What the fuck is a “rapefugee”? On sexism, sexual violence and the alt-right

jack-buckby-channel-4-newsThis week, Channel Four News chose to give a platform to former BNP member Jack Buckby in a debate about the ‘alt-right’, alongside Barbara Ntumy, an activist with NUS Black Students. In a video clip that’s now been widely shared, Buckby suggests that Ntumy should take in a Syrian refugee herself, then adds “I hope you don’t get raped”.

Many viewers have been shocked by this. But we shouldn’t be shocked that alt-right activists try this manoeuvre to scaremonger about refugees. Fascists and the far-right have been trying to forge an imaginary connection between migrants and sexual violence for years now. Last year, Pegida and other smaller fascist groups called protests against what they crudely termed “rapefugees” after a spate of sex attacks in Cologne, which were dubiously linked to Syrian refugees in a series of unsubstantiated reports. Far-right activists attempt to create this link in people’s minds to present outsiders –‘foreigners’ – as a danger to ‘pure’ white European culture. Fascists scapegoat Muslims and migrants for everyday evils that are in fact already deeply embedded in our own society, then cherry-pick their examples of migrant violence in a dishonest and disingenuous way to exaggerate the threat of migrant newcomers. For example, fascists made much of the fact that the Rochdale paedophile ring contained Muslims,while deliberately overlooking the large numbers of white paedophiles and sex offenders, including powerful repeat offenders in the Church and the BBC, and the dozens of white people who helped cover up their crimes. According to the 2013 Overview of Sexual Offending in England and Wales, 80.9% of sentenced sexual offenders in the UK in 2011 were white – and this is without taking into account the ethnic variations in sentencing across almost all crimes in Britain, which leads to disproportionately lower conviction rates for white attackers.

Let’s get this one point clear: there is no link between being a refugee and perpetrating sexual violence. The only really significant correlation between any demographic and sexual violence is that most perpetrators are men and most victims are women (and/or children). Sexism has no respect for borders; it spans continents regardless of nationality or race. White British fascists and alt-righters – the kind that use the word “rapefugee” and claim to be the defenders of women and children – are, by definition, incredibly sexist. They are sexist both in their behaviour – in their comments online and their sexual objectification of women – and in their ideology, which argues for extreme, traditional gender roles in which women’s choices are limited and recent advances in women’s rights are reversed. At a demonstration of the Racial Volunteer Force at Royal Holloway University late last year, far-right ideologue Jez Turner shouted “get back in the kitchen!” at female students on an anti-fascist counter-protest. Fascists are no friends to women.

The myth of the sexually-violent refugee draws on racist stereotypes which depict BME (Black and Minority Ethnic) men as sexually aggressive and threatening. These stereotypes go back to Britain’s colonial days and arise from a profound racist fear of black and Asian masculinity, which has often been perceived as a threat to white male domination. In the minds of far-right and alt-right men, women are the prizes for powerful ‘alpha’ males, and strong BME men represent a danger because they ‘compete’ for the same pool of women that white men are aiming to possess. Hence the popularity of the idea that migrants might “come over here and take our women” as well as jobs and resources: for these men, women are resources. Hard-right sexists don’t afford women the basic respect of recognising their agency in choosing partners. It’s no surprise,then, that the alt-right recruit through online spaces where ‘red pill’ misogyny is common: they link together feminism and multiculturalism as joint evils in a world where they feel that white men are losing out. Using this myth allows white racist men to present themselves as the unthanked saviours and protectors of women and children who are supposedly in danger from migrants, while simultaneously often blaming women and their choices (e.g. how they dress) for their experiences with sexual violence. As a woman who has repeatedly faced sexual violence from white British men, I can confirm: the idea that white men are less sexist than BME men is utter bullshit.

Here’s a message to all you alt-right pricks and fascist scumbags out there: I don’t want your “protection”. I know you’re sexist hypocrites and that you only care about my safety when it can be used to attack migrants.

We must destroy sexual violence across borders, and we must stand in solidarity with people in different communities fighting sexism and racism from the grassroots.

Oh, and for fuck’s sake Channel Four:


by Kalliara