Misogyny in the white supremacist movement is getting some renewed attention today but really it’s an old phenomenon. History is repeating itself and it’s time we recognize that.
As a woman who has experienced misogyny and abuse in daily life and (formerly) within the violent far-right extremist movement in this country, I write this to highlight the fact that this is a problem far more complex than what we are interpreting through our news feeds.
Humor me for a moment and consider a metaphor. Imagine there are three snow globes, one inside the other. The largest globe represents American society, the second represents the “alt-right,” and the third and smallest globe is the group of women complaining today about misogyny within that movement.
Give it all a big shake. That’s what’s going on.
Inequality and contempt for the oppressed are built into the fabric of U.S. society and its social systems. This same top-down effect keeps predatory men in positions of power, refuses members of the LGBTQ community human rights, and denies aid to refugees fleeing global conflicts.
It is the same system that granted white women the right to vote in 1920, while Jim Crow kept black women away from the polls for decades after that. A system that, even today, more than 150 years after the 13th Amendment, which abolished slavery, ostracizes people of color protesting police misconduct.
Looking at the women in the smallest globe, I am reminded of the white women who, in the 1920s, created a standalone organization to the KKK called Women of the Ku Klux Klan. They used their activism to dehumanize others. They are akin to the white women who, during the suffrage movement, leveraged disdain and oppression of women of color to propel themselves into positions, not necessarily of great power, but away from the very bottom of the totem pole. Today, white women are still co-opting social justice movements.
At one point, I utilized a distorted form of activism to dehumanize others. It made me feel powerful in spaces where I had no power. It gave me a false sense of self-respect when I had none for myself. And made me feel that I had some semblance of control in my life. My actions were atrocious, and I am responsible for the ways I wielded activism as a weapon and leveraged it to dehumanize others. It is why I understand the misguided, self-defeating women who are crying foul today.
The movement to which these women belong is complex; women are placed on a pedestal and told they are the most important weapon against an alleged conspiracy against the white race. They’re told that without them the white race will perish. Simultaneously, they are oppressed, expected to be subservient, are abused, and placed in conflicting roles where the very same men who placed them on the pedestal are the same men trolling them now and who will offer a swift backhand at the slightest offense. The women immersed in the so-called “alt-right” would disagree, but for those of us who found our way out, it is crystal clear.
Sadly, these women are also victims of the intersection of white supremacy and misogyny, they just haven’t realized it yet. The fact is that we are all socialized into a misogynistic society firmly planted in a system of white supremacy. It’s imperative that we make a wholehearted effort to make the distinction between the system of white supremacy we all live in and white supremacist individuals emboldened by it because if we fail to do so, we veer further away from solutions and social justice.
We have to name the problem before we begin talking about how to solve it.
Angela King is a founding member of Life After Hate.