'Revenge of the virtuous women' : framing of gender and violence by Palestinian militant organizations
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From 2002 to 2006, ten Palestinian women committed suicide attacks against Israeli civilians and military personnel, resulting in more fatalities and wounded noncombatants on average than attacks by male perpetrators. Rather than examining individual women’s motivations to become a suicide bomber, this research endeavor seeks to shift focus from this prevailing analytical approach to a sociological analysis of how militant organizations frame female participation to the public. Social movement perspectives and an extension of Erving Goffman’s work on frame analysis theoretically inform an examination of media produced by the two non-secular militant organizations of Hamas and Palestine Islamic Jihad. Organizations attempt to mitigate the “broken frame” introduced by female incorporation into an overwhelmingly male enterprise by strategically creating new frames that exalt and reinterpret extant social norms. Organizations frame female perpetrators as un-feminine individuals prior to their actions but, through the act of martyrdom, frame them as feminized symbols of the threat posed to Palestinian society, and its gender order, by Israeli military presence in the occupied territories. Martyrdom is framed, physically and symbolically, as a transformative experience. An application of frame analysis to violent social movements offers researchers the opportunity to understand how groups attempt to garner support and advance their interests within their populations and abroad.