Women in Male Dominated Spaces: Considering the Place of Women in Fascist and Nationalist Regimes

By: Julia Aguiar

That fascist and nationalist regimes are male dominated spaces in leadership and practice has been a prevalent theme throughout the course. From the virile man in Mussolini’s Italy to the image of the protean soldier in the Third Reich, defining and enforcing notions of masculinity are of great concern to fascist and nationalist regimes. In elucidating the violence perpetrated by these regimes, understanding their makeup is of vital importance. However, if we let the buck stop at the masculine makeup of fascist and nationalist, we would be granting impunity to an often overlooked group of perpetrators within fascist and nationalist regimes. Indeed, while fascist and nationalist regimes might be male dominated spaces they are not without the presence and active participation of women. The role of women in fascist and nationalist regimes is the topic of Wendy Lower’s book Hitler’s Furies and Lopez and Sanchez’s “Blue Angels”. 

Lower’s book and Lopez and Sanchez’s article begs the question: what is the significance of women as active participants within fascist and nationalist regimes? Women took on a variety of different professional roles in Nazi Germany including teachers, nurses, and secretaries. Within these roles, women exercised different levels and types of violence. For example, a nurse was in a position to exert more physical violence against Jewish people than a teacher who perpetrated a less overt and physical type a violence through the indoctrination of youth within the Third Reich (Lower 41 and 39). Not to mention the action of lovers, wives, and mothers who often perpetrated Nazi violence in devotion to the men in their lives and fidelity to Germany. According to Lopez and Sanchez, Nationalist women during the Spanish Civil War were highly organized in their networks. They often achieved greater success and endured longer than male-controlled networks because of their female makeup; they could fly under the radar of Republicans for the way that they acted in ways that defied the gender norms assigned to them. In both cases, there was an expectation for women to participate and contribute to the regimes with a love for country while adhering to notions of domesticity and broader gender norms. Both Lower’s novel and Lopez and Sanchez’s article demonstrate a certain line that women in fascist and nationalist regimes had to toe. A line that was often paradoxical and difficult to manage which became manifest, in the case of the Germany, in the post-war trials. 

One Reply to “Women in Male Dominated Spaces: Considering the Place of Women in Fascist and Nationalist Regimes”

  1. It is interesting that it is exactly the male-dominated aspect of these systems that made these women so successful in becoming spies or even being able to avoid punishment after the caused violence towards Jews. They knew how they were perceived by men because of the extreme importance they put on the gender roles and masculinity. This allowed them to know how to act to “toe the line” you noted in your post and the simple fact that it was rooted into the ideology that the woman was considered innocent and fragile surely is a great indicator of how and why women “got away” with some things during this period.

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