Mothers, Monsters, Whores: Women's Violence in Global Politics

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Zed Books, Dec 15, 2007 - Political Science - 276 pages
2 Reviews
A woman did that? The general reaction to women's political violence is still one of shock and incomprehension. Mothers, Monsters, Whores provides an empirical study of women's violence in global politics. The book looks at military women who engage in torture; the Chechen 'Black Widows'; Middle Eastern suicide bombers; and the women who directed and participated in genocides in Bosnia and Rwanda. Sjoberg & Gentry analyse the biological, psychological and sexualized stereotypes through which these women are conventionally depicted, arguing that these are rooted in assumptions about what is 'appropriate' female behaviour. What these stereotypes have in common is that they all perceive women as having no agency in any sphere of life, from everyday choices to global political events. This book is a major feminist re-evaluation of women's motivations and actions as perpetrators of political violence.
  

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Sjoberg and Gentry write an excellent exposee which undermines a traditional and incorrect perspective in feminism that women are not full political agents because they cannot "do violence". Through a refreshing empirical analysis, the authors explain the effects of dis-empowering discourses of female passivity and chart new political and academic paths for analyzing what it means to be "political" as a female.  

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(Disclaimer: I am not a social scientist and have only a casual interest in select social science topics; feminism or women's studies are certainly not among those topics, neither is much of current global politics)

I admit feminism has never been one of my most favorite subjects, and this book did little to change that. The authors have clearly devoted a significant amount of time to gathering data, which I'm sure is of great interest to other sociologists looking for sources to cite. For me, the text connecting that data immediately entered a bitter conflict with my attention, and my attention promptly surrendered, routed, and was nevertheless unethically chased down and speared in the back by heavy cavalry, decimated to the last man, child, and yes, woman.

The high point was the attempt at illustration of stereotypes of violent women which I found interesting, however the claims lacked confidence and brevity and I found myself getting tangled up in the disorganized arguments.

I disliked the fact that the book appeared to be mainly concerned with finely dissecting the Abu Gharib scandal and the Chechen and Middle Eastern suicide bombers. It felt like "women" was some new thing invented fifty years ago which people only now began to seriously examine. Only passing examination of historical prevalence of important sociopolitical events and trends (the book talks about no trends) where women were involved was made, and I could not derive any sane, useful, meaningful "general" (if only in the sense of "applies to something besides the authors' strange take on a single isolated incident") conclusion- either such things were deemed unnecessary, or were buried far too deep beneath the convoluted language for me to find.

Throughout I could not help feeling being mistaken for a well-informed academic in the authors' particular field of study- so many "why should I care? Why is this important?" questions I inevitably found myself asking were nonchalantly ignored. Perhaps if I was a well informed expert, I would have enjoyed this book more, but as it is... Umm. Yes.
 

Contents

A WOMAN DID THAT?
1
TWO NARRATIVES OF MOTHERS MONSTERS
27
THREE TRIPLE TRANSGRESSIONS AT ABU GHRAIB
58
FOUR BLACK WIDOWS IN CHECHNYA
88
SEVEN GENDERING PEOPLES VIOLENCE
174
LET US NOW SEE BAD WOMEN
199
Copyright

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About the author (2007)

Laura Sjoberg is Assistant Professor at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Virginia.
Her first book Gender, Justice and the Wars in Iraq was published in 2006.  She has published articles on just war theory in the International Journal of Feminist Politics, International Politics and International Studies Quarterly.  Her research focuses on gender, just war theory, international security and international ethics.
Caron Gentry is an Assistant Professor of Political Science at Abilene Christian University in Abilene, Texas. Her previous work has been published in the journal Terrorism and Political Violence.  Her research interests are gender, terrorism and political violence. 
 

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