Contradictory Genders

Declan Da Barp

The perception of gender roles, sexuality, and masculinity within fascist ideology appear to be rigidly defined and static – with a domineering man controlling his wife and the perceived weakness of women and homosexual men generally. Upon a deeper study though, this is not this case. As explored in the works of Thomas Kühne, Sofía Rodríguez López and Antonio Cazorla Sánchez a more complex and fluid understanding can be gleaned, with simple ideas of white, heterosexual, male superiority being not the only actors able to facilitate change.

            From Kühne, the Nazis defined the “hard” man to be aggressive, strong, and disciplined (394). This definition of masculinity can also be seen in the Spanish context in viewing the inverse of how López and Sánchez define Francoist women, as soft, innocent, mother-like characters (696). In this context, men were understood to be the driving force of change, with domineering Francoist and Nazi men fighting, and honorifically dying at the foot of the nation. As observed in the cover page for NS-Frauenwarte, that soldier, the farmer, and the labourer as depicted as the builders of the nation, front-facing and public, while the mother is depicted sequestered to the domestic setting, childrearing and home building (Kühne, 397). In this depiction, women are cast as secondary citizens with little agency in the political realm.

            While the nuances of Franco’s and Hitler’s fascism alter the realities for many citizens, the role of women, in theory, was quite similar. With that said, as seen observed in the role of female spies and members of the fifth column in Republican cities like Barcelona and Valencia, it is clear that women were a vital part of the social fabric within the fascist political sphere. This is further compounded when viewing how “feminine” tasks like sewing, peeling potatoes, and cleaning were divvied up within individual Wehrmacht units (Kühne, 409). This clear contradiction is perceived gender roles, the fighting women and the domestic men display the fluidity of gender within fascist society.    

Works Cited

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

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.

3 Replies to “Contradictory Genders”

  1. I agree with what you pointed out, I also noticed that these two examples of fascism used specific types of gender roles and norms, but where it suits them they ditch these norms for whatever works to support their regimes (even if it requires some sort of explanation that undermines the images of what should be). In my post I made the point that this actually undermines their own regime would you agree with that point or would you say that they can get away with these little contradictions?

    1. I was also quite struck with gender norms within fascism, and I think you have done a really great job at outlining the ways in which gender roles could be used to suit the needs of the regime. In response to Kathleen’s question, I think that fascists could get away with contradictions when it suited them, just as we mentioned in our discussion last week regarding internationalism – with respective parties not necessarily needing to agree with every part of the interaction, instead being selective when it benefits them. Although, I would be very interested to see what others think about this question.

      1. I think that’s a really good point. That the use of gender norms was entirely self-serving. Particularly within the Werhmarcht the coopting of feminine gender roles was used not only to signify a hierarchy but also to build community.

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