One of the main facets of Far-Right political groups is their ability to pick and choose facts which help support them while dismissing the more unappealing aspects of a Fascist regime. In many of this week’s sources people are shown to be drawn to these Fascist groups, and we see they are drawn to these groups for a wide variety of reasons.
They usually seem to support a few of the ideas of the regime, but any negative aspect of the regime is a ‘false narrative’ said to be pushed by liberals. They choose to not see all the bad these regimes are responsible for, especially if they weren’t affected. Take for example in Vice’s video Inside Spain’s Fascist Fandom, the Interviewer talks with a woman who says how much Franco has done for Spain, such as bringing 40 years of peace to Spain, which is clearly false, Franco killed anyone who spoke out against the regime, yet she chooses not to remember that. She even then goes on to defend Hitler, saying he never really wanted to kill the Jews he was trying to relocate them, which is so hard to even comprehend how someone can truly believe that. This willful ignorance could also be seen in other readings such as the Lopez and Sanchez reading in which the Blue Angels, who supported Franco because they upheld Catholicism, so they ignored other aspects. Or in the Crumbaugh reading people tended not to mind the atrocities when the economy was doing well.
This aspect is used in essentially all Far-Right groups, like the U.S. Republican party which everyday becomes more and more Far-Right, with false narratives being pushed by entertainment outlets like Fox ‘news’ everyday.
These readings touch on topics that ranged from transvestitism in Nazi Germany to tourism in Franco era Spain, in this post I will focus on far right movements, both modern and historic and how individuals look to navigate the idea of community. In the Cynthia Miller Idriss personation she talks about how Neo nazi clothing brands market their clothes in a coded manner to create group acceptance and notification to like minded individuals. In Idriss’s presentation she talks about her interviews with with members of Germanys far right who feel that the clothing helps them join the far right “scene” and identifies them to like-minded individuals.
The idea of community is essential in the Thomas Kuhne Reading on masculinity in Nazi Germany. The article revolves around the idea that masculinity as a construct was more fluid than one would originally anticipate when regarding Nazi history. Masculine ideals such as hardness ( in a mental, physical and emotional way) were propagandized to be seen as the only way a man could act in this culture. The reality though was much different especially in the military. In the military, men had to able to take on more feminine roles as it was an all male society, which required some men to take on the roles that women would do back in civilian life. This idea of flexible gender roles helped shaped community in the Nazi military. Multiple members of the German military are quoted saying that the sense of community built on emotional connection, a feminine trait, was an essential aspect of getting through the war. The soldiers rely on their emotional connection with one another in order to create a deeper bond within the military community and to trust one another when going into battle.
Culture is an important institutional mechanism through which fascist ideology has attached itself to be more appealing. From this week’s course material, this is achieved, namely, through gender roles and attaching those roles to be of service to the state. Kuhne illustrates how the Nazi’s constructed masculinity served as a means to justify societal power hierarchies as well as a way to depict the ideal soldier. Moreover, masculinity, as presented to soldiers, allowed for the justification of killing others as well as the development of the importance of the collective over the individual as discussed in the concept of comradeship. Despite protean masculinity existing during the Nazi regime that allowed flexibility to men to show more traditionally feminine traits, there were limits to the frequency and the extent that this was acceptable that was only permissible after the hardness of masculinity was already established.
Similar trends are also discussed by Lopez and Sanchez in highlighting the importance that traditional female gender roles played for the Nationalists during the Spanish civil war. As discussed in the article, Nationalist women were encouraged to play along traditional female gender roles and also having that role be associated with being a “true Spaniards”. Although the participation in espionage did not fit with the feminine architype to help Nationalists, traditional roles and power dynamics were still applied. Women who participated were still idealized to be well directed and controllable by men as well as to remain virtuous. The culture of women’s gender that was constructed by Nationalists still exists today amongst Franco supports. This is best depicted in the Vox video where Francoists reacted to the ideology of feminism as well as towards the protesters.
In this week, we are going to be diving into some material that focuses on fascism and some of the historical roots/ideals that it has had in history.
Some of the material within this text may be troubling to some readers, as much of this post pertains to Nazi Germany between the 1940s-50s.
When it comes to the question of gender within fascism, there is a blurred line with what is considered against the ideals of fascism and what is solely ignored. Even today, scholars and historians struggle with defining these borders, especially during the rule of Nazi Germany. An example of this lack of agreement comes from a memorial within the Tiergarten district of Berlin. Specifically, this memorial reveals the difficulties and punishments of homosexual men under the Nazi regime, although, some have argued that it lacks bringing attention to lesbians and transvestites living in the period. While it is true that homosexual relationships between men received more attention from Nazi secret police (Gestapo) due to its illegality, it is important to realize the difficulties that women encountered as their sexual preferences did not fall in line to the social norm (It takes no small amount of courage to make these choices in modern times, one could only imagine the difficulty in attempting to do so in such a unprogressive time and place in human history).
