The Misrepresentations of Female Suicide Bombers Examining Gendered Biases in the Study of Female Palestinian Suicide Bombers

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The Misrepresentations of Female Suicide Bombers
Examining Gendered Biases in the Study of Female Palestinian Suicide Bombers

Joya Mukherjee
260367916
HIST 448
Professor Laila Parsons
Friday December 7, 2012
McGill University

The Misrepresentations of Female Suicide Bombers
Examining Gendered Biases in the Study of Female Palestinian Suicide Bombers

Joya Mukherjee
260367916
HIST 448
Professor Laila Parsons
Friday December 7, 2012
McGill University

“[Be] Ready for the increasing threat of women terrorists, we must recognize women as rational actors as opposed to emotional reactors of violence.”— Lisa Kruger

The use of females as suicide bombers is a relatively recent occurrence, and they are increasingly becoming the weapon of choice. Female suicide bombers seem to have caused uproar among the international community, as heads of state and scholars appear shocked to learn that they would now need to broaden the scope of potential suicide bombers. However, the reaction of the international community is surprising. If history tells us that women have always taken part in militancy, then why would the use of female suicide bombers be unexpected? Could it possibly be the method of violence that the women are using? Specifically, could it be the two elements involved in the violent act of suicide bombing: killing one’s self in addition to others, (which distinguishes it from other types of violence that focuses only on killing others). However, taken from this angle, the question then centres on why there is not as much attention and gendered psychological discourse that concentrates around male suicide bombers as there is on female suicide bombers. This question indicates that there is likely something about females using the method of suicide bombing that promotes a gendered psychological discourse on the issue. The paper will focus on the way in which scholars treat Palestinian female suicide bombers as gendered subjects.

If we maintain that to prevent terrorism, one must know the motivation for it, then it would follow that it would be best to have an accurate typology of the motives. However, by focusing on gender, many facets of the complex phenomenon of suicide bombing are lost. As distinguished psychiatrist Robert Lifton has maintained, no single factor on its own creates terrorism and terrorism does not have a single relationship with any specific society (Marvasti 28-29). Whatever the gender or motivation of the bomber, the end result sought is the same— death. Gender is but one element of the complex phenomenon of suicide bombing. Thus, it is the aim of this paper to unpack the way in which scholars have presented gendered motives of Palestinian female suicide bombers and present alternative non-gendered motives in order to, to demonstrate that female suicide bombing should be understood in the context of Palestinian women’s militancy in general and overtime, as opposed to being singled out due to the particular method or the gender utilizing it. Contextualizing Palestinian Female Militancy

In the context of wars and conflicts, women and children have tended to be classified within the single category of the vulnerable victims who suffer under violence with no means of defense. But women are not necessarily always vulnerable. On the contrary, women have been engaged in many-armed conflicts around the world, playing their part in history’s wars. Women have their own history of fighting to protect their homes and their lands and to quelling uprisings.

From the earliest days of the Palestinian resistance, women have been involved in both the left and right sides of the Palestinian struggle against the Israeli occupation (Cunningham 99). The events of 2002 suggest that this pattern remains intact (Cunningham 99). In April 2002 four Palestinian women became suicide bombers on behalf of the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, an offshoot of Fatah. Their acts of terrorism prompted, in part, a...
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