Why Men Fight and Women Don’t: Masculinity and Extremist Violence

Research output: Other contribution


Last year, the UK saw four violent extremist attacks, three jihadi and one far right.1 ISIS and the far right are currently two of Britain’s top security priorities. At the same time, policy in this area must take account of UN Security Council Resolution 2242, which in 2015 outlined how efforts to counter violent extremism should consider gender. To date, the British government has understood gender in the context of radicalisation in two main ways: the inclusion of Muslim women in Prevent, the counter-radicalisation programme; and, more recently, awareness of growing support for ISIS among British women. Following a recent high-profile female jihadi plot, there have also been concerns in the media about the possibility of further female violence.2
Policy should not treat gender simply as a synonym for women, however. This paper argues that analysis of masculinity is important to understanding male and female extremism. Current narratives on masculinity, including “toxic masculinity” and a “crisis of masculinity”, are key in discussions of extremism. To understand the likelihood of female ISIS violence, it is also necessary to understand the effects of masculinity in the norms, ideology and culture of groups like ISIS. However, this paper warns against using masculinity as a way of demonising particular groups of men such as young British Muslims. Instead, if policy on violent extremism is to succeed, it must engage with gender in ways that go beyond the simple engagement with women as an issue.
Original languageEnglish
Media of outputOnline
PublisherTony Blair Institute for Global Change
Publication statusPublished - 13 Sept 2018

Publication series

NameDebunking Myths on Gender and Extremism
PublisherTony Blair Institute for Global Change

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