Why do women join Extreme Right-Wing (ERW) groups and how different are their motivations from their male counterparts? In a space that has traditionally been dominated by men, the radical-right now appears to be making an active effort to close the “gender gap” and women are becoming more visibly active in the movements than ever before. In an analysis of European Social Survey data, (done before the pandemic in 2019) - across seven European countries, showed that more than 40% of voters for the populist radical right, were women.
Historically we have seen that ERW groups hold largely “traditional” conservative or “Christian values” and their views on the “women’s role”, centre around promoting women as wives, mothers and homemakers, a space you would not generally align with the more feminist values of the modern women. However, with the new radical-right groups, arguing that multiculturalism could see a loss of Western democratic rights, - which could include women’s rights, tolerance of LGBT communities and animal welfare - the ERW is perhaps no-longer the unappealing space it once was for the modern women.
Even the English Defence League (EDL) at one point declared its openness to women and LGBT supporters, and whilst the group remained a largely male majority, other none UK groups have strived to recruit women and have been very successful. It was reported in 2019 that half of the Latvian National Front’s members were in fact, women. Over the last few years, here in the UK, we have seen many populists far-right groups, appearing to have women holding forward facing positions of power, Jayden Fansen Former deputy leader of Britain First, Laura Towler deputy leader of Patriotic Alternative and Ann Marie Waters former leader of For Britain who’s party lynched-pinned its whole agenda around promoting the fear of the Western values and culture being lost to the terror of Islam.
In the US, many prominent voices in the far-right also see the value in recruiting the “modern high IQ woman”, and are promoting policies to support this recruitment, Greg Johnson - the American white nationalist and editor of Counter Current – suggested that in order to encourage women to have families while they are still young, women could earn one year of free college education for every child they raise in their home until the age of 6, in a country where education is even more unaffordable than our own, this could seem like an attractive incentive.
The awareness and benefit to women feeling empowered, heard, and valued in the racial right has been growing behind the scenes in the ERW spaces for a long time. Many White Nationalist online spaces now hold female-only chat rooms and subsections to appeal to this ever-growing audience, The Third Position website, holds a female directory which leads the viewer to spaces like, Women for Aryan Unity, female bloggers, and online magazines such as Skuld, which promote outspoken female voices in the White Nationalist arena. These voices aren’t weak and mild, and whilst they may have traditional values surrounding the role of a woman the reality is many feel empowered by their white nationalist community seeing themselves on a…” mission, to protect their family and bloodline” and drawing similarities between themselves and warriors, historic figures, such as Boudicca, Joan of Arc, Countess Matilda Tuscany and ancient goddesses such as Venus and Hecate, which also appeals to the growing connections between ERW and Heathen practice.
Stormfront one of the main ERW forums in the world has opened a chat space inclusively for women, which often talks about the unappealing nature of some ERW spaces and the continued misogynistic attitudes and disrespect, which is something women are no longer willing to accept and much like the other spaces mentioned, empowers women and speaks of them being a necessary part of the growth of the radical right.
“Discouraging those misogynist views would go a long way in attracting more women to Stormfront. I cannot believe some of the gross generalizations and blatant lies men post on some of these threads (I'm sure you all know what I mean). I have never had one directed at me personally, but just reading those types of posts has made me seriously contemplate leaving SF. People who post really insulting comments towards women should be reprimanded by the moderators and administrators. There should be zero tolerance for that kind of behaviour.”
Whilst the involvement of women in this arena may seem like a modern concept, ERW groups have been carving out space for women for decades. During the 1930s the British Fascist Union (BUF) and Oswald Mosley, created a Women’s Section with Oswald's mother Lady Maud Mosley and several ex-suffragettes of the time like Mary Allen, who had pioneered the women’s police force during the First World War. Women made up one-quarter of the BUF membership, and whilst Oswald knew that the organisation included many men with anti-feminist views, women were encouraged to play an active role, trained in jiu-jitsu so they could throw out counter-protestors from meetings, and participating in forward-facing political activities including doorstep canvassing. Oswald Mosley held women in his long-term strategy and knew that their presence made fascism seem less violent and more reassuring and appealing on a constituency level. Mosley recognised the value of women in his agenda and rather than alienating them like many other European fascist parties of the time, he embraced their interest in the BUF. At the time the women involved with the BUF talked about the obvious leap between fascism and the suffragette movement, the BUF seemed a natural successor to the Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU), the militant women’s suffrage organisation which was dissolved in 1917. For women disappointed by conventional political parties of the time, who sought a strong militant leader who required blinding obedience, Mosley was an obvious next step.
