Misperceptions and Motivations of the Female Terrorist: A Psychological Perspective

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© 2019, © 2019 Taylor & Francis. Terrorism perpetrated by females is often overlooked. Women take on numerous roles in terrorist organizations- acting as intelligence gatherers, informants, sexual bait, recruiters, and even suicide bombers. In this article, we critically examine misperceptions of female terrorism through the lens of gender stereotyping research. Because these misperceptions can lead to a misunderstanding of motivations, we also explore the motivations for why females commit terrorist acts utilizing the components of expectancy theory. Finally, we offer some suggestions related to reducing women’s participation in terrorism. Women pose many advantages for terrorist organizations, as their violent acts are stealthy and often unexpected due to media representation of women, especially Muslim women. Furthermore, including women increases the group’s numbers willing to commit themselves to the cause, contributes an added shock value, shames enemy targets, and changes the profile of attackers. Understanding the motivations and misperceptions of female-perpetrated terrorism through a psychological lens can aid with future research and help lead to the development of intervention strategies.

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