Radicalizing Her: Why Women Choose Violence


Thursday, November 5, 2020, 12:00pm to 12:45pm


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Dr. Nimmi Gowrinathan | Founder and Director, Politics of Sexual Violence Initiative

How do we root our analysis of violent women in the perspective of the female fighters who demand to be seen as political actors? While much has been rightly made of the surge of women in electoral politics, the female fighter reclaims women’s place in another form of political life: on the battlefield and in the streets. Based on nearly two decades of interviews with women in the Tamil Tigers in Sri Lanka, the FARC in Colombia, and elsewhere I argue that the erasure of the female fighter from narratives on gender and power is not only dangerous, but also anti-feminist. Viewing the female fighter in all her complexity reveals the myriad of external forces that threaten the existence of the woman who eventually takes up arms: the violent advances of state soldiers and the policymakers that hold the line;  the cultural constraints that hold her captive to trauma; the violence at home and the guns on the streets that she will eventually fight to reclaim. Each encircling her, reinforcing the other -- until she makes the radical choice to break-through. 

Dr. Nimmi Gowrinathan is an activist, writer, and scholar and founder of the Politics of Sexual Violence Initiative where she directs Beyond Identity: A Gendered Platform for Scholar-Activists at the City College of New York, the Publisher of Adi Magazine, and the creator of the Female Fighter Series at Guernica Magazine. Her forthcoming book, Radicalizing Her (Beacon Press 2021), examines the politics of the female fighter.