Barely several hours into this year’s International Women’s Day and the far-right were already coming out of the woodwork feigning recognition for the annual event. Could it be that they’ve ditched their ideological commitment to reestablishing patriarchy to become progressive advocates of women’s liberation? Or are they just opportunists cynically using women to push an agenda? Earlier that same week in a Facebook post, fascists North West Infidels (NWI), stated that the Suffragettes “fought and died” in vain while the Burka continues to be worn by Muslim women unchallenged in Great Britain.
NWI, like other far right groups, maintain the veil is “oppressive” and if women who cover up refuse to integrate then they should just “go back” to “the barbaric third world” where they came from. Worryingly, UKIP’s deputy leader, Paul Nuttall, was also pushing the burka ban as his impassioned tweet demonstrated, appealing to a wider public.
Call me a cynic, but I don’t buy it, and I’m counting on the reader for whom this addresses not to need an in depth explanation as to why the far-right haven’t had a sudden change of heart, and that this is nothing more than a shameless attempt to reassert their racist agenda. Instead, as a disabled, bisexual, woman of colour I want to talk about why fighting fascism is a feminist issue and integral to the working class struggle. If fascism succeeds the rights of women and minority genders will be pushed back along with the rights of ethnic and religious minorities, the LGBT community, and fascism’s political opponents in the Left.
Bizarrely, there has been a concerted effort by some in the far-right towards a fascism that does in fact celebrate women’s resistance, but of course this is always caveated with a resistance to the emergence of progressive Leftist ideas: those pesky “culturalMarxists” responsible for the ever encroaching onslaught of “rapeugees” are among some declared enemies of the far-right. In an embarrassing attempt to sound intellectual, fascists National Action (NA) published an article making a case for “Fascist Feminism”. They write:
“In a supposedly male dominated world full of sexual exploitation, gender oppression, sexist bias and blatant misogyny, the rising tide of feminine resistance is gathering ever greater momentum. Slim and beautiful, tough and intelligent, a new Cult of the Idisi are taking to the streets under the Lambda and Celtic Cross.”
Admittedly I chuckled when I first read this. But it wasn’t the first time I had come across this ideological trajectory on the farright. For decades feminist thinkers have been puzzled over the ostensive appeal fascism has had on women, particularly as it is an ideology concerned with the eroding of women’s rights, among the rights of other minorities. The Sky 1 documentary “BNP Wives” was difficult viewing. But a fascist woman is still a fascist. Some groups, such as Pie and Mash Squad, have recently made notably more attempts to glorify female fascist street fighters. Their efforts to draw more women into the movement rests upon the following criteria: that the women are exclusively White European, and that as a woman their value is contingent on their reproductive power.
A fascist woman writes:
“It’s tough being a woman in prowhite circles… I think if white nationalist men are serious about attracting women, they need to offer us real options. Not the one or the otheroption we currently have but something that would allow us to provide for our families and still be involved mothers.”
These contradicting statements reveal a commitment to asserting traditional gender roles, but also a desire for agency and to be taken seriously within the movement. This is really at odds with fascist ideology which is for the most part regressive and concerned with going back toa time where white male Europeans dominated. Fascists historically, and continue to be, committed to the idea that women will only be liberated when they are assigned to their “natural” calling: as mothers, childrearers, and social reproducers of the men who will further the movement. Notably, the farright’s preoccupation with themes like blood, soil, trees, the earth, and other symbols of the perceived “natural order of things” demonstrates an ideology that is seeped in essentialist, gendered language. While “Neomasculinity” is a seeminglyburgeoning movement advanced by foreveralone men’s rights activist Roosh V, it is no coincidence that white supremacists are being drawn to his explicitly misogynist
philosophy[2,3]. Neomasculinists maintain that they are resisting the “shame” of being in touch with their ‘masculinity’ as a backlash against #creepingfeminism and proqueer agendas. This further evidences a clear link between men’s rights activists and an underlying theme in fascist ideology concerned with reverting back totradition and back to “nature”. And this is why women are integral to the fight against fascism.
Farright attempts to cynically use and continue to objectify women’s bodies in order to push their racist agenda is nothing new, although it is manifesting in seemingly more explicit ways. But their unsubtle efforts to manipulate growing insecurities around the migrant crisis is hard to swallow when we consider some of their actions in recent clashes at Dover. Women comrades on the frontlines confronting NeoNazis heard rape threats and vile, misogynist abuse being spouted by the very same fascists feigning concern for the “Oppressed Muslim” woman. Much of this sexism was racialised. Despite the sexist, verbal diarrhea spewing out of the mouths of these fascists, women comrades were undeterred and we defended ourselves effectively through realising our collective power. It should go without saying, the level of gendered and racialised violence reported here is by no means an attempt to warn women and other marginalised people to stay away from such militant antifascist actions. You don’t need a gatekeeper who thinks they know what’s best for you to tell you to stay away. Some of the strongest, bravest, and most badass people I have met in our movement are women.
The last thing we need is patronising saviours telling us we don’t have to fight the fascists if we don’t feel up to it. It’s true, we don’t. But for me, it’s not a question of choice. It’s through my very lack of choices and my very lack of privilege that I take risks to defend myself from state violence and fascism. For those who have actively blocked practical solidarity and support to antifascist organisations in the name of standing up for women and people of colour you believe are undermined in the movement, you’ve actually made it more dangerous for us to organise. I feel safer on the streets standing with my comrades who I know will risk the imminent threat of state and fascist violence to defend me as I would them than when I’m at a broad Left AB march walking no more than 10 yards away from a known abuser and sex offender in the movement, surrounded by their mates, enabling their behaviour and subsequently the behaviour of perpetrators of abuse and sexual violence to continue unopposed. Also knowing that, if I were to confront them there and then, the people around me would shout “this is not the time and place!” or demand proof that this person is an abuser. This experience is not unique to me, but akin to the many brilliant women antifascists who have echoed similar sentiments.
There is indeed a rich history of women playing an integral part in militant antifascism, but you probably won’t read much about it in accounts or history books. Male antifascists are either recognised above all others within the movement (because, guess what?Sexism and genderbias is endemic!) or our very existences are utterly erased by the more liberal elements in the wider Left who dismiss antifascism as a macho mess of white boys who just want a fight.
Let me make one thing clear: violence is notmacho it’s necessary.It’s not reserved just for big, tough looking men. Many women, minority genders, and people of colour are not strangers to defending ourselves against patriarchal violence. This is in no way an attempt to glorify or overromanticise militant tactics above the sheer level of organising, intelligence gathering, and political campaigning that defends antifascism from the state and the farright. But the very fact is, women and minority genders do a lot of the militant work. We are on the frontlines. We stand with our comrades and break police lines, often putting our bodies at risk of physical violence and at risk of being snatched and arrested. We stand with our comrades when confronting fascists and racists, putting our bodies at risk of imminent threat of physical violence, but successfully driving them back. Whether we fight with our fists or stand strong and shout “NO PASARAN!” we never back down.
I’m a revolutionary. I’m a feminist. I’m an antifascist. And I’m a woman. My parents are immigrants part of a diaspora of peoples forced to leave their country of origin because of conflict and poverty. If we were under a fascist government, history shows us my family would be deported and I would be killed because of my political commitment to communism. Fascism needs to be opposed, and working class women and minorities will continue to be at the frontlines of this struggle.
1. Julie V. Gottlieb, and Thomas P. Linehan [eds.] (2004) Culture of Fascism: Visions of the Far Right in B r i t a i n ,T a u r i s & C o L t d : N e w Y o r k , P . 1 8 4