For the last few decades, women have played a greater role in terrorism. Yet Western news and popular media outlets constantly frame terrorism as a male-controlled domain and that women simply do not fit the “terrorist profile”. When a woman does commit an act of terror, the media manipulates gender images and stereotypes in order to explain her violent behavior. While scholars acknowledge that such gendered narratives distort reality, none have systematically analyzed the effects such messaging techniques have on public perception. For that reason, this study aims to understand how gendered messaging strategies affect individuals’ attitudes towards perceived threat of female terrorists. As such, I tested the efficacy of gendered media messaging by using an experimental research design in which respondents were randomly assigned to one of six treatment groups and shown a short news article with a basic, feminized, or “beautified” frame that recounted an event of a fictitious terrorist attack. After completing the survey, respondents were asked questions regarding their perceptions of threat and willingness to punish the perpetrator. The results of this study illustrate that amplified narratives, containing gendered language with details of the female terrorist’s physical characteristics, are the most effective at provoking higher levels of threat as opposed to a male terrorist committing an identical crime.


Leiby, Michele


Global and International Studies


Political Science

Publication Date


Degree Granted

Bachelor of Arts

Document Type

Senior Independent Study Thesis



© Copyright 2017 Haley C. Davis