If Everything is Populist, Then Nothing is Populist by Aimee Brown

If you can’t adequately define a term, don’t use it, because otherwise it will be embarrassing. For example, according to the Fieschi article, populists are xenophobic, but ‘xenophobic’ just means being against a group, any group, so ALL politicians are a little bit populist, and what even ARE words, man? Similarly, the Rooduijn and Akkerman article made the absolutely mind-blowing discovery that, once the term ‘populist’ had been emptied of all meaning, it could be applied to both the political left and right! It is my assertion that populism cannot be applied to both the left and the right without becoming meaningless, applicable to everyone and no one at the same time, and analytically useless as a term.

Though Mudde, Kaltwasser, and March all (wrongly) accept the existence of a left populism, they also provide useful tools for ultimately dismantling what is far too large a terminological category. In their case study of Europe and Latin America, Mudde and Kaltwasser differentiate between exclusionary (right) and inclusionary (left) forms of populism. I would suggest that those two categories should be fully untethered from each other, because if populism is going to be a useful category of societal and historical analysis, it can’t include both. Nothing is gained from Mudde and Kaltwasser’s comparison of the two, other than a clearer sense that they have very little in common. March’s suggestion to refer to most inclusionary forms as demotic (close to ordinary people) rather than populist is worth considering in this context.

However, Mudde and Kaltwasser feel that their comparison of Le Pen and Chavez is warranted given their much-quoted definition of populism as “a thin-centered ideology that considers society to be ultimately separated into two homogenous and antagonistic groups, ‘the pure people’ versus ‘the corrupt elite’, and which argues that politics should be an expression of the general will of the people”. I would argue that the elements of this definition are necessary but not sufficient (yes, but also other stuff), and object to the inclusion of ‘thin-centered’. This is the idea that populism is chameleonic, an empty vessel that can be filled with whatever one’s ideological proclivity demands. In essence, populism can only encompass right and left varieties if it trumps ideology. But populism doesn’t trump ideology, it IS an ideology. Following Finchelstein (from way back in the day), I believe that populism is best conceived of as an evolution of fascism, and fascism is immutably right-wing.    

Words as Weapons. Again. by Aimee Brown

In this week’s readings about gender, the empty signifier strikes again and neoliberalism abides. Addressing the latter in their article on Poland, Zuk and Zuk explain how, following the breakup of the Soviet Union, socialism became anathema, the language of class was replaced by a language of identity politics, and everything became about nationalism. Once ‘class’ stopped being a valid category of analysis, societal frustration was directed against religiously, racially, and normatively defined ‘others’, a discursive shift towards religious ethno-nationalism which worked in the interests of the neoliberal elites who, otherwise, would have been (justly) blamed for societal ills.

Judith Butler contextualizes the current furore around gender within this campaign of other-ing, explaining that “the term ‘gender’ attracts, condenses, and electrifies a diverse set of social and economic anxieties produced by increasing economic precarity.” This anxiety caused by economic factors cannot be expressed as such (because class is no longer a valid category of analysis), so instead, it is expressed through a discourse of nationalism. Rather than the issue being economic exploitation, the issue becomes the loss of a national identity predicated upon heteronormative patriarchy and white supremacy, which redirects public antipathy towards very counterintuitive targets like gender studies, along with postcolonial studies and critical race theory. In this way, ‘gender’ has become an empty signifier that channels class-based rage away from neoliberal elites and towards already discriminated against individuals and previously obscure scholarly disciplines.  

Finally, Patternote and Kuhare demonstrate how the Catholic Church has used ‘gender’, first, as an empty signifier for everything that it dislikes, and second, to present itself as facing a credible, cohesive, and dangerous enemy. Thus, instead of opposing a disparate bunch of groups composed of predominantly vulnerable people, the Church can (through the magic of a chain of equivalence) oppose an army of gender ideologues engaged in an apocalyptic conspiracy to destroy Christian civilization. This strategy has proved very successful, and the Church specifically, and the far-right generally, is now the source of hegemonic discourse around ‘gender’ and ‘feminism’ in countries like Poland and Hungary, having managed to resignify terms that took progressives decades to introduce into the public consciousness. As a result, women and LBGTQ individuals are made to bear the brunt of a rage which they did not cause as the empty signifier strikes again, and neoliberalism abides.

