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Femininity, feminism and the terrorist

Malvern, S. (2013) Femininity, feminism and the terrorist. In: Malvern, S. and Koureas, G. (eds.) Terrorist Transgressions. Gendered representations of the terrorist in visual culture. I B Tauris, London; New York, pp. 39-55. ISBN 9781780767017

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This chapter aims to discuss the relationship between femininity and representations of women involved in violence, focussing on visual representations. Miranda Alison has made the point that the repeated necessity to qualify the term 'combatant' with the descriptor 'female' draws attention to how women soldiers, female freedom fighters, female suicide bombers and female terrorists are exceptional figures. That the female combatant or the female terrorist is an aberration or a deviation from a masculine norm is undermined by the lengthy history of women as warriors, fighters, and terrorists. In that sense it is not so much that fighting women are rare but that there is amnesia within cultural memories concerning the woman fighter. However, in representations of conflict, the dominant image associated with femininity is passive; that is as the defenceless and the defended, or as the allegory of peace. Moreover, representations of men in wars as defeated or wounded means feminising such figures. Miriam Cooke, in her Women and the War Story, 1996, points out how a mythic war story provides men with political roles, in the politikon or public arena, whereas women are domesticated in the space of the oikon. In the mythic war story women may function as Mater Dolorosa, Patriotic Mother or Spartan Mother. It follows then that there are conditions in which it is permissible to represent women fighting on behalf of their children or in defence of the home, and in the absence of men. These images are also found in wider culture: Sarah Connor in Terminator or Ripley in Alien, for example. Images of the female terrorist raise new issues but I want to argue that it is also the case that discussing femininity and the terrorist must involve relating such imagery to representations of the female warrior over a longer timespan. Some questions have shifted since the late twentieth century. Dating from the early 1990s, most Western nations increasingly incorporated women into combat roles within their armed forces. This paper will aim to unpick some of the intricate connections between the increasing presence of women in the armed forces, what relationship this has to emancipation and the participation of women in violence classed as terrorist.

Item Type:Book or Report Section
Divisions:Arts, Humanities and Social Science > School of Arts and Communication Design > Art > Art History
ID Code:35018
Publisher:I B Tauris

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