Using Men to Strengthen Authoritarian and Nationalistic Regimes

Written by Emma Bronsema

Authoritarian and nationalist regimes, such as Romania, Germany, and Italy, wanted to strengthen the unity within their society. They had charismatic leaders with influence over the masses. These men demonstrated and dictated the archetype – the ideal citizen who was active and whom every man was supposed to aspire to be. This idolized figure gave men a person to strive to be, and modeled a way to behave. This advertisement of a “new-man”, who had hero-like qualities, offered a sense of belonging, purpose, and validation within their community. He was used as a way to combat revolutionary movements of people and “fix” the shortcoming of the Romanian economy and politics. It was also used to strengthen and mandate how regimes, such as Germany and Italy, were to run. 

The ideal citizen was a specific kind of man. There was a constructed idea of what the male population should strive for; with the importance placed on strength, and an emphasis placed on a newly defined masculinity. He was a man who had control and independence, but followed order without question, and had camaraderie. They had to be tough, aggressive, stoic, have endurance, control over their entire being – including their body, mind and psyche – as well as have the ability to sacrifice unquestioned. 

In these authoritarian and socialist regimes, there was a need for social interaction, and affirmation and validation by other men. They built and fostered the desire and drive for camaraderie. The ability to be independent and stand on your own was just as important as the ability to work as a cohesive group. If one man was weak or failed, the other members of the group were lumped in with that description.

Weakness was associated with femininity; therefore if a man was weak, he was seen as less than, and not a strong, tough man. However, there was a contradiction where a true man was able to integrate his “femininity” in his life. He was supposed to be able to do traditional feminine tasks, such as publicly show affection to his wife and children. And yet, he had to be able to do this without other people questioning his manhood. His masculine identity had to be so strong, there was no doubt he was a true man, even if he was in touch with his “feminine” side. He was supposed to be in complete control of all aspects of himself.

Sources:

Thomas Kühne, “Protean masculinity, Hegemonic Masculinity: Soldiers in the Third Reich” Central European History Vol 51, Issue 3 (September 2018): 390-418. 

David Paternotte and Roman Kuhar, “Disentangling and Locating the “Global Right”: Anti-Gender Campaigns in Europe” Politics and Governance Vol. 6, No. 3 (2018): 6-19

Valentin Sandulescu, “Fascism and Its Quest for the ‘New Man’: The Case of the Romanian Legionary Movement.” Studia Hebraica 4 (2004): 349-61. 

One Reply to “Using Men to Strengthen Authoritarian and Nationalistic Regimes”

  1. Hi Emma,

    I think this is a really great analysis of the ways in which gender has been constructed in order to facilitate national narratives of strength. The observations you made can translate well to the rise of the far-right now around the world and this idea that men must adhere to rigid gender identity to be validated within these groups, otherwise the femininity undermines their manhood. Connecting this to the backlash from the far-right in the media and general public to Harry Styles wearing a dress on the cover of a magazine, you can see very similar parallels. When we discuss patriarchy and hatred of women, we rarely ever talk about how stigmatizing femininity in men is an integral facet of maintaining this oppression. The toxicity with which masculinity has to be performed really emphasizes how illegitimate feminine qualities are understood within the far-right and fascist movements, but also the general public.

    Alexandra

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