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Female Suicide Bombers: Israeli Newspaper Reporting and the Public Construction of Social Reality

NCJ Number
Criminal Justice Studies Volume: 20 Issue: 3 Dated: September 2007 Pages: 197-215
Revital Sela-Shayovitz
Date Published
September 2007
19 pages
This study examined the construction of the image of female suicide bombers in Israeli newspaper coverage during the Second Intifada.
The study found significant differences in the content of articles that covered female suicide bombers compared with articles that addressed male suicide bombers. Representations of the female bombers were consistent with traditional feminine gender role stereotypes. References to a woman's external appearance and family background were more frequent for women than for men. In addition, descriptions of the women's behaviors were consistent with traditional gender role stereotypes; for example, tact, sensitivity, crying, and screaming. Male bombers were more frequently described as being members of terrorist organizations. In newspaper pictures of the suicide bombers, the women were more often photographed in traditional attire for Arab women. In contrast, the photographs of male terrorists emphasized their affiliation with terrorist organizations, and they were shown with their weapons; females were rarely shown with weapons. Women bombers were also depicted as behavioral departures from social norms for women in general and Arab women in particular; whereas, male bombers received little attention in this regard, since they fit the traditional profile of male aggressiveness, toughness, and group loyalty. Women bombers, more so than male bombers, were analyzed in terms of their individual pathology rather than their commitment to terrorist ideology. Descriptions of male and female suicide bombers were examined in 436 Israeli press reports. 2 tables and 66 references