Maintaining Privilege

These readings connected the ways in which women engage in politics and war within fascist movements, from Spain to Germany and ending in France. The largest connection between these women are their ideologically right leanings and the ways in which they navigate the patriarchal structures of their movements and time. What we can see is that even though women on the right advance and protect the patriarchal structure and gender norms, it is because they remain relatively insulated from them or benefit from keeping them. While they actively advocate and engage in violence to ensure that structures remain in place to oppress them, they can still maintain privilege from intersecting structures.

It is interesting to compare the ways women from the fascist party in Spain work within a system and movement that actively preaches the submission and passivity of women, which continues to be normalized in the rhetoric around conflict, yet they both participated, benefited, and upheld these norms. We can see they work against their gender interests to fulfil their other interests, specifically their conservative views, as their actions were devalued and reduced to an extension of the feminine. Their roles were minimized and told through the male gaze, yet these women continued to support and act in defense of fascism. For them, their race/religion/ethnicity surpassed the oppressive structures they existed within, the suffering of other women who had intersecting identities were targeted to maintain privilege. They placed their identities of nationalist, and what that entails, above the ways in which their party and ideology harm women.

Hitlers Furies chapter on Why Did They Kill? Touched on several themes from last week that we discussed, specifically the role of women in violence and murder. While we have been socialized within the patriarchal structures that perpetuate a narrative of victimhood, weakness, and lack of agency for women, Hitler’s Furies challenges these assumptions. The role of women in the Third Reich was violent and bloody, and while we attempt to assign murder to men, German Nazi women showed that murder transgressed gender norms. The role of women and their actions were minimized because they did not hold as many high positions, yet their actions were as abhorrent and violent as their male counterparts. Yet again, the narrative then was German women/children needed protection, and the research on these women is under-developed in contrast to Nazi men. It is also important to connect the ways in which privilege and the desire to maintain white privilege allowed German women to disregard the gendered and patriarchal oppression they were subjected to, similarly to Spanish women.

These very easily connect to the uptick in far-right women in our contemporary society, as demonstrated by Marine Le Pen and her nationalist and violent ideologies. The strategy of the French far-right is to invalidate women’s agency and play into patriarchal norms of women as victims and weak to entrench fear of “the other” within society and highlight herself and her party as saviors. This serves as a catalyst for party’s anti-immigrant sentiments and allows white French women, specifically those on the right, to maintain their privileges within white supremacy.

The overall connection we see with these women, is they are willing to maintain patriarchy if it benefits them. Persecuting others is essential to this, as the idea of scarcity of privilege manifests through violence, they must remove/kill/villainize those who pose a threat to their status, regardless of the repercussions of their own gender oppression.

Sources

Wendy Lower, Hitler’s Furies (Houghton Mifflin, 2013).

Sofía Rodríguez López and Antonio Cazorla Sánchez. “Blue Angels: Female Fascist
Resisters, Spies and Intelligence Officials in the Spanish Civil War, 1936–9.” Journal of
Contemporary History, vol. 53, no. 4, (Oct. 2018), pp. 692–713.

Angelique Chrisafis, “From Le Pen to Alice Weidel: How the European far-right set it
sight on women” The Guardian January 29, 2019

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?

Women and the Far Right

By: Lucas Lang

This week provided valuable insight into woman’s roles and perspectives within fascist states. Rather than being bystanders or pawns within far-right politics, women are in fact vital and active within political actions and structure. Not only do they serve as the domestic wives and mothers in compliance with far-right ideology, but during conflicts they are willing to act counterintuitively to their ideology, taking whatever steps necessary to preserve or establish the traditions and world they want to see. Ultimately, there are three primary reasons why women, especially in recent times, have sought right wing populist parties and politics. The first is that they feel marginalized by other groups and parties which have previously held power. They feel they have little to no saw in the power and politics of other groups. The second is issues with immigration. Women who sympathize with the far-right on this issue usually do so because of concerns for their personal, or family’s safety and well-being, which is in line with the domestic identity of women supported by the far right. The final reason, quite related to the first, is a rejecting of modern feminism. Typically, there is a sense among women within the right that feminism has gone too far and has already achieved its objectives. Under these terms, support for the far right has been increasing among women.

