“Women-as-Other” and Popular Memory of Female Perpetrators

By Kaileigh La Belle

Ruth Glynn’s “Writing the Terrorist Self: The Unspeakable Alterity of Italy’s Female Perpetrators” applies the concept of “Women-as-other” to narratives of violence committed by female perpetrators. For Glynn, these women used recognized socio-cultural discourses to navigate both victimhood and guilt in ways unique from their male peers. While Glynn focuses on how these discourses enabled women to publically express their role in political violence, I found myself wondering if the use of established socio-cultural gender discourses lends itself to the erasure of women from our popular memory of violent politics. As Glynn highlights, many of these representations present women as “token terrorists” or “unnatural killers”, and thus as somewhat enigmatic. Meanwhile, Chrisafris also writes about women’s connection to extreme politics. Chrisafris points to numerous examples of far-right female politicians attempting to legitimize their positions in these misogynistic movements by presenting themselves as “tough-skined warriors”, taking on traditionally masculinized traits. Additionally, Chrisafris points to several examples far-right women presenting themselves as protectors of women who were “pushed” to join movements because inadequacies in the current system. As such, it became apparent to me that this continuation of gendered discourses allowed women to situate themselves in these movements, both as “natural” and “unnatural” political figures. As such, the use of established socio-cultural discourses on gender present both victimhood (particularly associating femininity with vulnerability) and guilt (by presenting women as masculinized warriors), distancing femininity from blame for these actions. Furthermore, I feel that it becomes easier to erase women perpetrators from our popular memory of extreme political violence as the naunce it requires questions the gender binary, which prefers to associate masculinity with violence and femininity with vulnerability. Overall, Glynn’s use of the “women-as-other” concept was quite thought-provoking for me as it can simultaneously be used by perpetrators to situate themselves in popular memory but also encourage us to exclude women from popular memory of these events.

Right VS. Left: Neofascism in Italy

By: Nicole Beswitherick

One thing that really stuck out to me in the readings for this week was the Guardian article, by Angelique Chrisafis in Paris, Kate Connolly in Berlin, and Angela Giuffrida in Rome; as well as the Hyperallergenic one by Charlie Jarvis. Perhaps this is because my major is journalism, but reading more recent examples of a fascist-leaning movement than older ones brings a more meaningful understanding as it is happening in real time.

In the Guardian reading, it really struck me how more women are moving towards a nationalist populism that was once so dominated by patriarchal ideology. Perhaps it is suggested that they are moving away from feminism as the article says. However, Le Pen rejects the term “feminism” because they associate it with an instrument of leftwing nonsense, replacing it with what the definition is, “women’s rights”. The Italian rightwing populist parties are targeting women as well with controversial messages that immigration brings misogynistic cultures that threaten freedom in Europe. These immigrants are mostly from countries with high Muslim populations. It all seems like a very manipulative scheme which we have seen in the west too, particularly in the United States.

Jarvis talks in his article about a massacre at Piazza Fontana in Milan, Italy. He also touches on how far-left groups (yes, left. Not right) like the Brigate Rosse waged war against the state through kidnapping and targeted assassination. However, the neofascist cells also sowed terror with massacres such as the one at Piazza Fontana. I liked how one journalist worded it, “the bombs that changed Italy.” Jarvis makes a connection with these relationships in regard to a museum. He explains that remembrance enables reconciliation between victims and perpetrators and also between the far left and extreme right.

Of course other articles this week also touched on Italy and its fascist past and present. But these two went really well together in explaining not only what has happened previously between the left and rightwing parties and supporters in Italy, but also what has been going on recently as a “look forward” type of ideal.

Life in the interregnum

Jim Dagg

For me, this week’s readings worked well to show us how the neo-fascist actors in three countries operated in the midst of their wilderness years. The connection with the idea of an interregnum period was clear.

I was surprised to see the term “deep state” used for a phenomenon that actually seemed appropriate (unlike its reuse in the US in recent years). Embedded fascist sentiment among “leading members of the armed forces, the security services, and the bureaucracy” was poisonous in Italy during the “First Republic” – and likely beyond. They were involved in terror attacks – and due to their positions in the state were often able to falsely implicate leftist actors.

During this time, the MSI – in spite of its transparent neo-fascist nature – was able to participate in legislative elections and was actively concerned about increasing its support.

Britain’s National Front dreamed of transnational links with dictatorial regimes in Libya and Iran as well as the Nation of Islam in the US. The link seemed necessary to the establishment of a Third Way (between capitalism and communism) which had to be on a global scale. The fact they were not taken seriously by any of these makes them seem rather comical.

The Mammone reading highlighted for me the lack of a coherent doctrine among neo-fascists in Italy. This was not actually a surprise given our discussion in recent weeks of the “whatever works” nature of fascist politics. To the rescue came Benoist, with his ND (Nouvelle Droite) structure and Gramscian ideas about building an altered culture to the right’s benefit. This was immediately embraced by Italians who cloned their own ND (Nuova Destra). This was the way out of the interregnum.

Reconciling with the Past Revisited: Italian Edition

The Jarvis article for this week very much reminds me of many of our discussions in previous weeks about German reconciliation with their past. The article describes the terrorist style killings that occurred within Milan, Italy from the 60’s-80’s, which would become notoriously known as the “years of lead”. “The city of Milan’s new “diffuse urban museum” is an attempt to reckon with the violence of the years of lead” (Jarvis). It is undeniably a noble undertaking to commemorate the past, and as the article states, “Confrontation with the past enables us to heal in the present, it claims. Remembrance enables reconciliation between victims and perpetrators, between far left and extreme right, between communities whose own memories have long been fiercely opposed” (Jarvis). Though it isn’t all sunshine and rainbows here, the museum may reconcile with the past, but what it needs to look for what still remains here in the present. Fascist violence is here and now, and you do not need to look very far. The article literally mentions how a far-right Italian politician shot and killed a Moroccan man recently. On this note, the Glynn reading on page 2 talks a bit a bit about how in the immediate aftermath of the “years of lead” in Italy no-one wanted to take part in any kind of wide-spread discussion on what had happened. While it’s understanding that mass killings will obviously be hard to talk about, if discussions aren’t had, and if understandings cannot be created between differing parties as to how and why these things happened, then what is stopping the violence from continuing? As we can see with the aforementioned recent killing of the Moroccan man apparently nothing.


Charlie Jarvis, “Milan Museum Commemorates Fascist Past at Expense of the Present” Hyperallergic (August 2, 2021), https://hyperallergic.com/667010/milan-museum-commemorates-fascist-past-at-the-expense-of-the-present/

Ruth Glynn, “Writing the terrorist self: the unspeakable alterity of Italy’s female perpetrators” Feminist Review (Jul 2009): 2.

Left and Right Populist Interactions

What stood out to me again in this week’s reading is the simultaneous hatred and overlap between far right populism and far left populism. The Mammon article notes that both groups sought to end the neoliberal capitalist order, and in that respect they had common goals and actions. From last week’s readings we also know that some members switched sides. At the same time, the Amyot and Glynn articles discuss Italy’s Years of Lead where the common enemy was the Italian Communist Party rather than neoliberalism, and the fascists and (neoliberal?) conservative sides worked together against them. Yet when the Italian conservatives (Christian Democratic Party) accepted the socialists into the governing coalition, they aggravated the right and a fascist coup started brewing. What all of this tells me is that, probably throughout Western Europe, all three sides generally hated each other and only worked together if they perceived one side as growing too strong.

Somewhat separate from this was the British National Front, which vehemently opposed both neoliberalism and communism, perceiving them as being the same. Rather than trying to balance out the aforementioned sides, they instead worked with islamists and black nationalists. Another, less bizarre alliance is that of the populist far right and the women who join it. The Chrisafis article says that the populist far right has a sexism problem but women still join it (primarily, but not necessarily) because they fear immigrant cultures. On the other side, there were also women active on the communist side in the Years of Lead, which might be less surprising but it should be noted that the Italian communists were also heavily male-dominated. Perhaps the common theme, then, is that populist groups will make alliances with just about anybody if they feel it’s in their mutual interest or if they feel some sort of kinship.