Rachel Bryson

Debunking Myths on Gender and Extremism

Tony Blair Institute for Global Change


The Tony Blair Institute has commissioned a series of papers to bust the myths on women, gender and extremism that act as a roadblock to constructive policy. These papers show how the role of women in violent extremism has evolved. They highlight examples of how these changes have played out and point to major weaknesses in policymaking.

In the series, Charlie Winter debunks the myth that jihadi women do not engage in combat, suggesting that today they are more likely than ever to fight. Bulama Bukarti and I show how Boko Haram is divided on the role of women in battle. Drawing on Global Extremism Monitor data, we highlight how the group has increasingly deployed women and girls for violence. Devorah Margolin challenges the idea that female extremists are either radical feminists or weak victims, looking at the Palestinian arena. Katherine Brown shatters myths about Muslim converts who have become extremists, focusing on the case of the ‘white widows’. Elizabeth Pearson argues that male violence should not be taken for granted any more than female nonviolence, a notion borne out by ideological shifts in the global jihadi movement. And Emily Winterbotham asks whether mothers are best placed to spot the signs of radicalisation, an idea on which many counter-extremism measures are based.