On a separate note, another aspect this week that was intriguing was men’s willingness to talk about mass killings they participated in with women within chapter 3 of Wendy Lower’s Hitler’s Furies. I could never get a sense of whether when they were speaking with women, they were doing so to brag about their “manliness” or if they were genuinely concerned about their part in the genocides. If so the latter, then would they have been looking for reassurance that what they were doing was right or might they have been seeking scolding and criticism for having participated in the horrific mass murder. Either way, it seems out of character for men living under the Nazi regime to be presenting themselves as week in front of female company. It would be important to note though that this would be occurring in a private sphere and not publicized or promoted by the government. Nonetheless, it was uncommon for women to have criticized the men for participating. By saying nothing though, were they contributing to the genocide?

Far-Right Women and Missing Voices

Written by Emma Bronsema

In many fascist societies, women play a large and important role. Historically, their roles and femininity has been overlooked, generalized, and propagandized; they were often marginalized, and their complex stories were simplified. However, it is not shocking that women were involved in nationalistic and war efforts. They were heavily ingrained in society as secretaries, social workers, and educators, to name a few. They were also in close proximity to where these wartime events were taking place; close to power and close to crime scenes. Many people became desensitized to what they were seeing, in addition to being ideologically indoctrinated by what their government propagandized.

In fascist Spain and Germany, women’s roles were often used to sell a story to various audiences – including women of a different political view to portray them as ideal and the better between the two. “Officially” both Spanish and German women returned back to a domestic role after the Spanish Civil War and the Second World War ended. Their stories and accounts of the wars and their contribution often went missing. There were many reasons for this, including the fact that many women did not speak about their actions and the events that took place. Moreover, women’s roles were often propagandized, generalized, victimized, hyper-sexualized, and or given a sympathetic image. Furthermore, many women were difficult to track down because they got married and changed their last names. 

Lastly, their stories were not recorded because they were not regarded as relevant at the time. Women’s roles and experience during the war was not an area of interest for reporters and historians at the time. Another reason for the lack in interest stems from political reasons and change in the government, or women were simply left out of studies done. This resulted in many phenomena that have been suppressed, overlooked and under-researched. As well as the stories that are recorded and get told today are a result of selective memory, where the person telling the story trailers it so it is inline with what their audience would like to hear.

Sources used:

Sofía Rodríguez López and Antonio Cazorla Sánchez. “Blue Angels: Female Fascist Resisters, Spies and Intelligence Officials in the Spanish Civil War, 1936–9.” Journal of Contemporary History, vol. 53, no. 4, (Oct. 2018), pp. 692–713. 

Wendy Lower, Hitler’s Furies (Houghton Mifflin, 2013), pp15-75.

The Foreseeable Rise of Women in the Far Right

There seems to be a stereotype of far-right individuals in Europe that has developed over the last decade.  Young, disenfranchised, angry European males who struggle to find employment and opportunity due to any number of reasons, but who end up taking their frustration out on immigrants, minorities, and other typical targets of far right and fascist rhetoric.  While far right movements, parties and protests in Europe have typically been dominated by men, Chrisafis, Connolly and Giufridda point out that this trend is changing. 

This stereotype ignores the fact that women often undergo the same conditions and hardships that men do.  Suffering from unemployment, being unable to provide for family and loved ones, and a feeling of worthlessness are felt by both men and women in the 21st century.  At the same time, women are just as likely to fall victim to far-right trappings because of these hardships.  Scapegoating certain demographics, fostering bigoted and hateful ideals, advocating antigovernmental measures and even perpetrating violence are all trademarks of fascist movements, and are as easily done by women as they are men. 

This newfound female far-right presence is interestingly not unique to Europe.  In the United States, a number of female Republican Representatives and Senatorial candidates such as Lauren Boebert and Kelly Loeffer have espoused increasingly far right political ideals.  In Canada, Kellie Leitch performed alarmingly well in the 2017 Conservative Party of Canada Leadership Race, running on an anti-immigrant platform.  With immigration being the largest motivator of far-right ideals according to Chrisafis, Connolly and Giufridda, women’s role in far right movements is likely only to increase as more and more countries are affected by climate change, leading to greater and greater surges of refugees and immigrants.

Women and The Far-Right

By: Andreea Gustin

This week’s sources allowed us to take a look at both the historical and contemporary appeal of the far-right to women. I’ve had the chance to take other courses centered on Europe during the twentieth century in which I’ve previously learned about the Nazi regime and fascist ideologies. However, I had always felt like there was a gap in my knowledge as none of these courses explicitly covered the role of women. This week’s readings provided a fascinating perspective and challenged my expectations of women’s involvement in the Nazi movement.  

