Graduation Year

Spring 2014

Document Type

Campus Only Senior Thesis


Politics and International Relations

Reader 1

David Andrews

Reader 2

Ilai Saltzman

Rights Information

© 2014 Eliana Rudee


This thesis argues that women are increasingly recruited by terrorist organizations because they are perceived as high benefit and low cost perpetrators.

Female terrorism is an increasing trend, as it is particularly effective and becoming more effective over time. Its effectiveness results from cross-cultural, deeply imbedded stereotypes of female behavior. Women are seen as nonviolent in the cultures from which female terrorists emerge and in which they perpetrate their attacks, and are therefore given more lenient security measures at security barriers. In addition, security policies reflect these stereotypes, as some only apply to men. The literature on the topic of gender and terrorism often addresses individual motivations for terrorism and misses the practical element of group strategy that is vital to understand in order to effectively defend against the trends of female terrorism.

I found that terrorist groups are rational actors and thus choose to deploy women because they are low cost and high benefit. Terrorist groups learn through interactive exchanges with the target population or government and act accordingly. While the goal of gender equality may be used in secular terrorist organizations’ rhetoric, women’s involvement in terrorism does not necessarily equate to western-style feminism or gender equality. I illustrate the racial implications that are upheld and replicated through stereotypes about terrorism. Muslims are portrayed as terrorists to bolster the government’s interest in securing votes for its foreign policy agenda. I argue that stereotypes persist because of the media’s drive for profit as well as the perceived need for narrative fidelity, although this type of reporting benefits terrorist groups and impairs the target state’s security.

If understood and addressed properly, this trend of female terrorist lethality can be undermined through policy recommendations. International organizations that adopt these policy recommendations together may effectively reduce female terrorist lethality, terrorism in general, and increase global security.

This thesis is restricted to the Claremont Colleges current faculty, students, and staff.