Stupid Like a Fox by Aimee Brown

Last week, the Anna Cento Bull article introduced the related concepts of the ‘empty signifier’ and the ‘chain of equivalence’. This week, they’re everywhere. To review, empty signifiers are symbols invested with a different meaning for multiple groups through a chain of equivalence. Thus, A also means B and C so TERM X means whatever you want it to mean. Empty signifiers are necessary for populism because if a signifier (a word, term, or symbol) had a fixed meaning (if it only meant one thing), then it would only be able to capture the imagination, or represent the interests, of one group. Populism needs to be popular with multiple groups by being all things to all men. It does this by taking a term and abstracting it until it loses all actual substance, so that it can then be invested with multiple diverse significations simultaneously.    

For example, the Kalmar article describes how, in Hungary, ‘George Soros’, a signifier accurately representing one very rich man, has come to signifier ‘the Jews’, Freemasons, the Illuminati, immigrant hordes, being anti-Christian, and being anti-Hungarian. ‘George Soros’ has been emptied of its particular meaning through a chain of equivalence (now this guy means all of these things), until it has been rendered a universal negative. As Kalmar says, “Orban and Fidesz blamed George Soros for just about everything they opposed” (189).

This is all pretty boilerplate European antisemitism, but the Moses article explicates a less familiar linguistic taxonomy in Indonesia. There, a complicated history of colonialism has resulted in ‘antisemitism’ being emptied of meaning and conflated with anti-imperialism and anti-capitalism. Actual Jewish people are a very, very small minority in the country, so ‘the Jew’ becomes ‘the colonist’ becomes ‘the foreigner’ becomes a rationale for violence against Chinese people.

Finally, in the Vice video about Germany, being opposed to Covid vaccinations is, through a chain of equivalence, connected to a shadowy cabal plotting to enact a new world order, which leads to antisemitism, because the shadowy cabal is Jewish, because of course it is. And herein lies the power of a movement like QAnon. It’s not ridiculous and nonsensical, it’s an infinitely big tent constructed to accommodate all of the empty signifiers in the world. It’s stupid like a fox.

Legitimate Problems and Illegitimate Solutions by Aimee Brown

While scholars may struggle to define what populism is, it’s a lot less difficult to identify what causes it. Populism is a direct reaction to neo-liberal capitalism. As the Marmonova, Franquesa, and Brooks article puts it, “socio-economic inequalities are the fundamental driving force in defining political cleavages and conflicts in rural Europe today” (1516). Despite the claims currently being made in many neo-liberal democracies, neo-liberal democracy is the cause of, not the solution to, the ascendance of populism. However, as the Molnar article articulates within the context of Germany, in order for this fact to be comprehensible, the hegemonic teleology of neo-liberal democracy must be dismantled. If this is done, then the post-Cold War period “appears less as a redemptive end point and more as a foreboding new beginning” (514). This is because even in a success story like Germany, the application of neo-liberal capitalism resulted in losers as well as winners. Just ask the small farmers of Saxony. Neo-liberal democracy isn’t a centrist and neutral position. Nor is it inevitable or inarguable or without alternative. The alternative is populism. As the Marmonova, Franquesa, and Brooks article illustrates in several countries, while neo-liberalism has been great for agricultural mega-corporations, it has been really bad for small farmers, so why wouldn’t those small farmers look for a political alternative? Similarly, due to the depopulation caused by neo-liberalism, representative democracy no longer works for rural areas, so why wouldn’t the people who live there look for a political alternative? However, that alternative doesn’t have to be neo-fascism. For example, the politics of rural Spain demonstrates that, if the Left can provide a compelling alternative, then they too can be successful. In the absence of a compelling leftist alternative, however, far-right populism wins by default. Unfortunately, far-right populism does nothing for the economically disadvantaged people who support it because, as Bull describes in the Italian context, populism reacts to economic problems not by encouraging class-consciousness, but by creating a consciousness of “the people”. This provides no alternative to neo-liberal capitalism, the root of the problem, but merely an “other” group (southern Italians, Roma, Turks) upon which the problem can irrationally be blamed. In the absence of a credible Left that would identify class as the most useful category of societal analysis, the losers in the rigged game of neo-liberal capitalism are left only with a far-right populism that expresses their legitimate rage using an illegitimate discourse of nationalism and race.