With this is consideration, one must also note the strict parameters that men were subjugated to when it came to day to day life. “hardened masculinity” was one of the pinnacle principles of society within the Nazi regime and those that deviated were either prosecuted or (contradictorily) were so “manly” during their life that they had been permitted certain “feminine” activities.
Here is a photo of a decorated SS soldier Walter Hauck doing a task that was greatly discriminated against.
Something that stood out to me in terms of an appealing aspect of fascism beyond ideology is the sense of inclusivity and protection that it offers to people whom belong to (or identify with) the dominant ethno-linguistic nationality. Marhoefer’s exploration of gender nonconformity in Nazi Germany shows that women were targeted by the state and authorities when they presented as masculine (through hairstyle and dress) in public. While this was to enforce gender conformity as part Nazi totalitarianism, Marhoefer also points out that public lesbianism provoked anxieties in neighbours, acquaintances, and state officials. Homosexual and gender non-conforming women where minorities whose identities, while “Aryan” in the eyes of the Nazi worldview, nevertheless conflicted with the majority identity of gender conforming, heterosexual Germans. Thus, the scrutiny and violence of the Nazi state against these groups can be seen as a form of protecting the majority from their fear of the minority.
This desire to seek protection from the minority, or any group that threatens the “nation,” can be seen strongly in the Vice video about the cult of Francisco Franco in contemporary Spain. Several of the people featured in the video spoke of “dangerous groups” whose perceived evil tides need to be stemmed: migrants, sexual minorities, feminists, etc. Here the mental gymnastics of the far right are on full display, such as the differentiation between immigrants and “invaders.” What is interesting about this contemporary example is that the idea Spanish “nation” and the cult of Franco was embraced by people outside of the Spanish ethno-linguistic nation, such as the Dutch Franco-lover Tom and the bar proprietor of Chinese origins. This also emphasizes the extent to which ethno-linguistic nations are constructed.
This week, I specifically enjoyed the reading from Laurie Moarhoefer. Typically, when I am asked to study the Nazi regime or other fascist dictators, there is rarely a focus on what these authorities meant for those in the LGBTQ2S+ community. Moarhoefer’s focus on such an issue brings to light yet another outlook on fascism and the attitudes of fascists.
Moarhoefer makes it clear that although Hitler and his Nazi regime were quite homophobic in the sense that they disagreed with intimate relations between men, there seemed to have been a lack of regulation surrounding intimate relations between women. Moarhoefer approaches the issue by ensuring that the reader is aware of how the term “persecution” was used by the Nazi regime. Specifically, they make it clear that gay men were the subjects of persecution by being the targets of a police program which worked to eradicate male homosexuality. Historians argue that this program did not subject lesbians to the same treatment. Although Nazi Germany did see lesbianism as an issue that plagued society, there was no legal or physical action taken against it. Moarhoefer does touch on the fact that those in the community did use the local police force, the Gestapo, to report lesbianism, but what I find more interesting is the regime’s official neglect of queer women.
I suppose this may be because I do not have extensive knowledge on the treatment of those in the LGBTQ2S+ community during the Nazi regime, but it does quite suprise me that even though lesbianism was a social issue, it was not one of the regime’s priorities. I had just assumed that Nazi authorities worked to eradicate anyone who did not fit in with their “vision”. This motivates me to learn more about fascist views of homosexuality during the Nazi regime.
Nazism image has always been about the “perfect” race, the German Aryans. In their society, men were to be the perfect mix of courage, recklessness, discipline, and most importantly, good strong soldiers. They were the face and the arm of the empire, fulfilling every orders they were given in the name of the Reich. On the other side, women had the role of the perfect mother and spouse. They were meant to support their husband as well as being a stay-at-home mom that would give birth to many strong Aryan boys. But in an interview with “bloody Walter,” author Thomas Kühne shows us a different side to what a men can do and still keep their reputation intact. It is really surprising that they were able to nurse openly their children and be present in their familial life without being judged negatively on it. In fact, it was a positive to be seen as a caring father. This is certainly intriguing that these kinds of comments were not seen or analyzed before. In such a strict society, legal laws and social conventions are very well known and established. Therefore, there should be more context or more information on it. Instead, it was kept quieter. Maybe while it was a good thing, Nazi authorities were laying this information low so it would not affect the image of emotionless and ruthless soldier that has nothing to fear they enjoyed in the mind of the other countries.
This week’s readings and videos put into question some of the base assumptions we may have about fascism, as well as exploring the underlying reasons someone might find a sense of belonging in far-right groups. Doctor Miller-Idriss’ presentation gave us a glimpse at the new-age avenues through which youth find themselves involved in different movements. Her explanations of means like clothing providing a somewhat lower barrier of entry helps us understand the increase in younger members of these groups, as was observed in VICE’s video on Spain’s Fascism. It also helps us understand the contradictory nature of a Dutch man’s fanaticism for Spanish rhetoric, as well as the support he receives from his Fascist partners. In this regard, to me, the modern need for brotherhood exhibited by far-right movements seems reminiscent of the camaraderie underlined by Kühne in Nazi Germany. We see that despite ideals of the hardened man, Fascist movements had room for gentler sides of the man, shared with partners (and in the past particularly, fellow soldiers.) Especially in the story of Lieutenant Fritz Farnbacher and Peter, we see the tenderness that could be displayed and went hand in hand with the toughness expected by the regime.
