Are women are adding credibility to far-right movements?

I don’t think it had quite occurred to me until this week how prominent women have been in far right movements. If you look at the major players (at least in Western Europe) there are many lead by women. We have La Pen in France running the National Rally, Corinna Miazga in Germany running the AFD, and Georgia Meloni leading the Brothers of Italy. There are others like Ebba Hermansson, who is part of the Sweden Democrats, who are prominent in their own parties even though they are not yet in a categorical leadership position.

This is interesting for many reasons of which the most interesting one is the fact that these parties seem to be a male dominated scene with all of the trappings one would expect. In fact I would almost go as far to say that the reason these movements are typically dismissed is because of that masculine focus and their majority involvement. Obviously there are many undesirable elements to these movements, which I must add, am merely making a case for the reason why they lose out on so much of the available votes. This trope of “angry white men” hurts these parties in many ways. From making them seem uneducated, emotional, and childish as they are simply lashing out and on the fringe of major politics. These women are not a force to be dismissed though. La Pen is neck and neck with Macron in the polls. She could be the next president of France! As well as the AFD being the 3rd largest party in Germany, and the Brothers of Italy are quickly becoming Italy’s third party as well. So what does this mean? Is it directly related to the fact that people can’t use these tropes and stereotypes to dismiss these groups anymore? Is it entirely unrelated? The AFD has a gender problem in that there is still a huge margin between men and women’s involvement in the party. La Pen does not struggle with that and neither does Meloni. Are they appealing to women better? Or are they fixing their parties PR problems? Or…are they simply good leaders and smart politicians and any attempt to categorize them, and their success, as anything but a sexist argument that dismisses and diminishes their accomplishments?

4 Replies to “Are women are adding credibility to far-right movements?”

  1. I think you raise quite a number of interesting questions here. The one that hits the nail on the head for me, is (funny enough) the last one, in regards to whether or not the increasing numbers of women to these parties may be due to the fact that these women leaders are simply just doing an excellent job of reaching out to these potential members. One wonders if this seemingly European trend may start to take a stronger foothold here in North America, and whether the Leslyn Lewis’s and Nikki Haley’s of the continent are only the beginning of a bigger shift to occur in the near future.

  2. I wholly agree with your idea that these far-right movements suffer under their own weight of masculinity and being predominantly made up of men, or supported by men. In the article from the Guardian, Höchst stated that she didn’t engage with the AfD “information point” in her town until there were women present instead of just only men, and shows why there may be a recent push by these groups to include more women in them.
    I would be very interested to see some statistics about the gender ratio in the membership of these parties over the years in order to see if there are any trends. Are there more women joining year after year? Is there a noticeable increase in female membership in, say, the National Rally after Le Pen came to power in 2011? Has the number of women in prominent positions increased?

  3. Given mine is the third comment here, it looks like you’ve struck a chord with what you wrote!
    Having women in prominent roles would certainly, one expects, help break the ‘pale, stale, male’ image with which some right-wing parties struggle. By breaking out of a narrow mold and indicating buy-in from other sectors of society, they present themselves as a mainstream party built around a popular ideology.
    And so, for that, I think we cannot simply dismiss viewpoints as ‘sexist arguments’ and then refuse to interact with them. Even if that’s all they are, the importance of optics in electoral politics means that such views need to be documented and understood, because they have real-life impacts and create a real-life issue. Acknowledging that Le Pen being a woman might impact her party’s ratings (either positively or negatively) among certain demographics isn’t, by itself, sexist; it’s acknowledging the existence of sexist views, and arguably is a key part of actually understanding what’s going on.

    As a note, though – I don’t believe Miazga leads the AfD,

  4. You make an interesting point there about women not being seen as active in far-right movements, when they actually are deeply engrained in them. I would argue that in a way, it was to their advantage. Historically, they got out of trouble and trials easier but was able to do some significant damage to society along the way. Their roles, while either downplayed or unrecorded, largely impacted the society they were in; and I’m very much looking forward to seeing what women can do as they are starting to be more prevalent and noticed in politics and far-right movements.

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