Wendy Lower’s Hitler’s Furies: German Women in the Nazi Killing Fields provided a foundational understanding of why and how women participated in the Nazi movement. One early female activist recounted the political awakening of women to the Nazi movement, in which she said “women could not remain uninvolved in this struggle, for it was their future too, and the future of their children” (p.20). During this time period, women were beginning to gain greater independence – they had a youthful energy and aspirations for a better life. They supported Hitler and contributed to his rise in power as they believed it would be benefitting their nation – in turn, these women aided in committing atrocious crimes. 

It was interesting to read the Guardian article afterwards, From Le Pen to Alice Weidel: how the European far-right sets its sights on women, as it showed commonalities of what interests’ women in the far-right today. Although not the entire reason, one of the contemporary appeals for women to the far-right is the fact that they “feel left behind”. It’s incredibly fascinating to see women gravitate to groups which are or once were dominated by patriarchal ideology in order to further their own aspirations. All in all, I think this week’s sources all provided an intriguing look at the critical role women play in conflict and populist movements. 

The rise of women in Europe’s right-wing movements

by Sydney Linholm

In the article by Angelique Chrisafis, Kate Connolly, and Angela Giuffrida, an investigative look is taken at why right-wing populist parties have begun to attract more and more women. The authors focus on how the surge in right-wing populism seen in Europe over the last twenty years has largely been male-dominated, and how this is now changing because of an increase in women that support these parties. Many right-wing European political parties are led by women, with examples being Marine Le Pen, Alice Weidel, and Giorgia Meloni. But why are women becoming more drawn to supporting parties that do not traditionally support feminism and embody patriarchal ideologies?

As the authors hypothesize, one of the explanations for the supporting of right-wing populist parties could be their belonging to marginalized groups in society such as the working class. They use the disillusioned retail staff and grocery store employees as an example, as one of them interviewed in the article details how the elite in power does nothing to support those who can’t make ends meet. Interestingly, she says” We’ve never tried Le Pen before, so why not give her a chance?”

As is pointed out later in the article, it is ironic how far-right movements are allowing women to have a louder voice yet their attitudes towards women have not changed. For example, the AfD’s gender ratio is 87% male and 13% female, yet female voters still firmly believe that they are a better alternative to the current elite in power because they feel as though the right-wing movements are worth a shot in order to improve the lives of the women who belong to marginalized groups. What doesn’t make sense is the notion that a right-wing populist political party that doesn’t even support the women within its party would support women outside of it, and this is the irony of the entire movement.

Women and the Far-Right: The Secret Weapon

by Jackie Howell

Women’s participation in politics has been limited or unreported, as women tend to occupy positions outside the scope of analysis. Stereotypes like “women are not dangerous” or “women are peaceful” have led to omissions of women’s roles in history. Historians have also failed to include LGBTQ individuals in their historical analysis. This omission has painted an inaccurate picture of the participants in historical movements. Women have often have been relegated to secondary roles to men during World War II, civil rights movements, or diplomatic missions. What was the true impact of women’s participation in politics, and why did these women participate?

This week’s readings, particularly Wendy Lower’s Hitler’s Furies, uncover the role women played in nationalist movements. Traditionally, historians reflected on women’s roles as subordinate to men. Women were depicted as the nurturing, motherly type, either caring for the wounded or children at home. Rarely were women depicted as dangerous in a military sense, as men (and historians) underestimated the extent of women’s participation. While historians have described women’s actions on the home front, they fail to analyze women’s participation in acts of war. Uncovering the gendered bias in historical analysis is a crucial step in illuminating the role that women can play in conflict and political movements.

This week’s readings target gender stereotypes in historical analysis, primarily focusing on how women participated in wars. Lower’s chapter, “The East Needs You,” discusses the four key roles that women played in the expansion of the Nazi regime: teachers, nurses, secretaries, and wives. Interestingly, secretaries and wives turned out to be the most murderous of the group, even though some nurses did participate in the murders of those with disabilities. Historians often underestimate women’s participation in a male-dominated ideology. This brings one to question the extent of women’s participation that has been unreported or missed. For example, the media depiction of the Capitol riots in January often focused on white men, as they seemed to form the majority. However, Women for Trump has gained popularity since 2016, and Europe’s far-right parties have increased their women supporters. The narrative that the far-right ideology is for “white men only” has seemingly been disproven.

 Moreover, Rodriguez Lopez and Cazorla Sanchez point out that women failed to receive an equal punishment to their male counterparts, as women were rarely punished or executed. This failure to punish further perpetuates the narrative that women are not as dangerous or intelligent as men, which is still evident today. For example, a handful of women were arrested from the U.S. Capitol riots, and one woman was even granted permission to travel on a work-related trip to Mexico. This glaring act of (white) privilege further illustrates how (white) women are punished differently due to their portrayal as less dangerous individuals.

