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.

International Anti-Semitism

Declan Da Barp

The recreation of a nation around a particular ethnic group is central to the fascist ideology. Central to the ideology is that the racial purity of the “people” in question though is under threat and must be “cleaned.” The readings this week show clearly that perceived threats and ways of social engineering were largely shared across international borders throughout global authoritarian networks. The works by Ruth Ben-Ghiat and Paul Hanebrink clearly illustrate how these global networks underpinned large portions of Fascist ideology.

            Anti-Semitism is seen as a central tenant of fascism, throughout popular understanding. In Ben-Ghiat’s work, she outlines how it was a late adaption within Mussolini’s movement. Prior to 1938, there was little mention of it in Italian fascist doctrine with it being almost a point of independence and pride for Il Duce (Ben-Ghiat, 148). With the formation of the Berlin-Rome Axis, anti-Jewish laws, modelled on the Nuremberg Laws, were enacted descending the country into anti-Semitism (148-149). As described in both Ben-Ghiat and Hanebrink’s Jews were characterized as subversive and alien (Ben-Ghait, 155, Hanebrink, 19). In creating the idea of the people in Italy, and in Nazi Germany, the otherness of Jews was seen as a plight on society – one that needed to be persecuted and excluded from society.

I found Hanebrink’s exploration of the international fear of Judeo-Bolshevism fit nicely within the much more localized discussions of Italian fascism’s anti-Semitism. As he states the “Jewish Question” became a sign of cultural identity but also one to rest a nation’s insecurities upon (7-9). In Italy this related to the anxieties of “backwardness” and the subordination of the Italian state – with a lot of these fears previously articulated about Southern Italy (Ben-Ghiat, 155). This allowed for a national discussion around who was and who was not Italian to focus not on the rural, poorer Southerners but rather on Jews who were an easy scapegoat for Italy’s problems.

Works Cited

Ruth Ben-Ghiat, “Conquest and Collaboration” in Fascist Modernities: Italy, 1922-1945 (University of California Press, 2004), pp. 17-45.

Paul Hanebrink, A Specter Haunting Europe: The Myth of Judeo-Bolshevism (Harvard University Press, 2018), pp. 1-10, 11-45.

Us Vs. Them: A Simplistic and Reductive Division of Society

Declan Da Barp

In the modern historical arenas of Twitter and cable TV terms like Populist, Fascist, and Authoritarian are being thrown around largely without their historical context. As Victoria de Grazia states “calling people ‘fascists’ has been as American as apple pie for as long as I can remember.” With that said, the arguments in this week’s readings fail to agree on a definition for any of these terms but rather discussed them as processes gleaned from historic events. Robert Paxton, Federico Finchelstein, and Cas Mudde underline that these ideologies are innately fluid enterprises that morph based on local contexts. The common line drawn between their arguments is that fascism and populism have transnational similarities, but an individual regime cannot be exported. As Paxton writes about Fascist regimes, though it could as easily be written about Populist ones, “Fascism, unlike the other “isms,” is not for export,” (20). This can is because the idea of the “people” changes based on the local context.

Mudde outlines that populism divides the world into two groups the “pure people” and the “corrupt elites” (578). The definition of people varies from regime to regime and is based on the political persuasion of the state but across the populist movement, the monolithic people are to be protected by the state while this same protection is not extended to the elites. In Fascism, scientific racism and social Darwinism are harnessed to create the “people,” blood matters before any other distinguisher (Paxton, 16). While innately tied to the post-war context that gave birth to the ideology, there is a clear line between both Fascism and Populism. Proponents of both see the state existing to serve the monolithic majority while leaving no space for minorities. The dividing line being the use of violence, which Finchelstein sees as the divide between both fascism and populism (23-24). There is no discussion of violence within Mudde’s piece and while this cannot be understood to say that violence does not factor within the populist worldview it does not hold the centrality that it does in fascism.

From the reading, I come away with a simple question: how has the violence that is so central to the fascist ideology clouded our understanding of it? And due to the popular conflation of the two, how has this impacted populism?

Victoria de Grazia, “What We Don’t Understand about Fascism” Zocalo Public Square hitler-20th-century/ideas/essay/

Federico Finchelstein, “Introduction: Thinking Fascism and Populism in terms of the Past” in Federico Finkelstein, From Fascism to Populism in History (University of California Press, 2017).

Cas Mudde, “Populism in Europe: An Illiberal Democratic Response to Undemocratic Liberalism” (The Government and Opposition/Leonard Schapiro Lecture 2019). Government and Opposition, (2021): 1-21.

Robert Paxton, The Anatomy of Fascism (New York, 2004), pp 3-23.

Introduction: Declan Da Barp

Declan Da Barp

Hi all!

My name is Declan Da Barp and I am from Toronto. I am a journalism and history major finishing my final semester before I graduate in January. Both the journalism and history programs have allowed me to explore my interests in the intersection between sports, populism, and authoritarianism. As a huge soccer fan, I see the sport being a useful lens to understand society. I see this class aiding in my understanding of populist movements which are becoming more prominent across the western world. I look forward to exploring a lot of these ideas with all of you.

When not watching soccer, I enjoy reading, playing sports, and cooking.