Women Terrorists and Violent Actors in the Lens of the Media in Kenya: 1980-2019
Despite the increasing role of women in violence and terrorist-related activities across the globe, stereotypes depicting violence and terrorism as a male sphere continue to shape and, in some cases, prevent the authentic presentation of women terrorists and violent actors. Essentially, war and violence are attributed to men and masculine traits. Accordingly, women are mainly presented as intrinsically vulnerable, coerced actors, or violence victims in violence and terrorism. The media plays an essential role in disseminating information about terrorism and violence to the public. However, it does not operate in a vacuum, and thus, reportage of violence and terrorism at times reflects the prevailing cultural gender stereotypes of war and violence. This paper explores how the media present women terrorists and violent actors in Kenya. It also explores how this presentation impacts security initiatives and counter-terrorism strategies in the country. The paper uses accessible evidence from media reports on various female terrorists, terrorist attacks, and security operations to examine these aspects. It argues that the media labels women terrorists as vulnerable and focuses on their age, physical outlook, and statuses rather than the violent act perpetrated. Such presentation paints an image of irrational, naïve, coerced female terrorists and victims of violence. Accordingly, the paper recommends that the media-mediated images must not influence the implementation of anti-terror and violence policies since they do not necessarily reflect the reality on the ground.
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