Why this story matters:
Right-wing groups are on the rise, both in Europe and North America, and young women are now meant to be the friendly face of racist ideologies. The radical right has not only became younger and hipper, but also more feminine. This is particularly noticeable on social media. Increasingly, patriotic and nationalist groups make a point of advertising female presence in their ranks.
It is a strategy employed by the Identitarian Movement of Austria, a far-right group with strong ties to the alt-right that is currently monitored by Germany’s Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution.
The leader of the Identitarian Movement, Martin Sellner, actively promotes women. He records Youtube videos with an anti-feminist activist, Franziska. Well-known far-right Youtuber Alina Wycherer, also known as Alina von Rauheneck, models for Sellner's online shop in fitted shirts with slogans like "Still not loving Antifa" or the logo of the Identitarian Movement.
The proportion of female members in the Identitarian Movement of Austria is estimated at one fifth or less -- still a minority. But, according to social scientists, while women are not as willing to engage in racist activism, their views are just as likely to be racist and anti-Semitic as those of men.
Details from the story:
- In 2011 Andrea Röpke, a long-time German expert on right-wing extremism, pointed out in her book, "Mädelsache! Frauen in der Neo-Nazi-Szene" ("Girls' Business: Women in the Neo-Nazi Scene"), that female members of right-wing groups are deliberately made visible.
- "Women are used to promote such groups on the Internet to attract sympathizers," explains Röpke. A young woman looks less threatening than an angry skinhead or an old Nazi.
- Bernhard Weidinger, a member of the Documentation Centre of Austrian Resistance (DÖW), also sees this trend: women tend to serve their purpose in the background. After all, right-wing extremist groups are still mostly male, according to Weidinger.
- The image of far-right women presented by these groups seems to promote the fact that they are entitled to their opinion. But in fact, they play a role that has been assigned to them for decades by right-wing extremism. Röpke explains: "This image [of women] is anything but emancipated, and it does not want to be." The female figureheads embody femininity instead of feminism, and they demand a high birth rate in the local population instead of immigration.
- "It would be a dangerous qualitative leap for women to turn to organized right-wing extremism on a large scale." -- says Bernhard Weidinger about the trend that is emerging across Europe.