’s female policing unit. While neither text can be taken as a standard account of either identitarian or jihadi gender politics (both ideological spectra vary hugely), they are nevertheless representative of important subsets of each ideological current. Recognising this, we unpack similarities in how, despite their profound operational disparities, each frames the character of the ‘ideal’ woman. By seeking answers not just to what these texts ‘mean’ but how they ‘mean’ too, we also develop a better understanding of the rhetorical forms they rely on in reaching out to their target audiences.