Grantee/Partner News

Four Ways ISIS Manipulates Gender Dynamics

June 2, 2017

Grantee News From Inclusive Security:

The apparently ISIS-inspired attack, at a concert by Ariana Grande, whose fans are disproportionately young and female, has drawn heated argument about the roles gender and sexism play in terrorism.

We want to move past the pundits to hear what terrorism scholars and impacted communities have to say.

Today, Inclusive Security President Jacqueline O’Neill and Heather Hurlburt of New America published their piece on VOX.

What did they find? Our adversaries are exploiting gender dynamics in very sophisticated ways, and counter-terrorism needs to catch up.

 

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We need to think harder about terrorism and gender. ISIS already is.

Was the Manchester attack explicitly an attack on girls and women — on female culture? The apparently ISIS-inspired bombing, at a concert by Ariana Grande, whose fans are disproportionately young and female, has inspired heated argument about the roles gender and sexism play in terrorism. For some, it was an explicit salvo against women’s autonomy and the value of feminine culture. Conservatives fired back that this line of commentary represented just another example of so-called Western feminists making it all about them. (Men died in the attack, too!)

Another picture emerges, though, if you bypass the culture wars and speak to scholars who focus on terrorism, or to members of communities most affected by terrorism: It’s clear to them that extremist groups bend gender dynamics to their advantage in sophisticated ways. Too often, the topic of gender, as it relates to terrorism, is treated as superfluous — a nice-to-have extra. It’s cultural analysis that you might indulge in your free time, perhaps, but, in the end, a distraction from the hard-headed work of combating terrorism. But our adversaries are exploiting gender dynamics in very sophisticated ways, and counterterrorism needs to catch up.

Whether your goal is to understand the world or protect against security threats, it’s crucial to grasp the ways in which extremist groups manipulate gender norms and gender dynamics. Here are four key ways:

First, terror recruiters customize messages to promise women a life beyond perceived victimhood. Counterterror messaging has no good answer.

While women have long been involved in violent extremist groups around the world, the proportion joining ISIS from abroad — including the US — is strikingly high. Among ISIS members who have come to the Middle East from Europe, roughly one in five is female. ISIS recruiters create messages targeted at women and girls — and far more complex than the oft-cited cliché that becoming a “jihadi bride” is a noble calling. Recruiters, often females themselves, tap into the narrative that Western societies don’t respect Muslim women. More from Vox>

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