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Gender and Hand Grenades

March 17, 2010

While many more men than women are engaged in extremist violence, it turns out that women can lob grenades at representatives of state power with the best of them – if the cause is right. Women are much more likely to engage in terror in the name of egalitarian utopianism than in the name of racial purity and class privilege. Men are, well, less discerning.

From Diego Gambetta’s Nation article on the Baader-Meinhof gang aka the Red Army Faction (RAF):

Composed of approximately forty men and thirty-five women, the RAF had an astonishing gender balance, which is hard to find in any institution, let alone one specializing in extremist violence. This anomaly is interesting. Although they have used women as suicide bombers, Islamic extremists include none at all among their cadres. Right-wing violent groups have only a few. Women have a presence only in left-wing extremist groups: 30 percent of FARC fighters are women, and 25 percent of Red Brigades members were women. Even compared with these groups, the RAF was unique.

Admittedly, that’s pretty anecdotal. I’d love to see better data on extremists.

Also, the first woman to serve as an ambassador was Alexandra Kollontai, a Bolshevik.


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