July 10, 2020

A Gender Approach to Women’s Role in the Online Extremist Sphere

About the episode:

Across the ideological spectrum, there are misconceptions and oversimplifications when it comes to discussing the role of women in terrorist organisations. From the perception that women are groomed into joining violent extremist groups and can therefore be presumed innocent, to the notion that a woman’s role in a terrorist organisation is secondary simply because she is less likely to be the one picking up a weapon to carry out an attack. In this episode, we debunk many of these myths and explain why this issue has far more depth to it than the media conveys. We explore the misleading ‘jihadi bride’ stories perpetuated by the media, we examine women’s roles in online propaganda and recruitment, and we discuss the nuances to the “push and pull” factors of why women join terrorist groups – including far right groups. Drawing upon all of this, we provide recommendations on how the tech sector should counter women’s role in online extremism and terrorism.

Maygane Janin and Anne Craanen discuss the complexities at the intersection of gender and terrorism. They are joined by two of the foremost voices in this space: Dr. Joana Cook, an Assistant Professor on Terrorism and Political Violence at Leiden University, Senior Project Manager and an Editor in Chief at the International Centre for Counterterrorism who recently published a book on gender and counterterrorism titled  “A Woman’s Place: U.S. counterterrorism since 9/11”; and Dr. Elizabeth Pearson, a lecturer at the Cyber Threats Research Centre at Swansea University who specialises in gender, extremism, and counter extremism. Together, they consider the broader socio-cultural context of how gender is viewed in extremist ideology participation – especially with regards to how understanding of gender identity, individuals’ experiences, age, and social class also impact the reasons someone might join an extremist group.



Dr. Joana Cook’s (@Joana_Cook) works: 

A Woman’s Place: US Counterterrorism Since 9/11 (Cook, 2020)

From Daesh to ‘Diaspora’: Tracing the Women and Minors of Islamic State (Cook & Vale, 2018)

Our Main Concern is Security”: Women’s political participation, engagement in the security sector, and public safety in Yemen (Cook, 2015)

Cook, Joana. “A Woman’s Place: U.S. Counterterrorism Since 9/11.” Single authored monograph, Oxford  University Press (Hurst). January 2020.

Cook, Joana, Haid Haid, and Inga Trauthig, “Jurisprudence beyond the state – An analysis of Islamist courts in Libya, Syria and Yemen.” Studies in Conflict and Terrorism. June 2020.

Cook, Joana and Gina Vale. “From Daesh to ‘Diaspora’ II: The Challenges Posed by Women and Minors    After the Fall of the Caliphate,” CTC Sentinel, 12:6, pp. 30-46, July 2019.

Cook, Joana. “Women and terror post-9/11.” Ed. Handbook of Terrorism and Insurgency Post 9/11. Edited   David Martin Jones, Paul Schulte &  M.L.R. Smith. Edward Elgar Publishing. 2019.

Cook, Joana. “Thinking more about women and security.” TEDx Talk. June 3, 2019. London Business School, London, UK.

Cook, Joana and Gina Vale. “From Daesh to diaspora, tracing the women and minors of Islamic State.” July 2018, ICSR.

Cook, Joana. “Shifting Priorities: How International Terrorism and the ‘War on Terror’ Reconstitute Security Agendas – Women, Counterterrorism and the Case of Yemen.”  Book Chapter in The Palgrave  Handbook of Global Counterterrorism Policy, edited   by Scott Romaniuk, et al. Palgrave MacMillan. June 2017.

Dr. Elizabeth Pearson’s (@lizzypearson) works: 

Gendered Reflections? Extremism in the UK’s Radical Right and al-Muhajiroun Networks (Pearson, 2020)

Extremism and toxic masculinity: the man question re-posed (Pearson, 2019)

Online as the New Frontline: Affect, Gender, and ISIS-Take-Down on Social Media (Pearson, 2016)

The Case of Roshonara Choudhry: Implications for Theory on Online Radicalization, ISIS Women, and the Gendered Jihad (Pearson, 2015)

Boko Haram Beyond the Headlines: Analyses of Africa’s Enduring Insurgency (Pearson, 2018)

Why Men Fight and Women Don’t: Masculinity and Extremist Violence (Pearson, 2018)

More articles and information here.

Share this episode: