The alt-right hates women as much as it hates non-white people | Matthew N Lyons | Opinion

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One hundred days on from Donald Trump entering the White House with its help, what will the alt-right do next? The small, loosely organised movement, which has helped to revitalise far-right politics in the United States, has made skilful use of internet activism and has a receptive ear in Trump’s chief strategist Steve Bannon, who as former head of Breitbart News once proclaimed his network “the platform of the alt-right”. More than shaping White House policy, however, the alt-right’s greatest impact may come from its efforts to shift the political culture.

Although best known for its white nationalist brand of racist ideology, there’s growing recognition that patriarchal politics is also central to the movement. Several observers have pointed out that the alt-right advocates not just white supremacy, but more specifically white male supremacy, that the movement feeds on “toxic resentment of women”, and that sexism serves as a “gateway drug” pulling a lot of young men into it. The few alt-right women who have been profiled embrace their own subordination.

Missing from these accounts is a recognition that the alt-right is reshaping patriarchal politics. Its version of male supremacy is not just more explicit or aggressive – it’s strikingly different from the version that’s been dominant among US rightists for decades.

Consider abortion. Some alt-rightists, unsurprisingly, argue that abortion is simply immoral and should be banned. Yet many others in the movement disagree – and for reasons that have nothing to do with respecting women’s autonomy or privacy. These alt-rightists support legal abortion because, they claim, it’s disproportionately used by black and Latina women and, secondarily, because they see it as a way to weed out “defective” white babies. In other words, they support abortion as a form of eugenics. Both sides of this internal alt-right debate agree that women have no business controlling their own bodies. As Greg Johnson of the alt-right website Counter-Currents put it, “in a White Nationalist society … some abortions should be forbidden, others should be mandatory, but under no circumstances should they simply be a matter of a woman’s choice”.

As far as I can tell, the only outsiders who have responded to this discussion are Christian rightists. For decades they’ve used the “black genocide” canard in an effort to smear abortion rights proponents as racist; now they have some actual racists to go after. But alt-rightists aren’t the least bit intimidated.

For 40 years, the Christian right has been the benchmark of anti-feminist, patriarchal politics in the United States. The Christian right was the first large-scale movement in US history to put the reassertion of male dominance at the centre of its programme. Since the 1970s, it has spearheaded a whole series of patriarchal initiatives, from the campaign to defeat the Equal Rights Amendment to the self-described “biblical patriarchy” movement, which tells women they have a sacred obligation to treat their husbands as “lord”.

Alex Poucher



An anti-abortion activist prays outside a Planned Parenthood clinic in Texas. Some ‘alt-rightists support legal abortion because, they claim, it’s disproportionately used by black and Latina women’. Photograph: Christian Science Monitor/Getty Images

Patriarchal ideology is important to the alt-right as well. Alongside the gas chamber jokes and racial slurs, a lot of its online activism has involved targeting women with rape and death threats, images of sexual violence, and misogynistic invective. Even harassment campaigns against male opponents often focus on their wives or daughters. Many alt-rightists revel in openly vilifying women in ways Christian rightists have generally avoided.

The two movements agree on several key points: that gender roles are based on innate differences between males and females and need to be aggressively enforced for the good of society as a whole; that it’s natural and right for men to hold power over women; and that women’s main functions in society are to provide men with support, care and sexual satisfaction, and to bear and raise children.

But after that, the two movements diverge significantly. For example, Christian rightists base their gender ideology on their interpretation of the Bible and obedience to God’s law. Some alt-rightists take a similar approach, but more commonly base their arguments on evolutionary psychology – or on what’s needed to defend and promote the white race.

Christian right gender ideology centres on an idealised and very narrow model of a “traditional” family, where men are in charge and women are in a firmly subordinate but crucial role. Many Christian right organisations, such as Concerned Women for America, have recruited women as active participants with a contradictory blend of messages. On the one hand, the movement has told women that if they agreed to be obedient housewives and mothers, their husbands would reward them with protection, economic support and love. Christian rightists denounce feminism as unnatural, man-hating and a dangerous rejection of the safety that the traditional family supposedly offers women.

Alex Poucher



‘The small, loosely organised movement has a receptive ear in Trump’s chief strategist Steve Bannon, right.’ Photograph: Carlos Barria/Reuters

At the same time, many Christian rightists have often implicitly used concepts borrowed from feminism, for example arguing that abortion “exploits women” or that federal support for childcare supposedly limits women’s choices. Some Christian right groups have encouraged women to become more self-confident and assertive, speak publicly and take on leadership roles – as long as they do it in the service of the movement’s patriarchal agenda.

Christian rightists vary widely on how much latitude to allow women and how comprehensively men should be in control. In the New Apostolic Reformation movement, a vast and influential network based among Pentecostals and Charismatics, several women hold high international leadership roles. This would be inconceivable in the biblical patriarchy movement, which emphasises that a woman’s number one religious duty is “submission” to her husband. Yet even the biblical patriarchy movement relies largely on female authors and speakers to persuade women that they should accept and, if possible, embrace their subordinate role.

By contrast, alt-rightists routinely argue that women should be stripped of the right to vote (a position shared by the Christian right’s hardline wing, but not its majority) and political freedom more broadly. And with some exceptions, most of the alt-right has made no significant efforts to recruit women. Some alt-rightists have declared that women are “unimportant” to the movement, while others have actively discouraged or barred women from participating. When the alt-right first coalesced in 2010, some adherents warned that misogyny and sexual harassment in movement circles were driving off half the movement’s potential base, but those voices are now long gone, replaced by claims that few women join the alt-right because they’re unsuited by nature to aggressive political activism.

The alt-right’s lack of women highlights another ideological contrast with the Christian right. While the alt-right pays lip service to the traditional family ideal, it is strongly influenced by male supremacist currents for which the family is peripheral or irrelevant. These include the predatory sexuality of the so-called manosphere, the anti-feminist subculture where “pick-up artists” teach men how to manipulate women into having sex with them, and the “male tribalism” promoted by longtime alt-right author Jack Donovan, who dreams of a social and political order based on close-knit “gangs” of male warriors. Reversing the conventional idea that men take up arms to protect and provide for their families, Donovan writes that families exist to make male gang life possible. Donovan’s open homosexuality further underscores the clash with Christian right values, although he repudiates gay culture as effeminate.

The theme of intense male comradeship nourished by violence, and at odds with “bourgeois” family life, has deep roots in the history of fascism. So does the theme of motherhood as a duty that women owe, not to their husbands or to God, but to their nation or race. It’s possible to bridge the gaps between these themes and family-centred traditionalism, but they should remind us that male supremacist ideology may take forms we don’t expect. Such as an alt-rightist supporting legal abortion.

Click to view the original article on The Guardian.

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