Framing the Narrative: Female Fighters, External Audience Attitudes, and Transnational Support for Armed Rebellions

Devorah Manekin, Reed M. Wood*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


Female combatants play a central role in rebel efforts to cultivate and disseminate positive narratives regarding the movement and its political goals. Yet, the effectiveness of such strategies in shaping audience attitudes or generating tangible benefits for the group remains unclear. We propose and test a theory regarding the channels through which female fighters advance rebel goals. We argue that female fighters positively influence audience attitudes toward rebel groups by strengthening observers’ beliefs about their legitimacy and their decision to use armed tactics. We further contend that these effects directly help them secure support from transnational nonstate actors and indirectly promote state support. We assess our arguments by combining a novel survey experiment in two countries with analyses of new cross-national data on female combatants and information about transnational support for rebels. The empirical results support our arguments and demonstrate the impact of gender framing on rebel efforts to secure support.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)1638-1665
Number of pages28
JournalJournal of Conflict Resolution
Issue number9
StatePublished - 1 Oct 2020

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The authors wish to thank Reyko Huang, Zaryab Iqbal, Sabrina Karim, Meghan Stewart, and Jakana Thomas for their helpful comments, suggestions, and contributions to earlier drafts of this article. Previous versions of this article were presented at the 2018 annual meeting of the American Political Science Association and the 2019 Eurasian Peace Science Conference. The author(s) received no financial support for the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article.

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s) 2020.


  • civil wars
  • external support
  • gender
  • internal armed conflict
  • propaganda
  • rebellion


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