Opinion Piece #2

Beating Them or Joining Them? The Conservatives and the Far Right in Britain by Aimee Brown

Tomorrow, Rishi Sunak will become the prime minister of Britain. He will, in fact, be the third prime minister in just seven weeks, a fact indicative of a level of dysfunction that makes being positive about British politics difficult. However, if pressed, one might observe that at least Britain no longer has a far-right populist party to worry about. After all, it was only a couple of years ago that the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) surprised everyone with its electoral success. But now, it has sunk back into electoral irrelevance. Surely this is cause for relief given the plethora of Britain’s continental neighbours in which far-right populist parties have experienced unprecedented electoral victories, most recently The Brothers of Italy and The Sweden Democrats. In contrast, Britain’s democratic institutions and mainstream parties seem to have successfully weathered the storm of populism.

And yet, perhaps the reason that UKIP doesn’t exist anymore is because it doesn’t have to. Following UKIP’s breakthrough in 2013, then prime minster David Cameron worked to beat the party by co-opting elements of its message, especially around immigration. Most significantly, the Conservative Party felt so threatened that Cameron called a referendum on Europe, which he infamously lost. This was UKIP’s great victory, after which it promptly collapsed as the Conservatives reinvented themselves as the party of Brexit. In essence, they rendered UKIP irrelevant by ceding to its demand. Former leader of UKIP, Nigel Farage, has stated that “My achievement has been to take an issue that was considered to be completely wrong, perhaps even immoral, and help to turn it into a mainstream view in British politics.” UKIP’s sole representative in the House of Commons, reflecting on his party’s catastrophic 2017 election results, stated that he was “far from despondent. In fact, I am elated. Why? Because we have won.”

UKIP was not the first far-right rivel that the Conservative Party outflanked by co-opting its ideas. In 1967, the fascist National Front (NF) party was founded in response to opposition to immigration. A year later, Conservative member of Parliament Enoch Powell gave a speech in which he denounced immigration from the Commonwealth because it would have the result that “the black man will have the whip hand over the white man.” He further argued that banning racial discrimination in housing, employment, commerce, and public services would unfairly disadvantage “the indigenous population”, and that it would be like “throwing a match on to gunpowder.” He ended dramatically by saying that “As I look ahead, I am filled with foreboding; like the Roman, I seem to see ‘the River Tiber foaming with much blood’”. Upon making the speech, Powell was immediately fired and his top-tier political career was effectively ended. However, recruitment to the National Front soared. According to a former party official, “Before Powell spoke, we were getting only cranks and perverts. After his speeches we started to attract, in a secret sort of way, the right-wing members of Tory organisations.” The National Front grew to claim over 12,000 members and enjoyed unprecedented success in the Greater London Council elections of 1977.

But in 1978, leader of the Conservative Party Margaret Thatcher gave a television interview in which she stated that “people are really rather afraid that this country might be swamped by people with a different culture.” Indeed, “the British character has done so much for democracy, for law and done so much throughout the world that if there is any fear that it might be swamped people are going to react and be rather hostile to those coming in.” Of course, the frightened British people in question are presumed to be white, the immigrants are presumed not to be white (no mention of a terror of New Zealanders, for example), the verb ‘swamped’ is used twice for emphasis, and the end result of violence is implied. This interview did not signal a change in Thatcher’s policy so much as it did a change in the rhetoric used to talk about it. In effect, Thatcher had introduced the National Front’s racist discourse into mainstream politics and brought the exiled Powell’s ideas back into the fold of the Conservative Party. By doing so, she managed to steal the far-right’s thunder. After the interview, the Conservative Party enjoyed a dramatic surge in support and, a year later, won the general election. The National Front, on the other hand, failed to win a single seat and collapsed into irrelevance. Dead but not gone, it joins UKIP as a fellow anti-immigrant and Eurosceptic ghost that haunts a Conservative Party whose current dysfunction is not unrelated to its previous success in beating its far-right opponents by joining them.

