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Shoot the Women First Hardcover – September 22, 1992

3.7 out of 5 stars 7 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

The author, a British journalist who admits to being fascinated by "women committed to violence," set out to discover whether the female of the species really is deadlier than the male. MacDonald interviewed members of the Basque separatist movement, the Italian Red Brigades, the Palestine Liberation Organization, the Irish Republican Army and the German Red Army Faction. She appears awed by her subjects and tends to lightly pass over the criminality of their revolutionary acts, preferring to dwell on their supposed glamour. The only interviewee who comes into clear focus, ironically, is robot-like Kim Hyon Hui, a North Korean government agent who is wholly submissive to male authority (under orders from Pyongyang, she blew up 115 airline passengers in 1985). MacDonald discusses the common notion that most female terrorists are unattractive lesbians and/or feminists gone mad. Here, as elsewhere, she fails to draw any conclusions, or even generalities, from her material. She is very definite, however, in her belief that women revolutionaries have "much stronger characters, more power, more energy" and are "far more pragmatic" than their male counterparts. Thought-provoking and controversial, but disappointingly inconclusive. Photos.
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

Based upon remarkable interviews, British journalist MacDonald examines the experiences and motivations of some of the most notorious female terrorists of the century. The terrorism literature has noted the central roles of women in Western terrorist groups, but this is the first volume to look at those roles in-depth. Using the words of the women, MacDonald provides insight on the fear and anger that motivated them to violence and to leadership within their groups. The women discuss their relationships with male counterparts and their communities. While the female view is explicitly analyzed, the internal workings of terrorist organizations is equally compelling. This volume will appeal to specialists, informed lay readers, and general readers alike.
- William Waugh Jr., Georgia State Univ., Atlanta
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 241 pages
  • Publisher: Random House; 1st edition (September 22, 1992)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0679415963
  • ISBN-13: 978-0679415961
  • Product Dimensions: 1.2 x 6.8 x 9.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,434,139 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
I have very mixed feelings about this book; on the one hand it contains some valuable interviews with some very worthy - and hitherto neglected - individuals, such as Susanna Ronconi and Kim Hyon Hui, and the narrative that it presents is invariably lively, albeit hindered slightly by MacDonald's peculiarly lazy journalistic style (if I had a shiny penny-piece for every time a journalist misuses the word "enormity", I would now have sufficient funds to send the whole sorry caste of them back to elementary school with Collins English dictionaries). I kept mentally comparing her value-laden, interviewer-centric questions with the approach of the late, great Tony Parker, who effaced himself from his subject as thoroughly as if he had never existed.

The key problem here is the author's thesis that female terrorists are more fanatical than their male counterparts, something which she appears to assume is a given despite only the most anecdotal evidence, and which she eventually renders into something approaching a piece of Solanas-style sexism, purely on the basis of a single interview with a German counter-terrorist expert. The following is admittedly a quotation within a quote, but it is not atypical of the author's overall tendency, and it perfectly illustrates the superficiality of her central thesis:

"'There was a television programme shown here recently about a woman who had founded a computer company. Her staff comprised of fifteen employees, twelve of whom were women. She was asked why this was, was she a feminist? No, she said, her employee policy was based on substantial differences between men and women. Women understood things better and faster than men, and were more pragmatic. They not only learnt fast, they worked faster.
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Format: Hardcover
I've owned this book since it was published. MacDonald wrote a glamorizing and "I am Woman, hear me Howl" (or whatever the song says) paean to plain old terrorists who happen to be female.

Nothing new here, Citizen, Move Along now ...

The facts were in long before MacDonald wrote her book: women make efficient and ruthless killers. Even when the experiences of the Red Army's Women Snipers and Fighter Pilots are excluded, there are many of examples of women who kill easily and without hesitation.

Women as assassin/terrorist/mad-bomber is a scary proposition. Women and children, are definitely a force-multiplier in attacks against soft targets. After all, who expects a woman wheeling a baby carriage, followed by a couple of cutesy toddlers, to explode in the middle of a packed shopping mall. Pack the baby carriage with explosives, line the carriage with metal; strap on a bomb vest for that chic preggers look, strap on little "Junior Hamas" brand (tm) belts on the toddlers and then explode all simultaneously with a garage door remote.

Now why do you suppose that the various anti-terrorist organizations of the world are scared spitless?

MacDonald, one could opine, got the idea of exploding women started.

Maybe, maybe not, but they are out there ticking even as I write.
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Format: Hardcover
Journalism requires objectivity first and foremost, but this book offers little. It makes no reasonable effort to provide points of view outside those of the perpetrators presented here.

The book profiles such figures as Pyongyang-born Kim Hyon Hui, who on Nov. 28, 1987 destroyed Korean Air Flight 858, loaded with passengers bound for Seoul; Leila Khaled, a Marxist Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine hijacker with "great hatred of the Jews;" and Red Brigade kidnapper Susan Ronconni, whose group murdered former Italian premier Aldo Moro.

The book parrots their words, and romances their actions as well as the indoctrination of children to hatred and war. MacDonald observes children taught to throw stones at the age of two as adorable resisters, not the examples of parental and societal abuse that they are. She presents unconfirmed reports of Israeli "abuse" without skepticism and pronounces these women "extraordinary," rendering both the reports and the book suspect.

This 1991 book provides an early view of all that is wrong with the Western press corps. Now, reporters go even further, and use every euphemism in the dictionary for people who purposely target civilians. They are terrorists, not "militants" or "activists."

Presenting female killers as normal or even worthy blurs the lines between acceptable and unacceptable. I see nothing normal about their sentiments and nothing glamorous about their desire to inflict pain and suffering on innocents, be they Korean, German--or Israeli.

The author presents the transparent anti-Semitism of those insisting they "do not hate Jews, only Israelis" without comment. Carried to its logical conclusion, this view denies the Jewish people alone among peoples and nations the right to self-determination.

Sorry, but this book flunks journalism 101.

--Alyssa A. Lappen
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is a well written and well thought out piece, and it shines light into the internal dynamics of extremist groups. The tendency most often seen in the press is to depict these organizations as quite two-dimensional, overlooking the fact that these groups have substantial and complex interpersonal dimensions. The observations on the role of women are insightful and informative, in contrast to the press reports and speculations. The authors observations on the commitment and focus of women who join and/or form these groups are quite sharp.

I recommend "Shoot the Women First" for anyone who seeks to understand the extremist mindset and character.
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