To advance the discourse on fascist and populist movements, women’s participation must be analyzed, for it is a disservice to history to only study a portion of participants.

References

Chrisafis, A. (Jan. 29, 2019). From Le Pen to Alice Weidel: How the European far-right set its sight on women. The Guardian, theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2019/jan/29/from-le-pen-to-alice-weidelhow-the-european-far-right-set-its-sights-on-women

Lower, W. (2013). Introduction. In Hitler’s furies (pp. 1-14). Houghton Mifflin.

Lower, W. (2013). The East needs you. In Hitler’s furies (pp. 32-74).Houghton Mifflin.

Lower, W. (2013). The lost generation of German women. In Hitler’s furies (pp. 15-31). Houghton Mifflin.

Rodríguez López, S., and Cazorla Sánchez, A. (2018). Blue angels: Female fascist resisters, spies and intelligence officials in the Spanish Civil War, 1936–9. Journal of Contemporary History, 53(4): 692–713.

Women in Far-Right Movements

 By: Willem Nesbitt

The inclusion of women in far-right movements is nothing new. As seen in Wendy Lower’s Hitler’s Furies, women played a prominent role within the Nazi regime, slotting into the role of “adoring wives and robust mothers” (Lower, p. 39), but also participating in Nazi mass murders in concentration camps. What is new to the modern far-right movements, however, is the level of prominence in which women are able to attain. Angelique Chrisafis, Kate Connoly, and Angela Giuffrida detail the numerous women who work at the forefront of their nation’s far-right political parties, ranging from Marine Le Pen in France, to Alice Weidel in Germany.

                Opening with an anecdote of AfD MP Corinna Miazga being told “she would be better suited to being a pole dancer than an MP” by a male colleague, the authors of the Guardian article exhibit one of the many ironies surrounding women within far-right movements, detailing how members of the AfD were upset she dared reveal this transgression, more worried about the bad light being cast upon the party than the fact that she was insulted in the first place. This single anecdote exhibits that although modern far-right movements now allow women into their upper echelons, very little has changed in the way of attitude towards them, and the AfD’s gender ratio sitting at only 87% male and 13% female demonstrates how the inclusion of women is still only a very small minority.

Broken system

Wendy Lower’s book, Hitler’s Furies, is a chilling ascending tale, from, as she puts it, witnesses, to accomplices, to perpetrators, culminating with the last sentence: they got away with murder. Sadly, I think that the trials and investigations of the 1950s and the 1960s and the results, especially where charges are dropped because of a lack of convincing elements, are not specific to this time period, nor accused women. The Nuremberg and Lemberg trials mentioned in the last chapters, regarding the motivations and fate of the women, reminded me of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia trial held in La Hague. The process, accusations and testimonies are described in the novel They Would Never Hurt a Fly by Croatian author Slavenka Drakulić. Although she does not, like Lower, focuses exclusively on the crimes committed by women, the atrocities reported and the outcome of the trials unfortunately point to the same conclusion. People that had murdered, planned and conducted genocide, would try to turn the system to their advantage, by lying, denying, using false alibis, pretending to have forgotten, accusing others (even accusing the presumed victims!..), up to the point where even a good amount of testimonies was not considered a sufficient proof. The particular case of Johanna Altvater, who murdered children, really struck me. The fact that she was acquitted because of insufficient evidence, even though there were witnesses, is plainly frustrating and discouraging, and makes me question what more proof would be needed. I think this is taking the “innocent until proven guilty” a little too far, and that it translates into modern day trials. We probably all have heard or followed a case where the accused was found not guilty because of a reasonable doubt. Even though evidence point to him, and the judge and prosecutor know so, the law is made so that the accused are more protected than the victims. And in cases where victims have been dead for years, well, of course, proof like a body is not available, which is to the advantage of the accused. And this was my moment of anger against the legal system that is not getting better.

Another point that I found interesting in the book and that happens to be a recurrent aspect of war is the feeling of helplessness. It is most apparent in the narrative of watching through the window Jews being rounded up to presumably be shot. Although it does trigger an inner indignation, the witness rightfully thinks, but what can I do? And that can probably apply to every horrifying event where witnesses, made accomplices against their will, simply had no option but to let it happen, because of the fear (which was proven justified) of being punished if they spoke up and tried to stop things or help out. And I think that this helplessness, enhanced by the Nazi propaganda, plagued a lot of people, witnesses, accomplices and perpetrators, and victims, prisoners of a system that, once started, can’t be stopped, at least not from the inside where the helplessness prevails.