Why Women Choose Violent Action

Women choose violent action for a plethora of reasons, including religion, respect from their community or peers, revenge, retribution from past or current sins, and the right to change prolonged (armed) conflict. This not only applies to radical / violent Muslim women and girls, but to women everywhere. 

In numerous studies and books, including the release of my latest book Invisible Martyrs: Inside the Secret World of Female Islamic Radicals, some women and girls choose violence unknowingly, unwittingly, and unconsciously. Which is why some females with little understand of the true meaning of Islam, for example, are convinced by male recruiters to choose violence because it is the “right” thing to do.

The females’ ignorance is an important factor. Without knowledge of faith, which is one of many reasons why women radicalize, some females are easily manipulated by violent men and women. Thus, they share the radicals’ political ambitions to justify violence to resolve current and long-standing conflicts.

American convert Shannon Conley certainly was duped by an online male predator and believed that Islam called for violent action. Now Shannon knows the truth: that Islam is charity, peaceful action, and nonviolent change. When violence is used, it is selective and only intended for the aggressor, not innocent civilians. It was almost too late for Shannon; if she hadn’t been stopped at Denver International Airport on route to Syria, then she may have been another female victim to extremism. You can read more about her story in the book.

Shoot The Women First

Image result for shoot the women first book

Years ago, I learned about violent women from award-winning journalist Eileen MacDonald in her seminal book, Shoot The Women First. The sensationalist title makes a point: women are deadly, dangerous and arguably create more damage than their male counterparts. The women of her book are secular-nationalists and emerged in the 1970s and 1980s when nationalist movements and the women inside them followed a Marxist-Leninst ideology; these women accepted violent action to demand a call for change from their respective countries / communities and international leaders. 

In a modern and visual rendition of Shoot the Women First, an artist based in Athens, Greece examines the leftist women of the 1990s depicted in MacDonald’s book. Artist Navine G. Khan-Dossos examines what it means for a woman to be politically violent. 

Navine Khan-Dossos, Bulk Targets 1-100, performance for Shoot The Women First at The Breeder, in collaboration with choreographer Yasmina Reggad. Photo: Alexandra Masmanidi

Navine Khan-Dossos, Grey Discretionary Command I- VIII, 2017. Courtesy of the artist

Through her work, Khan-Dossos challenges well-documented prejudices and phrases used to define “violent women”: they are not always pathologically insane or irrational, for example.

As a society, we are fascinated with violent women. And some of us continue to generate stereotypes rather than offer understanding of why women become violent.

Serial Killers 

In a relatively new show, Piers Morgan meets with real girls and women who dared to kill. His interviews of “Killer Women,” the title of the Netflix series which is now in  Season 2, explores the motives for violence. For example, in the first episode, Morgan meets with Erin Caffey, a supposedly sweet all-American teenage girl with blond hair and kind eyes from Texas to understand why she murdered her family with her older boyfriend.

Killer Women on Netflix

To view the series, log onto your Netflix account.

The stories of female killers provide a glaring inside view of their motive, mindset and method to madness. Which is similar to religious-based extremists, who share similar features with serial killers–both aim to kill. Some survive their violent acts. Others do not.  


Available Now

To learn more about radical women and girls, click on the image to view the book and listen to a free audio sample. 

Join thousands of readers who get new analysis and insightful links delivered to their inboxes.

You've successfully subscribed! Be sure to check your inbox for the next newsletter.