Women increasingly attracted by right-wing populist parties

While far-right parties used to be the staple of "angry white men" this is now changing. Far-right parties in Europe are increasingly promoting women leaders and tapping into the important female electorate. 

Claudia Ciobanu
Claudia Ciobanu NewsMavens, Central & Eastern Europe
Women increasingly attracted by right-wing populist parties - NewsMavens
Marine Le Pen, Wikimedia Commons 2017

Why this story matters:

It may sound contradictory that women would vote for -- or even lead -- a far-right party whose ideology relies on a mix of nationalism and patriarchy. But increasingly, European far-right parties elect women leaders and even depict themselves as defenders of "women's rights".

This is made possible by the reinterpretation of women rights proposed by these parties: while they oppose things like abortion or gay rights, they claim to defend women from the "threat" of Muslim immigrants who would, in this worldview, threaten European women and their freedom.

Moreover, the new far-right parties claim to defend women's right to choose between working and staying at home to take care of the family, sometimes by proposing better maternity benefits or support measures for families with children.

In some cases, women leaders of far-right parties are even key supporters of gay rights. The far-right is moving into the mainstream and this would not be possible without the female vote. 

Details from the story:

  • At least half a dozen women lead rightwing, populist European parties, such as Alice Weidel, of the AfD, and Giorgia Meloni, of the Brothers of Italy. Other known female leaders are Marine Le Pen of the French National Rally, Pia Kjærsgaard, co-founder of the anti-immigration Danish People’s party, and Norway’s finance minister, Siv Jensen, leader of anti-immigration Progress party.
  • In France and Italy, far-right female leaders emerged earlier to harness the female vote. Germany's AfD has been slower to move towards a better gender balance, but it now has a women's branch and one of its top politicians is a gay woman -- who opposes gay marriage. 
  • The anger of service workers (many of whom are female) is what the far-right is trying to tap into -- as attested to by the yellow vest protests in France. 
  • The far-right parties have successfully co-opted the language of "women's rights" but have given it a very specific interpretation: defending women from "dangerous" Muslim migrants. 
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