Amanda Third

Feminist Terrorists and Terrorist Feminists: Crosswiring Feminism and Terrorism

June 4, 2015

A talk by Amanda Third, University of Western Sydney

The Centre for Modernist Studies was very pleased to host Amanda Third, an assistant professor at the Institute for Culture and Society at the University of Western Sydney, Australia. Amanda has recently published a fantastic study on the relationship between feminism and terrorism, entitled: Gender and the Political: Deconstructing the Female Terrorist. This work is literary, theoretical, historical, and sociological, and offers a grounded, thorough, feminist reading of contemporary (and pervasive) approaches to terrorism.

Amanda spoke to that book on June 4th at the University of Sussex. Amanda’s abstract follows:

Feminist Terrorists and Terrorist Feminists: Crosswiring Feminism and Terrorism

Amanda Third Book Cover

‘We make God mad.I really believe that the pagans, and the abortionists, and the feminists, and the gays and the lesbians who are actively trying to make that an alternative lifestyle, the ACLU, People for the American Way — all of them who have tried to secularise America – I point the finger in their face and say, You helped this happen”’.

– Reverend Jerry Falwell, 2011

In the immediate aftermath of the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States, television icon of the North American religious right, Reverend Jerry Falwell, made a guest appearance on the Christian Broadcasting Network’s700 Club in which he claimed that feminists, among others, were at least partially to blame for ‘God’s wrath descending on America’.

For the televangelist moral right, feminism, like terrorism, is constructed as a political threat to the United States. As outrageous as Falwell’s remarks may be, what is noteworthy is that they make an explicit connection between the occurrence of terrorism on United States’ soil, and the circulation and institutionalisation of feminist principles and practices within dominant North American culture. In Falwell’s formulation, feminism is, however indirectly, causally connected to, and responsible for, terrorism. In this context, contemporary feminism gets positioned as a ‘terrorist threat’.

This paper traces the discursive alignment of feminism and terrorism in the Western world back to the late 1960s and early 1970s. At this historical moment, the institutions of Western culture began their project of delineating the specific threat of female terrorism, and the female terrorist became the subject of various forms of dominant cultural knowledge production, from counterterrorism, law enforcement and psychology to the news media, pulp fiction and film. This moment also coincides with the rise of second wave feminism, when large numbers of women began challenging the everydayness of masculine privilege. Through an analysis of popular cultural and counterterrorist texts, this paper argues that, since the 1970s, the figure of the female terrorist has operated within Western culture as a site for the discursive containment and control of the dual threats of terrorism and feminism.


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