This connection between feminism and the extreme right-wing continues in the 70s/80s where influential radical second-wave feminist like Dr Phyllis Chesler actively start to encourage feminist to align themselves to Christian conservative groups to fight against the porn industry and trans women, Chesler also wrote about the loss of Western values in the name of multiculturalism. “… leftists have abandoned Western values in the name of multicultural relativism”.
The ERW have always taken pride in adapting to stay relevant with an ever-changing climate, manipulating the current fears and concerns of a desperate society and aligning with seemingly opposing radical groups to promote their fascist agenda. A good example of this can be seen with the rising popularity of Eco fascism, which sees a traditionally perceived leftist environmental ideology breaking bread with the extremism right. This also sees the ever-increasing connections with the radical feminist movement and the radical right, such as Eco-feminist groups like Deep Green Resistance being infiltrated by the radical right and manipulating their messaging to an anti-trans, anti-immigration message. Perhaps some of this increase in women’s involvement with ERW parties and ideologies is the result of a shift in the radical-right positions on gender and sexuality. Fear is a powerful motivator of hate and something ERW groups hang their policies on. Just as many ERW groups have worked on the threat of X-selected groups stealing our jobs, our women, or our culture, the radical feminist have promoted the idea of “Transgenderism” stealing our gender. Feminist activist Christa Peterson liked the transgender movement to the “Great Replacement” and alleged that “transgenderism” is a Jewish plot with the Pharmaceutical companies profiting. A statement that has frightening similarities to most nationalist conspiracies.
This continued alignment with the anti-trans rhetoric and feminism has created strange bedfellows, In more recent events we have seen Posy Parker - otherwise known as Kellie-Jay Keen-Minshell – the UK’s most prominent anti trans activist and founder of the group, “Standing for Women”, aligning herself with French Canadian white nationalist Jean-François Gariépy, on his podcast which aired on Mumsnet, (a mecca for women supporting other women), in 2019. The podcast was well received and even hailed as “brave” and “brilliant” by many within the Mumsnet community who chose to ignore the white nationalist sitting at the table. Perhaps this was the start of an accepting relationship between the two as during anti-trans rallies in both Melbourne and New Zealand - organised by Posy Parker – neo-Nazi groups were seen performing Nazi salutes and clashing with anti-protestors.
In recent years there has been a growing popularity in movements such as “Trad-Wives” - who look to return to the traditions of conservative female gender roles, that of homemaker and subservient wife. Trad Wives have argued that in a world where there is an expectation to be everything, women are feeling burnt out, and facing judgement from their female counterparts, if their life choices don’t meet the feminist agenda thrust upon them. Many of the young girls our charity has spoken to have found the removal of choice the ERW arena gives them is almost reassuring. Having too many options in an ever-growing insecure world has left them feeling powerless and confused, and when things are pulled back to the traditions of ERW groups and their life’s mission or purpose is to secure the fate of white children and the continuation of the Aryan bloodline, they start to feel a sense of purpose and direction, even starting white only dating sites to simplify the process of finding a match.
It is difficult to attribute one thing to the increasing popularity of radical right and women, but it is clearly a relationship which has been evolving for decades. There is some argument amongst women that the feminist agenda is in fact being used to suppress the choices of some women and perhaps push them into the arms of more conservative or ERW groups and ideologies. The extreme right-wing, will as always continue to adapt to stay relevant, and are masters at appearing to listen when others don’t, being seen as defenders or protectors.
Ultimately, while their cloaks may change, when we strip things back, their agenda remains the same - one of hate at the centre of everything they do, however, to deny that there are still lessons to be learnt from their recruitment techniques is naive and ultimately just as with their male counterparts, we have to look deep into the mire, as without compassionate and understanding dialogue about the growing and changing fears and concerns of many modern women, then perhaps we will see the relationship between women and the ERW continue to grow and this is why we need to create safe spaces to talk about people's concerns and fears, so that we can highlight the ERW is not the answer and that answers lie in us all sitting down, talking about people's concerns and worries and providing platforms where we can openly discuss things without fear of retribution, so people do not feel alone, frightened and voiceless but via open dialogue learn to respect ethnic and cultural differences and not fear them.
The author of this article would like to make readers aware that the following articles were read while researching this subject.
Why are women joining far-right movements, and why are we so surprised? | openDemocracy THE ROLE OF WOMEN IN FAR-RIGHT EXTREMISM (counterterrorismgroup.com) Why the British Union Fascist movement appealed to so many women. (slate.com) What role does gender play in the far right? - C-REX - Center for Research on Extremism (uio.no) Women are joining the far right – we need to understand why | Cynthia Miller-Idriss and Hilary Pilkington | The Guardian
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