Defying Definition: The Complexities of Modeling Fascism by Aimee Brown

In our ongoing struggle to define fascism, several of this week’s readings broach the question of which model is more appropriate, the fascist minimum (what characteristics something must have in order to be fascist) or the fascist repertoire (a selection of qualities from which fascists can choose). As a case study, Benjamin Bland considers Britain’s National Front (NF) which was an old-fashioned neo-Nazi organization in the 1970’s with a focus on racially-motivated anti-immigration policies. However, the NF found itself outmaneuvered by Margaret Thatcher who co-opted its anti-immigrant rhetoric into her own successful election campaigns. With its formerly radical position now mainstream, the NF had to change course and, in the 1980’s, it began to pursue a Third Way. The Third Way presented itself as an alternative to both capitalism and communism, and as providing a spirituality that preserved both individual and national identity. This approach was transnational in nature as all national identities, as long as they were kept separate from each other and distinct, were deemed worthwhile, even non-white ones. Within the Third Way formulation, immigration was blamed upon capitalism, so racism was channelled into anti-globalization, a position consonant with support for non-white separatisms. However, transnationalism ultimately worked to problematize racism, the raison d’être of the NF in the first place, and the party imploded. Bland’s article serves to illustrates that, while the fascist repertoire can allow for variety and negotiation (as evidenced by the NF and the Third Way), whatever variety and negotiation there is can come into conflict with core tenants of fascism like white supremacy. This potentiality is also evidenced by the article from “The Guardian” on how the far right has made more of an effort to appeal to women. The strategy is to channel concern for the maintenance of women’s rights into anti-immigration sentiments and Islamophobia. This is successfully increasing the popularity of fascism amongst women, but, as was the case in the Bland article, at the cost of creating tension with a core fascist tenant, this time that of male supremacy. Taken together, then, these two articles seem to demonstrate that neither the minimum nor the repertoire can be entirely discarded as a model. Like many things related to fascism, they exist in tension with each other.

Opinion Piece #1

“Where the Shadows Lie”: The Far-Right and “The Lord of the Rings” by Aimee Brown

Giorgia Meloni, the leader of the far-right party Brothers of Italy, is expected to become Italy’s next prime minister. She is also a big Lord of the Rings fan. These two facts are not unrelated as, beginning in the 1970’s, Italy’s far-right movement canonized J.R.R. Tolkien’s novels and co-opted his various creations, setting up Hobbit Camps for young activists and popularising extremist bands with names like “Followship of the Ring”. Such politicised fandom is not even unique to the Italian context, as far-right admiration for “The Lord of the Rings” (LOTR) has become an international phenomenon. In the early days of the American-based website Stormfront, the first major hate site on the internet, there was a section dedicated to LOTR and white nationalism, and in 2019, actor Viggo Mortenson, who played Aragorn in the film adaptations, rebuked Vox, a far-right political party in Spain, for using his image to promote their message online. What is it about LOTR that makes it so popular on the far-right?

There are three main reasons, the first of which is the structure of the fantasy world that Tolkien created. It is a Manichean world in which good does battle with evil against a backdrop of clearly delineated races who mostly keep separate from each other. When Meloni says “I don’t consider ‘The Lord of the Rings’ fantasy,” it is to this which she is presumably referring. For the head of a party which has demonized immigrants and the LGBTQ community and called upon Italian voters to defend a beleaguered white Christian civilization against them, a good-us versus evil-them world view is not a fictional construct, but an accurate description of reality. Similarly, if a Manichean world view is compellingly descriptive for Meloni and the far-right, then separation between races is aspirational. Meloni cites LOTR as having taught her “the value of specificity”, a lesson which she applies to the necessity of protecting European culture from outsiders. As dwarves live with other dwarves and elves with other elves, so native populations must embrace xenophobia or perish.

The second reason for the far-right popularity of LOTR is the fact that it is steeped in Norse mythology. A professor of Anglo-Saxon, Tolkien was one of the world’s foremost authorities on the literature of the Middle Ages in Europe, so it is unsurprising that his field of expertise would inform his novels. Unfortunately, Norse mythology has long been coopted by the far-right and implicated in some of its worst atrocities. For example, the white supremacist terrorists who murdered 77 people in Norway in 2011, 51 people in Christchurch, New Zealand in 2019, and 10 people in Buffalo, New York this year all referenced it in their manifestos. Norse mythology resonates for the far-right because it portrays a warrior ethos predicated upon violence and a narrative that culminates in cataclysm and rebirth. Thus, far-right terrorists like to portray themselves as warriors wielding the power of Mjollnir against monsters at Ragnarök who, when they fall, are taken to Valhalla by Valkyries to feast eternally with the gods. Aragorn wielding the reforged sword of Isildur against the servants of the Dark Lord is entirely comprehensible within this imaginative paradigm.

