Policy

Women in Congress Tackle Women Terrorists

An all-female roundtable discusses problem of female recruitment

McSally said there are issues specific to women to address regarding terrorism. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

They're from different sides of the aisle, but Reps. Martha McSally, R-Ariz., and Kathleen Rice, D-N.Y., are finding common ground on how to counter terrorism. Rice, a former district attorney, said it helps to have women in the conversation because they could have a more meaningful insight.  

“In terms of how to address women in particular, there are some probably more unique qualities that, I think, make it helpful to have women like Martha and I,” she said prior to a roundtable discussion on terrorism on Tuesday.  

“I’ve been fighting gender generalization my whole life, so I’m not going to be one to say, ‘Well, because I’m a woman I think this way.’ But I think with my military background, I have a pretty broad understanding of the terrorist threats we’re facing,” McSally, a former fighter pilot, said prior to the discussion on Tuesday.  

“The more diverse the body is that you’re a part of, the more effective you’re going to be,” Rice said. “Certainly Martha has a different perspective than I do, even though we’re both women, just given our backgrounds. But, obviously there’s no denying that women are more in-tune with what makes women tick than maybe some of my male counterparts.”  

At the discussion featuring other female experts on the issue, the women discussed ISIS’ efforts to recruit women and what kind of woman is susceptible to such recruitment.  

“We’ve had a number of hearings and I’m the only one who’s, you know, asking the questions about the trends of recruiting women and girls and how they’re having a different experience,” McSally said.  

She added, “we can’t just have it be one size fits all” when it comes to countering extremism for different genders.  

“But, the methodology is all the same,” Rice said. “What makes a woman vulnerable are the same things that makes a man vulnerable to radicalization.”  

“Like we see with [Tashfeen] Malik in San Bernardino or some of the women that were housing the Paris attackers, there are radicalized women that are not vulnerable and naïve that are involved in this fight.”

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