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“The Fighting Made Me Feel Alive:” Women’s Motivations for Engaging in Left-wing Terrorism: A Thematic Analysis


Journal Abstract

Even though it is well documented that women have had, and continue to have, much more prominent positions and stronger participation in violent left-wing extremism and terrorism compared to other forms of political violence, the literature on their motivations to join militant left-wing milieus and groups is under-developed. Compared to female members of violent extreme right, jihadist, or ethno-separatist groups, little is known about the drivers involved in motivating women to join the violent far-left. My study examines 13 autobiographies of German and American women who were active in various forms of left-wing terrorism to shed light on their motivational themes for joining those militant groups. The analysis identified four key motivational themes across the autobiographical materials: living a completely authentic life as political warriors (consequentialism), being part of a global rebellion (internationalism), moral superiority of the cause, and responding to intolerable prison conditions caused by illegitimate governmental force or police brutality. The findings highlight the importance of understanding women’s involvement in terrorism through their own complex decisions and agency.

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