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Portrayal of Female Terrorists in the Media: Similar Framing Patterns in the News Coverage of Women in Politics and in Terrorism

NCJ Number
Studies in Conflict & Terrorism Volume: 28 Issue: 5 Dated: September-October 2005 Pages: 435-451
Brigitte L. Nacos
Date Published
September 2005
17 pages
This study compared media depictions of women politicians and women terrorists in Europe and in the United States.
Despite media depictions to the contrary, women terrorists are not a rare phenomenon and have been involved in terrorist organizations throughout history. Previous research has indicated that media-driven gender stereotypes impact the behavior of female terrorists as well as the tactical considerations of their organizations. The author conducted a content analysis of the United States and English language European print and broadcast news to compare the media depictions of women politicians and women terrorists. The analysis revealed similar framing modes in the news about female politicians and female terrorists. The analysis details the way in which the media focus on the physical appearance of both female politicians and female terrorists, as well as the way the media defines these women through their family connections. Among other media images used to portray both groups of women were the women’s equality frame, the tough-as-males frame, and the bored or out of touch with reality frame. The findings suggest that gender clichés persist in the media in Europe and the United States, although they have weakened somewhat for female politicians in recent years. The author asserts that terrorist groups may try to play off these media-generated gender clichés to carry out their violent activities; counter-intelligence should be based on reality and not on media images of gender. Notes