Cross-wiring Feminisim and Terrorism:
Rise of the 'Feminist Threat'
Tuesday 30 October, 2012
Columbia University, The Heyman Center
2960 Broadway, Common Room
In the immediate aftermath of the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States, television icon of the North American religious right, Reverend Jerry Falwell, made a guest appearance on the Christian Broadcasting Network's 700 Club in which he claimed that feminists, among others, were at least partially to blame for ‘God’s wrath descending on America’.
As outrageous as Falwell’s remarks may have been, they made an explicit connection between the occurrence of terrorism on United States’ soil, and the circulation and institutionalization of feminist principles and practices within dominant North American culture. In Falwell’s formulation, feminism is, however indirectly, causally connected to, and responsible for, terrorism. For the televangelist moral right, feminism, like terrorism, is constructed as a political threat to the United States.
This talk seeks to establish the grounds upon which feminism can be constructed as aligned with terrorism. I argue that, in the United States, the discursive cross-wiring of feminism with terrorism – which extends well beyond the texts of the religious right – finds its origins in a particular constellation of forces informing the rise and representation of second wave feminism in the 1970s; in particular, the rise of both ‘home-grown terrorism’ (terrorism carried out by US citizens on US soil) and, the ‘new’ threat of the female terrorist. By asking what are the conditions of possibility for the discursive cross-wiring of feminism with terrorism, this talk aims to open up a space to reflect upon the ways that feminism resonates within the popular domain today.
Dr Amanda Third is Senior Lecturer in the Institute for Culture and Society at the University of Western Sydney, Australia. She has published extensively on feminism, terrorism and political radicalism in journals such as Parallax, Hecate, Social Alternatives, and Current Issues in Criminal Justice. She has recently completed a manuscript on popular cultural representations of female terrorists, which discusses how second wave feminism was ‘cross-wired’ with terrorism within the United States popular imagination in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Dr Third also has a research interest in the socio-cultural dimensions of young people’s technology use and has participated in several university funded collaborative research projects. In 2009, she was awarded the Murdoch University Medal for Early Career Research Achievement. Dr Third is currently President of the Cultural Studies Association of Australasia (CSAA) and Research Program Leader in the Young and Well Cooperative Research Centre.