Misogyny & Violent Extremism: Implications for Preventing Violent Extremism

Authors/editor(s): Melissa Johnston and Jacqui True

Many analysts see terrorism and violent extremism as a part of a “man’s world”. Mostly men engage in violent acts; men lead groups like Islamic State or the Ku Klux Klan and tend to be the main protagonists of “lone wolf” attacks. As a result, men’s extremist violence is normalised, while women are stereotyped as non-violent. Because of this bias, violent extremism conducive to terrorism has been insufficiently analysed from a gender perspective.

The rise and fall of Islamic State have illustrated that women can be active members of violent extremist groups. Women take active roles in recruitment, logistics, and finance, intelligence collection, reconnaissance, enforcement of morality laws with some evidence of fighting and suicide bombing. Even within strictly family roles, women may radicalize others to conduct violence including in their families and/or be radicalized to violence through marriage and family status (including through family suicide as in the case of Surabaya, Indonesia in May 2018 or as in Libya where mothers follow sons4). Although there are relatively few women violent extremists, women serve as their civilian bedrock. There are a complex range of factors that lead women to support violent extremist groups that advocate for practices which severely constrain their basic human rights to education, bodily integrity, freedom of movement, of speech, of association, and so on.

The research reported here examines why and how radicalisation to violence occurs from a gender perspective. This policy brief analyses the underexplored relationship between attitudes and practices indicating misogyny (defined as both fear and hatred of women and/or the feminine) and support for violent extremism. Gender analysis of survey data collected in four countries (Indonesia, Bangladesh, the Philippines, and Libya) provides evidence of a mutually reinforcing dynamic of misogyny and violent extremism.

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Bibliographic information

Geographic coverage: Philippines

Subject area(s): Peace and security; Violent extremism and terrorism

Resource type: Briefs

Publication year: 2019

Number of pages: 8