Ironically, the final reason that LOTR is popular on the far-right is because it provides an alternative to the warrior ethos of Norse myth in the form of hobbits and their home, the Shire. With LOTR, Tolkien created a mythic world of medieval heroes and monsters and then placed a charming anachronism, a community of late 19th century English countryfolk, at its center. There is no equivalent to hobbits in Norse myth or medieval epics, and Tolkien uses them as a means of entry for readers into these unfamiliar worlds. In contrast, the far-right uses hobbits as an opportunity to play the victim. Ms. Meloni attended Hobbit Camp and not Elven Warrior Camp because the Italian neo-fascists wanted to portray themselves as diminutive underdogs, relatable victims instead of the heirs of Benito Mussolini’s bloody dictatorship. For them, Italy is the Shire, an agrarian Utopia menaced and laid waste by invading hordes, and its plucky defenders are those on the far-right. This is a useful imaginative construct that is readily applicable to any national context.

In August, Ms. Meloni expressed her regret that her busy campaigning schedule had thus far prevented her from watching the new Amazon Prime show “The Rings of Power”. It is unlikely, when she finally does so, that she will enjoy it. Ever since the first trailer for the series premiered, the far right has flooded online spaces with condemnations of it based upon the diversity of the casting. For far-right fans, the inclusion of people of color threatens a previously cherished white space and reproduces in miniature what they believe to be happening in the world at large. This is the Great Replacement, the idea that white people in Europe and North America are being actively replaced by non-white immigrants. This theory, first articulated by white nationalist author Renaud Camus, has subsequently been popularized by figures ranging from Éric Zemmour of France, Viktor Orbán of Hungary, and the American Tucker Carlson. Not insignificantly, it was also cited by the killer in Buffalo, New York. The far-right has a lexicon of ideas that transcends national borders and, it would seem, a fandom upon which it can project them.

The Road to Normalization: A Geneology of Far-Right Thought by Aimee Brown

The Swiss philosopher Armin Mohler (1920-2003), looking at the Weimar Republic, took that period’s main currents of anti-democratic thought and the various artists and intellectuals who had espoused them and crafted a cohesive movement called the Conservative Revolution which stood in opposition to the egalitarian decadence of liberalism, socialism, and conservatism. This framework of non-Nazi fascist thought meshed well with the ideas of the Italian philosopher Julius Evola (1898-1974), who was concerned with the ways in which materialism, secularism, and rationalism had eroded what he characterised as the primordial Tradition. According to him, after the French Revolution, the natural aristocrat, or Traditional Man, has no choice but to detach from contemporary politics and assume “a stance of contemplation and study while waiting out the self-destruction of modern liberal society” (Tobin, 79). He termed this attitude apoliteia. When combined with Mohler’s Conservative Revolution, Evola’s ideas allowed beleaguered post-war fascists to feel as if they were “part of an imagined community of warriors against the modern world” (Griffin, 41).

Evola’s ideas proved influential, especially on the topic of race. He rejected biological racism and argued instead that race consisted of the body, soul, and spirit. Thus, an individual could be physically one race, but not actually that race, because their soul or spirit was another race entirely. After the war, this brand of cultural racism was one of the most important elements in making fascist ideologies more mainstream. Perhaps most importantly, Evola created a version of fascism that transcended national particularities to create a “universal understanding of fascist goals” (Tobin, 80) that could be exported and create an international community.

Evola’s most significant disciple was Alain de Benoist (1943 – ), the French founder of the Nouvelle Droite school of thought. His two great contributions to far-right ideology were differentialism and hegemony. De Benoist’s theory of differentialism argued that no culture is superior and that all cultures have the right to preserve their distinctiveness. Indeed, this defense of culture is imperative in an age of capitalist globalization and rapid immigration when all political ideologies which are not far-right are homogenizing ideologies that destroy Europe’s traditional cultures and national diversity. Differentialism allowed the Nouvelle Droite to neatly absolve themselves of racism while simultaneously tarring supporters of multiculturalism with that same label (“I’m not racist, you’re racist against white people”). Secondly, de Benoist co-opted Antonio Gramsci’s ideas into far-right tactics, arguing that the far-right would not gain power via electoral politics or terrorist violence but, rather, through cultural hegemony. In essence, the far-right could only triumph through its complete normalization, a normalization that de Benoist has done much to effect given the access and prestige that he has achieved within French institutions of cultural power.

