Volume 23, 2007
International Law and Justice
What Difference Does Gender Make?
Should women’s terrorist acts be understood differently than similar acts carried out by men? Does the gender identity of a terrorist make a difference to the meaning of a terrorist’s acts? Commentators who explain women’s involvement in terrorism often offer explanations other than political commitment. They often refer instead to factors in the women’s personal relationships, thereby drawing on gender stereotypes and diminishing the women’s political commitments. I suggest instead that terrorism by a woman involves symbolic political “testimony.” It amounts to saying that someone who is a typically nonviolent sort of person has engaged in violence on behalf of a political cause. Because of this significance, women’s terrorism merits a more serious consideration as testimony than similar acts by men.