The Fairer Sex? Not Any More

Women and war. I was happily stuck in the stereotypical mindset that the two just don’t mix.

In recent years, when I’d hear about female suicide bombers, I’d quickly skip over the story. I would tell myself it’s merely a strange anomaly. Or I’d picture a tortured woman, fearing for her children taken hostage. She was drugged and while she was unconscious they strapped a bomb to her and threatened to kill her children if she didn’t carry out their orders.

The attack that happened three days ago has been weighing heavy on my mind. I wrestled with whether to write about it or not. But I’m so distressed by this woman’s actions. I decided to investigate.

Sadly, all of my preconceived notions are wrong.

Instead of stories of women being forced, against their will, to perform these horrific acts I found stories of women calmly answering questions in a government office before reaching under their bra and setting off the device. Or women pretending to be pregnant, with a bomb carefully tucked underneath their clothes. All women. All ages. According to U.S. military statistics the youngest female suicide bomber was only 13 years old.

I love the customary image of a woman.  We are the nurturing sex. We protect life. I imagined that if women held the majority of leadership roles around the world there would be no war. And I’m dumbstruck, sitting here, wrestling with article after article telling me that I’m mistaken.

One article suggests that the work of female suicide bombers is not a new phenomenon. They’ve been around for more than 20 years.  From this 40-something-year-old perspective, 20 years is nothing. To me, it IS a new phenomenon. And I sit here wondering why? Why is my beautiful, idyllic convention being shattered?

And when I start to wonder how we have failed each other, why women are now willfully joining the ranks of male suicide bombers I can’t help but take a good, hard look at the human race and how we’ve resolved conflict in the past. War. Violence. Killing. It’s been going on as long as man has walked the Earth.

I remember, as a teen, comparing the male world leaders at war with each other to overgrown boys, fighting over a toy. Testosterone taking over their senses. I was smug in my vision of my fellow sisters. Calm. Rational. Wanting only peace.

Boy, was I ever wrong.


Filed under Observations

22 responses to “The Fairer Sex? Not Any More

  1. suzicate

    Another great post, Jane. Like you, I have a preconceived notion of “woman” and this has also shattered the images I had…I guess this realm of vilence is beyond our comprehension.

  2. That’s a difficult one to wrap your brain around.

  3. It’s not just women…it’s children as well. That is horrifying to me. I still have trouble wrapping my brain around women in military combat too.

    While I certainly think women can do most anything a man can do (sometimes better), I’m not sure we SHOULD do everything a man can do. We were created to compliment each other. As far as no war if women ran the world, I’m not so sure…PMS and peri-menopause might be just as dangerous as testosterone! 😉

  4. It’s impossible for me to fathom and incredibly ugly to look at deeply. How can they? How can they do this to themselves? To others? I just don’t know.

  5. Wow, I had no idea either. This is such a shocker. As you said, women are usually so nurturing… but then again, there are women who murder or abandon their own children, so maybe behavior is based less on sex and more on the person themselves. Yes, women tend to be less confrontational, but I guess they all don’t follow the mold. Just like men.

  6. ck

    So sad to imagine what their heads are filled with, both male and female. At some point, they were all smiling babies.

  7. Let’s think about this. What else has changed for women in the last 20 or so years? From what type of family unit did these women come? Do we only see it in certain cultures? Are women becoming more “man-like” or just more desperate? So, interesting.

  8. There is a lot of great work being done at the Harvard Kennedy School WAPPP Center on women and peacekeeping. The researches are exploring the different ways women approach and participate in war and peace keeping. You should check it out.

  9. unabridgedgirl

    I think, if you look throughout history and women leaders – – Elizabeth I, Cleopatra, Catherine the Great, Mary I, etc. – – they weren’t exactly peaceful. There was still war. There were still problems. And many of them were power hungry.

    At the same time, I completely understand and see where you are coming from. I’ve always thought as women, we are more gentle and caring – – certainly more nurturing. It’s just in us to be that way, right?

    It’s sad.

  10. I guess women really can have it all: the same indoctrination and lack of choices that lead men to commit these acts of violence. We’ve come a long way, baby? Really?

  11. The unfortunate dark side of passionate belief. Women are just as capable of fanaticism as men, and, if we really believe in freedom of thought and passionate conviction, then this is an inevitable conclusion.

  12. I hold the belief that suicide bombers are suicidal. They’re actually sick. They are people in srious depression, trapped in a world of darkness and the only way out is suicide. Now sweeten the deal with “you get to go to Heaven” and made suicidal people have a very pleasant option. These are desperate people.

  13. I would like to say I agree with — or even agreed with — your conception of all, or even most, women as nurturing and non-violent, but I’m afraid I don’t, and never have. What I do wonder is if it’s because of all the years of being suffocated under horribly repressive and nonsensical patriarchal structures and assumptions, and we just started trying to play by those rules at some point. Even before female suicide bombers, though, there were mothers of suicide bombers talking about how proud they were of their ‘martyr’ sons.

  14. I am also appalled by this data. I cannot conceive of acts of such violence in men; in women and children they become more horrific.

    We carry life. We cherish it. I admit that I do not understand the mindset of anyone – male or female, but especially female – that does not.

  15. I think I may have shared similar preconceived notions.

    These statistics are so frightening, and sad.

  16. Because as I’ve always argued there are not 2 genders. It’s gender stereotyping that makes people feel this way. As I’ve always said, yes there are male and female traits but they can be found in any gender.

    Remember Myra Hindly who helped Ian Bradly to kill so many young children? Not all biological women are nurturing, and some biological men are.

  17. I’m with you Jane. I have higher expectations for women. This is awful and yes, somehow more disappointing.

  18. I guess crazed lunacy can affect either gender. It somehow feels crazier when a woman does it, though.

  19. I don’t see the disconnect, since, as Evenshine points out, fanatacism can infect anyone. Belief is genderless, obsession is genderless, fantaticism is genderless. (Nurturing is also genderless.) The only reason there is only a 20 year history of female suicide bombers is that the male-dominated cultures that foster suicide bombing didn’t *allow* them before. Not because there weren’t women willing to do it.

  20. For the record, please re-read my first paragraph. I am well aware that women can be violent monsters, too. I was just “happily stuck in the stereotypical mindset” that women and war don’t mix. Maybe my weak title threw everyone off. Maybe my writing wasn’t well developed enough – but I realize my notions are pre-conceived, cliche and bromidic.

  21. This type of murder – “homicide bombers” as they are sometimes called – requires a specific mindset. I would guess that “mindset” could be understood by most of us as a kind of insanity. And insanity, when it strikes, does not care so much about gender as it does about your brain itself and how it works. Historically, women have had no better defense against insanity than have men. Although, perhaps, men have been more prone to violent insanity. I think that’s your point here – that the perception doesn’t necessarily fit, and that women can be just as violent when they’ve obtained this insane mindset.

    It’s something we must work to prevent, regardless of gender. Education is the only real weapon, I think, since it’s going to be too hard to identify those who need medication and therapy all of the time. But every case is different, and every person must be taken as an individual.

  22. I don’t have anything deep really on this topic. imo, this all has something to do with the lack of alternatives. When you promise someone a better afterlife, when they have little to no options in real life, it just becomes easier to make that decision, esp. if religion manages to demonize the other side… Good discussion as usual.

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