chapter  1
12 Pages

Introduction and overview

Why do women decide to join rebel groups? What factors explain why some groups appear to attract such large numbers of female fighters and supporters, while others appear to attract almost none? This question is deceptive in its simplicity, because in attempting to answer it, it soon becomes obvious how little we know about women’s contributions to internal armed conflict on a global scale. This lack of understanding about women in civil wars is indicative of larger issues within the field of international relations (IR) generally, where the trend toward data-driven scholarship and the scientific study of international processes has struggled to meaningfully incorporate gender. A result of this is that scholarly research tends to perpetuate – in a manner either outright or implied – the stereotype that conflict is the domain of men. Consider these examples of statements from recent scholarship on armed rebellion:

The [surveyed] noncombatant group overrepresents men … relative to the general population.