In the end, the sense of community displayed in these modern far-right groups seem particularly reminiscent of Kühne’s description, one where the revoking of “feminine” traits was felt necessary to distance oneself from homosexuality. In this regard, these groups offer a space where men can show “femininity” under the protection of camaraderie and male toughness.
This week’s readings make room for more nuanced understandings of the political nature of gender, often demonstrating how gender served the fascist state in more ways than simply providing a hegemonic binary of normative and deviant. In particular, Marhoefer’s and Kühne’s respective works highlight how gender simultaneously provided a historically significant, familiar hierarchy and discourse around which fascist states could structure power, yet one that was based on social constructions, enabling the fluidity that Fascist states so often require in practice.
As previous readings have highlighted, fascism often relies on long-standing discourses about ‘otherness,’ which then becomes the basis for oppressive and violent policy and hierarchy. Marhoefer highlights the essential nature of longstanding discourses on gender in their work on fascist persecution of queerness and gender nonconformity. In one instance, Marhoefer directly references the connections made between historic associations of gender non-conformity and “deception”, which raised suspicions against Ilse Troske. As such, there was little ideologically overhauling required by the state in order to justify its violent persecution of ‘the other.’ Relying on hegemonic ideas about gender enabled fascist states to legitimize themselves, presenting their violence as necessary for the protection of the state, morality, etc. Furthermore, racial anxieties could easily be attached to preexisting suspicions about gender-sexual “otherness,” as is evidenced by the connection made by witnesses regarding Troske’s sexual otherness and supposed “Jewish sexual impropriety.” As such, this reading demonstrated how fascist states can manipulate long-standing discourses on sexuality into violent oppression that upholds not only the gender-sexual hierarchy but a racial one as well (among other hierarchies). Meanwhile, Kühne’s work focuses on the fluidity of gender discourses, namely in how soldierly masculinity embraced ‘feminine’ qualities in certain contexts, noting how the presence of contradiction was justified so long as it ultimately upheld hegemonic discourses or served a functional purpose. This, I feel, reflects the tendency of fascism to embrace contradiction when it serves their interest. The familiarity of gender hierarchies ultimately provided structure to fascist states. This suggests that the reliance on traditional gender ideals could serve as a point of radicalization for those outside of the far-right, who can unfortunately easily hold prejudicial views based on someone’s gender or sexuality.
Kühne, Thomas. “Protean masculinity, Hegemonic Masculinity: Soldiers in the Third Reich.” Central European History Vol 51, Issue 3 (September 2018): 390-418.
Marhoefer, Laurie. “Lesbianism, Transvestitism, and the Nazi State: a Microhistory of a Gestapo Investigation, 1939-1943.” The American Historical Review 121: 4 (2016): 1167-1195.
A feeling of Kinship, is perhaps one of the best words used to describe those who feel a great closeness to the leaders and beliefs of a by-gone era. Both Crumbaugh and Vice’s video provide a glimpse into the ever present “fandom” of fascist fanatics, more specifically Spain’s turbulent relationship with the matter. One of the first subjects Crumbaugh touches upon in his reading is how dictator Francisco Franco’s rule provided Spanish citizens with a sense of structure in their lives, a comforting belief that Franco’s ideology would provide a positive future (16). Many of his followers became pleased as Spain soon emerged in the mid twentieth century due in large part to the massive tourist boom in the 1960s. A small snippet which showcases why followers of Franco still see his leadership as a hallmark of governance, providing jobs, a growing economy, and Spain’s own nationalism to not only grow inside of the country but for their culture to become beloved worldwide (16-18).
And while it does paint a loving picture of Francoism it shows how the idea of expression and agency of the Spanish people were non-existent outside of this governmental structure, as one part of the nation became empowered (I.e. Spain’s global influence and power) another became silenced (individualism and democracy) (19). Vice’s short documentary shows the modern day consequences of this power imbalance, one of the most consistent points that kept being touched upon throughout the video was how minority groups and to a larger extent anyone who did not fit the hyper nationalistic agenda were regarded as “parasites” or the root of all Spain’s problems (6:45,10:20-10:30). It shows how a majority were/still are on the outs in a fascist regime, and how only few could ever speak out in opposition due to such a fervent hate that was against them.
Justin Crumbaugh, “Prosperity and Freedom Under Franco: the Grand Invention of Tourism” in Destination Dictatorship: the Spectacle of Spain’s Tourist Boom and the Reinvention of Difference (SUNY Press, 2009), pp. 15-41.
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