Authoritarianism and the Weaponization of Gender and Sexuality

While the gender norms of an authoritarian society mostly derive from traditionalist ideology, they also serve practical goals of the regime. During wartime, it is crucial that every citizen knows their role, leaving little room for individualism and freedom of expression. For example, men are to be hardened soldiers, and in some cases, ruthless killing machines, because this spirit is required to defend the country or conquer other regions. This concept applied to Walter Hauck, the former Nazi soldier profiled in Kuhne’s article. Although Hauck appeared to be a family man and proud father, his warm demeanor was completely absent during his time as a soldier and this was driven by the Nazi regime’s conscious effort to reinforce strict gender roles and discourage moral evaluation of actions on the battlefield. However, I found it interesting in the article that despite the outward display of masculinity among the troops, the intimacy of this brotherhood allowed more “feminine” characteristics to manifest between the men. I suspect the reason for this is because all soldiers shared the emotional trauma of war, which creates a deep level of empathy for each other’s vulnerabilities and weaknesses.

            Sandulescu’s article about the Romanian fascist movement’s concept of the “new man” shed more light on how authoritarian regimes incorporate gender identity into their goals. In this case, the Legionnaires sought to mobilize the Romanian population against a perceived internal threat: The Jews. This required a rejuvenated idea of manhood, in which men were to adopt almost mythical qualities of strength and aggression. According to fascist ideology, this would be impossible in a democracy, which fundamentally creates divisions in society, based on party lines and conflicting ideologies. The one-party states seeks to eliminate these differences, to create a unified national identity that can respond effectively against any potential threat.  

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