Finally, de Benoist’s cultural anxieties and anti-immigrant sentiments have been echoed by the French author Renaud Camus (1946 – ) who has, since the 1990’s, argued that there is an invasion of France underway by immigrants bent on the conquest of the white population and the colonization of French cities and towns via procreation. In this formulation, immigrants, especially Muslims, do not want to integrate into French society and, instead, wish to punish it. Camus refers to this substitution of one dominant ethnic population by another and the accompanying loss of cultural identity as the Great Replacement, a term which, following de Benoist’s playbook, was thoroughly normalized during French journalist Eric Zemmour’s (1958 – ) 2022 political campaign.

Strategic Amnesia by Aimee Brown

Coming to terms with the past in postwar West Germany was impossible until at least the seventies because the past was not really past. In fact, the way in which perpetrators and survivors were treated did not shift in favor of the latter until it was not overly inconvenient for it to do so. In regards to perpetrators, especially those of the right class, the kid gloves of the legal establishment remained resolutely on. This was because, despite the mass application of the despised Fragebogen, the establishment after the war was much the same as before and during, and until it generationally changed, ranks would continue to be closed. For example, Mary Fulbrook describes how, years after the war’s end, judges “could still appear to have more sympathy with former Nazis than with their victims” (323). The extreme leniency of the West German system when dealing with mass murderers was especially apparent when compared to East Germany where legal proceedings were swift and even low ranking perpetrators who expressed remorse could expect life imprisonment or death. In contrast, under the West German legal system, only those who went beyond what was officially required of them under Nazi rule were judged murderous, and therefore the murderous system of rule was not itself explicitly judged. Unlike East Germany, West Germany was uncomfortable with systemic indictment because the system had not been entirely dismantled to the extent that former Nazis continued to occupy positions of power. In regards to victims, they only began to gain the attention of the culture after their need for concrete material assistance had passed. As Fulbrook explains, “their public image was transformed from the initial state of diminution – the wretched, disease ridden, and dependant creatures who were widely seen as unwelcome burdens immediately after the war – to the more heroic status of ‘survivors’” (369). Victims were only heroized after it was convenient to do so, after they had stopped being needy refugees. Robert Moeller’s article on “Judgement at Nuremberg” describes how the German past could be used to talk about the American present. The past can indeed be useful, but sometimes it needs to be strategically forgotten until it truly is no longer the present.    

“Good Girl, Good Boy” by Aimee Brown

Thomas Kuhne argues that masculinity under the Third Reich was not a simple binary rejection of femininity (men are not women) because conforming to the accepted standard of hard (hegemonic) masculinity opened up a space for the performance of alternative (protean) masculinities. For example, one SS officer “could afford to display seemingly unmanly affection . . . precisely because his male identity was beyond any doubt” (394). In essence, if soldiers adequately performed their masculinity, ‘feminine’ traits and behaviours (like emotion and affection) could be integrated into their identity as (real) men. The existence of the standard allowed for variation. This hegemonic-protean model can also be applied to femininity, as demonstrated by the article by Lopez and Sanchez. They describe how, during the Spanish Civil War, a previously underestimated number of pro-fascist women participated in significant fifth column activities that required them to violate their own conceptions of appropriate behaviour for women. They could do this because they were fighting in order to be properly feminine, to live traditional Catholic lives within the domestic sphere. Thus, the return to hegemonic femininity justified its temporary protean deviation.

Kuhne further argues that gender conformity can be, and can be perceived to be, an outward manifestation of an inward complicity with the principle of solidarity. He states that “what eventually counted, when it came to asserting manliness, was the ability to support the social dynamic of the group” (418). The soldier’s manliness was measured by the extent to which he sublimated his individuality to the collective. The article by Laurie Marhoefer illustrates the reverse of this formulation. She shows how, while gender non-conformity in the Nazi state was not by itself fatal for women, failure to conform to hegemonic representations of femininity (in dress, for example) did open up a space of suspect ambiguity that could be (disastrously) clarified with reference to other factors such as race or politics. Good gender behaviour was rewarded with space for maneuver, while bad gender behaviour could result in the tightening of the noose.