Fatal Attraction: Women Who Love Terrorists

Throughout the history of modern terrorist movements, women have played a surprisingly dominant role in terrorism. While much has been said and written about these women, it is not the purpose of this paper to address the topic of women who are terrorists. Rather this paper considers the topic of women who love terrorists—a theme that appears in both anti- and pro-terrorist novels. This choice is justified because terrorism is by no means a one-sided “affair.” Society also plays a role in the dynamic of terrorism. In her essay “On Violence,” Hannah Arendt argues against the popular misconception that violence is the means by which small minorities become powerful. She attributes this power instead to a phenomenon called “negative unity.” Negative unity occurs when the majority refuses to use its strength to overpower a disruptive minority. Those women who love terrorists provide the opportunity not only to address the role society plays in the dynamic of terrorism but also to analyze closely this phenomenon of negative unity. More specifically, analysis of these women leads to consideration of the seductive power of terrorism; the often tragic consequences that society’s attraction for terrorism has for both society and the terrorist; and the extent to which society participates in and may be responsible for terrorism. Discussion begins with Dostoevskij’s terrorist novel The Devils, in which he identifies three types of women who love terrorists: the society girl (Lisa), the patroness (Julia von Lembke), and the nurse (Daša). Dostoevskij’s paradigm is then traced through the Russian terrorist novels of Sergej Stepnjak-Kravčinskij, Boris Stepnjak, and Andrej Belyj. Throughout the paper, reference is also made to the terrorist novels of Henry James, Joseph Conrad, Ethel Lillian Boole Voynich, and Abraham Cahan.