Women in the far right: A network of toxic femininity

Women in the far right: A network of toxic femininity

The world is accustomed to overlooking the power of women, however women are a powerful force in any movement for instance, the Women’s March in January 2017 was an incredible display of what women can do together, fighting for equality and positive change. However there are other movements which women are strengthening behind the scenes that may not serve society for the good. This is particularly true in the case of white supremacist women in the United States throughout the Twentieth century until now. However, the twentieth century is considered the decade in which women’s role peaked in White Supremacist movements especially within the Klu Klux Klan. In the 1920s the Klu Klux Klan had a branch for women reportedly with half a million members, it was much more successful than its male counterpart in organising parades and produced the most vicious and destructive results. This was because they were better at public relations. These women were able to hide their xenophobic agenda behind a façade of social welfare.

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However, with the election of President Donald Trump in the US and the evolution of social media and technology, white supremacist women have become a marketing tool for white supremacy. Many white supremacist women are advertising their lifestyles as tradwifes on social media platforms. Tradwife is short for the term traditional wife, it is used in alt-right circles to refer to women that embody traditionally feminine and wifely qualities such as submissiveness, chastity, willingness to run/manage the household and rear children. One popular name in the tradwifescene is Ayla Stewart a Utah women in her thirties who goes by the twitter handle of ‘wifewithapuprose’.  Stewart has over 11,000 subscribers on YouTube and over 200 videos with viewing figures over 1,000. Stewart’s homemade videos were centred on her political transformation from feminist, gay rights activist and pagan to alt-right tradwife. This later changed and her videos focussed on spreading the alt-right ideology.

In 2017 Stewart issued a white baby challenge, essentially encouraging white women to reproduce because according to Ayla the number of white babies born in the West has fallen.  Over the past few years a significant number of YouTube and social media accounts have popped up ‘showcasing soft spoken young white women who extol the virtues of staying at home, submitting to male leadership and bearing lots of children’, praising the role of becoming a ‘traditional’ wife. It is important to state that this is not to say that women should not be traditional mothers but instead that white supremacist women are using the traditional mother role to engineer white supremacy within society, this takes on the form of rearing children with racist, sexist and fascist views. Most importantly these women are supporting their husbands and male family members at the forefront of violent white supremacy.

These women offer online advice and videos on topics ranging from ‘how to please your husband’ to racist reflections on ‘ghetto music’ and calls to ‘reassert their vision of the white race’. These far-right extremists do not want women and women’s equal rights; tradwifes use their traditional wife roles to strengthen the white supremacist ideology by marketing the ideology, recruiting and networking. This is similar to the roles that the wives of ISIS fighters take on – recruiting and influencing others through social media. Ayla Stewart has even created a video blaming feminism for ‘the Muslim invasion of Europe’ by accusing feminists of being ‘too emotional and not thinking logically’. She has gone as far as questioning a woman’s right to vote in elections and arguing that feminists hate men and that they believe that women are superior to men. As shocking as this may seem this is not a new phenomenon. In fact many white married women throughout American history have voted Republican and they have played a major role in turning the political landscape to the right.  For purposes of clarity it is crucial to note that voting Republican does not necessarily mean that an individual is a far-right supporter but instead shows how white married women are able to impact the political landscape, just like Black American women and young people were able to swing local elections in the US. The simple point is that throughout history there has been a pattern of white married women voting inline with conservative ideas. Especially in the 1970s conservative white women would rally against feminism. From Ayla Stewart’s videos we can see this anti-feminist rhetoric still being used to rally white religious conservatives together. Thus uniting white supremacists under her comments section and more importantly giving them a platform to be confident in what they’re doing. The link between religious conservatism and far right women is an interesting, complex and under researched relationship. Of course not all religious conservatives adhere to far-right ideas but the ones that do fear the rise of secularism, liberalism and Islam. This is because many feel the rise of immigration is leading to the eradication of Christian values and this for them must be restored inevitably leading to racist agendas.

These women reinforce a violent and racist ideology, they transmit news using their domestic roles, sending invites and cooking for Klan gatherings, gathering within their private space to discuss their extreme views. Yet ironically when interviewed many of these women claim they are not racists and only want back what is apparently theirs. Many women within the movement are drawn to the promises of a movement ‘that imbues their femininity with enormous power’ they are told that by simply being white, female, attractive and fertile they will be ‘valuable beyond measure to a renegade but righteous cause’. Essentially, they get the opportunity to feel needed and important; they feel that the power to create change is rooted in who they are in the physical sense. For example, in a podcast Nicole Jorgenson a tradwife was praised for marrying a man of the same Norwegian heritage as her and having children of the same blood. Jorgenson was praised for her actions because it reinforced the white supremacist movement and her traditional wife role fit into the misogynistic ideas of the men in the movement. This has been continuing for decades and will only keep continuing if we ignore that women are active agents and so can be complicit and actively promote white supremacist ideology.