Women in Extreme Right Parties and Movements: A Comparison of the Netherlands and the United States

Sunday, January 8, 2012: 11:20 AM
Sheraton Ballroom II (Sheraton Chicago Hotel & Towers)
Kathleen Blee, University of Pittsburgh
Annette Linden, Independent Scholar
Far-right parties and extremist movements have distinct ideas about the place of women in politics. In some extremist politics, majority women appear primarily as symbols of national, ethnic, racial, or group status rather than as potential activists.  These women are portrayed as sexual or economic victims of minority men, pointing to the need for majority men to become involved in political agendas.  More often, especially recently, new ideas of gender have percolated into the far-right, supplementing - although not replacing - the emphasis on majority women as potential victims. This new view posits majority women as potential warriors of their race/nation/group, fighting to sustain their eroding privileges alongside their male comrades while retaining their role as supporters of men and mothers of children.  We explore the extent to which the differing images and roles of women in far-right politics might reflect the difference between the far-right parties that seek electoral office of Western Europe and more politically marginalized, non-electoral far-right movements of the United State. This paper draws on extensive life-history interviews with female activists in far-right parties in the Netherlands and far-right political movements in the U.S. in the late 1990s conducted by each author.  In these interviews, women were asked to reflect on the motivations and circumstances of their entry into far-right politics and their experience in these movements and parties.  These data are unique; no other study has gathered such extensive data directly from women in these far-right groups.