Masculinity & Femininity

By: Nicole Beswitherick

In this week’s readings, we learn a lot about fascism in relation to the role of women and masculinity. What stood out to me was the key theme of the active participation of women in all situations of these readings and how they related to fascism, dictatorship, and masculinity. In Laurie Marhoeffer’s article, it was mentioned in a nutshell that men-men relationships were viewed as this bad and evil thing, especially by the Nazi party. As most of us can gather, homosexuality was not always as accepted as it is by today’s standards. However, while all of this was going on, while it still wasn’t considered a good thing, lesbianism was not “as bad”. The author states that asking whether lesbians were persecuted for lesbianism obscures what happened. This is because neither terms serve well in an analysis of this historical issue. Marhoeffer also includes statistics like, only 2% had a run-in of any kind with the Gestapo, and only 17% of women or “transvestites” were concerned they would have an encounter. It is also known that women are typically more affectionate and loving towards friends than men are. So criminalizing lesbianism would allow for many unfounded denunciations. In a humanities class at Carleton, I learned in my first year that in the old testament of the Christian Bible, things like this are viewed similarly from a historical standpoint as opposed to a religious one. Men-men relationships were frowned upon because to not love a woman is unmanly, but a relationship between two women was not looked upon as much because they are already the “weaker sex”. That is the summary of it anyways.

In the reading by Lopez and Sanchez, women played another key role in the Spanish Civil War by hiding and helping in the survival of men. However, they’d be murdered for it, along with other reasons. Women still fought on the front lines in this war, but the reading said it would be only about 1,000 women. I think that during this era, and of WW2 Nazi Germany, there was this strong persona of what a man should look like, and what a woman should look like. Thomas Kuhne gave a good example when showing a photograph of a man pushing a baby stroller. This was looked down upon because that was a job of a woman. This ideology has been engraved into the heads of so many men and women, and yet we wonder why there is so much toxic masculinity. Men, in this time specifically as it is the focus, were told they cannot push the baby stroller, instead, they must work, fight for their country, etc, etc. They are supposed to be these figures that are strong, powerful and brave. I think this is also partially why it was (and still is) difficult for some men when women can do the same work as them and sometimes better. It really hasn’t been until recently that society is normalizing, for example, that men can cry and show these “feminine” emotions.

Fascism: for the nation, against the empire? -Nicole Beswitherick

In this week’s readings, we learn about fascism and its conflict with internationalism. From what I gathered from the readings, largely from David Motadel and Paul Hanebrink, is that people very strongly believed that communism was a Jewish plot to destroy the nations of Europe which took hold during the Russian Revolution. Fascists instigated fears of a Judeo-Bolshevik conspiracy which sparked a genocide, and was a part of what led to the hatred of the Jewish people in World War Two.

In Hanebrink’s articles, I think it is evident that this paranoia persists in today’s culture in right-wing nationalism. We see this largely in the United States today with their “patriotism”, and I believe an example in the article was of August 2017 where in Charlottesville, Virginia, white-supremicists and neo-Nazis gathered to demonstrate their disapproval of the removal of a statue of Confederate general Robert E. Lee – his military tactics were actually studied and used in WWII. Throughout this reading it is also evident that many people in France, Poland, Hungary, Sweden and the UK advocated strongly for a “white Europebof brotherly nations.” There is no doubt that fascism was getting to be more popular in this era of history as these far-right groups believed in a natural social hierarchy, and a subordination of individual interests for the perceived good of the nation and race. One of the literal definitions of the term. They did this by blaming Jewish “communists” – which some, yes were communist, but not the entire nation as a whole- for promoting homosexuality and multiculturalism. Which we again are seeing this today in parts of North America where these far-right groups stand. Essentially, all of these far-right groups were very anti-communist, which most people are today. However, the way they went about things in a way as fascist which is still not known to be a great thing as we’ve talked about.

In Motadel’s reading, we see that around the world, nationalist anticolonial movements were influenced by these ideals of strong leadership, militarism, by authoritarian principles of governance, and by the adoration of violence. This was also said in the reading to be superior to the liberal values of individualism, parliamentarism, and democracy.

