By Lauren McCoy
Considering the oppressive nature of fascist dictatorship, the agency demonstrated in this week’s material surprised me. Although this was limited to those who were considered legitimate citizens or within the “in-group” of fascist ideology, certain segments of the population seemed able to maneuver and negotiate the restrictive ideologies that, looking only at the strict policies of their government, would seem impossible in theory. In doing so, these citizens are offered a degree of flexibility in their actions, allowing them to challenge or contradict official mandates in a way that the “out-group” was not able to. This is best demonstrated through the leniency towards queer Aryan women or the tolerance towards men who failed to meet the masculine ideal of the super-solider – while opposing gender roles was officially discouraged, there was a grey zone citizens could operate within without evoking the anger of the state.
By extension, these citizens were able to manipulate official mandates to their own advantage. The Blue Angels reading by López and Sánchez illustrates this idea well. While some women fought as Republicans in support of Franco, there seemed to be several instances where women utilized the Republican movement to their own advantage – including Carina Unciti, who was spurred to create the Auxilio Azul Marı´a Paz organization in retaliation for the death of her sister Maria, or the female Catholic organization whose main concern was to protect the clergy from violence during the conflict. While the reading does not go into much detail about their personal beliefs, it is possible that these women were motivated to side with Franco because of what the Republican movement could offer them (i.e ability to act against the elements of the Nationalist movement that they opposed) just as much as their personal investment in his extremist ideology. The Marhoefer reading illustrated a similar idea. Neighbours were able to use Gestapo to their advantage for personal grievances and prejudices, ignoring official interest in persecuting Jewish people to report queer women, a group not formally targeted by the government. It seems clear that there are multiple reasons individuals supported (or at the very least remained complicit) to fascist dictatorship beyond ideology alone, including how their personal interests could be enhanced by the movement.
One Reply to “Question of Agency”
I think that you make a really good point about the surprising amount of agency built into gender under fascism. When I think of fascism, I think of clear cut binaries and immutable hierarchies, but the reality seems to be more subjective, circumstantial, and complicated. Almost as if fascism is an aesthetics driven abstraction predicated upon irrational hatreds that doesn’t do a very good job of accounting for people’s actual lived experiences. Almost.