Women joining the far right is far from new

Michaela Bax-Leaney

There is consistent and repeated historical precedence for the participation of women in far-right movements. And yet, as we again find ourselves witnessing more and more women flock to the far-right, the thought pieces inevitably crop up. Why, we ask, why are women drawn to these movements? Surely it must be an anomaly, or the result of some perfect circumstantial storm. Yet in doing so, we undermine not only the autonomy of women, but also their culpability for these actions.

Furthermore, we need only look to the past, as historians López and Sánchez, Lower, among many others continue to show us – women have long participated actively, of their own volition, in the causes they support, and those causes have and continue to include ones on the far-right. We saw this in instances such as Cate Blanchett’s portrayal of Phyllis Schlafly, in the 2020 miniseries Mrs. America, as the dramatized (and real life) Schlafly railed against the Equal Rights Amendment and in large part contributed to the formation of the ‘Moral Majority.’

Yet as López and Sánchez write, these stories seem to continually confound us because they seem to reject every understanding within women’s and gender history. If, as they say, we have reached a point in historical scholarship where woman-centred narratives are being sought out and told, it is often under the assumption that these narratives in some way tie back to the fight for women’s liberation. But women and their history deserve more nuance, and frankly more accountability than that, with historical and modern discourse recognizing the context and precedence for participation by women in causes other than the liberal feminist movement of the day. Furthermore, that this participation is not necessarily inherently linked to their gender.

One Reply to “Women joining the far right is far from new”

  1. Hi Michaela,
    I, too, agree that historical scholarship and general opinion needs to move away from the assumption that every narrative of women’s history connects to the liberation movement. The nuance of Lower’s as well as Lopez and Sanchez’s works have shown that many women were active in the fascist ideology, as you stated, and I am interested to see where this scholarship could go further by giving a voice to women even further past connections to traditional feminist lenses. In this scenario, seen by contemporary far-right women, perhaps there is something we are missing or misunderstanding to what exactly the appeal is. Or perhaps it is a simple as you say that political ideologies are not linked completely with gender. From the story of Catherine in Chrisafis’ article, it was economic reasoning to join, not so different from many men who join as well. Thank you for the enticing response.

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