To wrap up, we have learned this week that there are different faces or sides to fascism, and that through propoganda during the early 1900’s in which these readings are focussing on, people can be manipulated into siding with it. Not to mention Berlin’s “anticolonial nationalists illuminates the broader phenomenon of right-wing authoritarian anticolonialism that emerged in the shifting political landscape of the interwar years and reached its peak during the Second World War.”

Works cited:

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

David Motadel, “The Global Authoritarian Moment: The Revolt Against Empire” American Historical Review Vol. 124, Issue 3 (July 2019): 843-877. AND

Defining terms: Fascism vs. Populism

During the readings for this week, as we have all read, the terms fascism and populism come up often.

When defining the term fascism, a lot of examples had come up, particularly in the reading by Frederico Finchelstein. There, I enjoyed the definition of the term populism as “a political form that thrives in democracies that are particularly unequal…” etc. But yet, this also proves that populism is capable of undermining democracy without breaking it. Finchelstein put it into good words by saying if populism extinguishes democracy, it becomes a dictatorship.

With regard to fascism, I liked that Donald Trump was a key topic of conversation. I found it interesting, yet it made sense to me, that Roger Griffin did not see Donald Trump as a fascist because of his own definition of the term. In his definition, for someone to be fascist, they need to have a longing for a new order, a new nation, and not just an old reformed one. Trump’s catchphrase is “make America great again” which to me, indicates that he did not necessarily want to go a new way in government, but back to how it used to be, I’m assuming prior to Obama. So by this definition, Griffin is correct in saying that Trump is not a fascist.

I am running a bit long here, but I just wanted to add lastly that there was a question in one of the readings about if fascism has really returned from its 1945 grave. As of now, I would agree that fascism hasn’t truly come back as much as others may disagree. Not by true definition. However, populism seems to be the bigger issue now as there is a rival between the common people and the “elites” or the 1%.

“Deus Vult!” A phrase with many meanings

I am choosing to write on last week’s readings for now, but I see everyone is writing on this week’s readings. Worst comes to worst I do two reflections this week…

The phrase “Deus Vult!” or “God wills it”, is a phrase I have heard a few times before, but I had never known what the term really meant or why it was being used.

It seems that shouting the phrase could be very innocent, but in a decade of Trump supporters, Islamophobia and other issues, the term has almost a new meaning. In the reading by Sal Hagen on this phrase, we learn that it is a historical catchphrase that was intended to align people into recapturing the Holy Land. Therefore, it has become a more far-right catchphrase that is slightly problematic.

Although it was interesting to learn that it was not just Americans who began to use this phrase in a more extreme right way, it also fueled Israel’s far-right and the Brazilian far-right as well. However, in either case, it is used to promote a more white and Christian perspective and to extend cases of Islamophobia.

Something that I continue to struggle with is that Christians claim to be loving and accepting of all people, but then you have these cases in multiple areas where the far-right of these groups are hating on others. Which you would believe to be the opposite going off of what they tell others. Alas, that is more on the side of my opinion, so I will stop there.

I think using the phrase as a meme can be funny and innocent in a particular context with friends. However, to use a catchphrase in terms of hate is a bit ridiculous. However, it seems that everyone needs to hate someone. In the reading of the Brazilian far-right, it is interesting that the government used another phrase, “Brazil above everything, God above all,” which is a religious twist on a slogan from the Nazi Party.

There’s much I could talk about on this phrase but I will leave it here for now.


Hey everyone! My name is Nicole and I’m in my fourth year of Journalism here at Carleton, minoring in history. History, especially European history and the history of WW2, is a subject that my parents engraved into my head as being both important and interesting since I was a kid.

I have always had an interest in European history, more so in England as my great grandparents came from there after the Second World War. Before everything that has been occurring in the news lately, I have also always been fascinated by the Royal family as a topic of history going back to King Henry VIII.

I am excited to see what this semester brings, and I look forward to getting to know all of you a little bit better.