An analysis of how ISIS propaganda portrays and appeals to women

Stream: Panel 51 - Gender Politics: Gender and Politics
Date: Tuesday, 27 September 2016
Time: 4.00 pm – 5.30 pm


The trend of Western muhajirat (female migrants) travelling to Islamic State (IS) held territory has captured the attention of the world and renewed scholarly interest in how the propaganda campaigns of violent non-state political movements appeal to and mobilise female recruits. Despite a growing scholarly interest in this field, current academic discourse is dominated by studies that focus on social media accounts to understand what motivates females to support groups like IS. This paper seeks to address a significant gap in the literature by adopting a more holistic approach that fuses narrative analysis of messages referring to or targeting women in IS’s Dabiq magazine (the official English-language magazine of IS’s Al Hayat media centre) and female audience perceptions of this messaging. It applies a coding methodology that identifies recurrent themes and their frequencies in Dabiq narratives augmented by detailed narrative analysis. The hypothesis at the heart of this research asserts that IS’s propaganda portrays women in five key ways: victim, mother/sister, corrupter, contributor and fighter. These female archetypes are leveraged in IS communiques, often via female representatives (e.g. Dabiq’s ‘From Our Sisters’ segment), to not only appeal to female audiences but create juxtapositions with IS’s messaging to males that are designed to maximise the appeal of its overall propaganda campaign. By analysing Dabiq’s narratives and audience perceptions, this research offers the field both a conceptual framework through which to analyse propaganda appeals to women and addresses a significant lacuna in the literature with major implications for research and strategic-policy fields.


Kiriloi Ingram (Presenter), Australian National University
Kiriloi M. Ingram is a researcher with the Coral Bell School, Australian National University. Her research is interested in how the propaganda of violent non-state political movements portray and appeal to women.