Anti-Feminism in the Rhetoric of Populist Radical Right (PRR) Female MPs in Germany and the United States
Ms. Milena Kagel is a research intern at AICGS for the summer of 2022. She supports resident fellows with their research projects, manages databases, and helps organize and document AICGS events.
Ms. Kagel graduated from Oberlin College in 2020, where she studied History and German Studies. She spent her third year of college studying abroad at the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität in Munich as part of an exchange program sponsored by the Federation of German-American Clubs. Her research interests include topics related to migration, education, historical memory and youth culture in Germany and Austria.
After graduating from college, Ms. Kagel spent two years work as an English Teaching Assistant through Fulbright Austria's USTA program. She will begin a Master's program in History at the University of Vienna this fall.
Women play an increasingly important role in Populist Radical Right (PRR) parties. This seems paradoxical, as these parties typically reject a political role for women and emphasize regressive core beliefs, including anti-abortion or “pro-life” narratives, anti-LGBTQIA+ rights, and anti-feminism. In a recent AGI seminar, DAAD/AGI Research Fellow Dr. Benjamin Höhne discussed his initial findings from four months of qualitative data analysis and fieldwork in Washington, DC. The study is based on parliamentary speeches by leading MPs in Germany and the United States. It uncovered how legislators’ anti-feminism is related to other populist narratives and stereotypes. Findings on anti-feminism at the top of the right-wing AfD and the increasingly important right-wing in the U.S. Republicans will contribute to a better understanding of a crucial threat in contemporary democracies.
What is anti-feminism?
- Anti-feminism is an ideology that generally opposes the emancipation of women and focuses on their utility in reproduction and motherhood.
- Anti-feminism is deeply rooted in society, so much so that it also appears in leftist and progressive circles.
History of Women in PRR Parties
- Historically, women have mostly played subordinate roles in PRR parties/movements
- This is starting to change. Women are front and center in different alt-right parties. Examples are Frauke Petry and Alice Weidel in the Alternative for Germany (AfD) and Marine Le Pen in France.
- Paradoxically, although PRR parties are ultimately regressive, they can have significant female involvement.
- Female politicians are seen as “softer” representatives of their parties and can express views on gender that their male counterparts cannot. This is, in part, driving the growing popularity of PRR parties.
- -Analyzing parliamentary speeches made by right-wing politicians in the U.S. and Germany:
- Congresswomen Lauren Boebert and Marjorie Taylor Greene (Republican Party)
- MPs Alice Weidel and Beatrix von Storch (AfD)
- Looking for instances of different types of anti-feminist rhetoric
- Conservative, masculine, neo-liberal, right-wing national and conspiracy theory anti-feminism
- Qualitative analysis/Coding of keywords related to anti-feminism
- Analysis of these four female politicians’ tweets from January-June 2022 (done by AGI Intern Olivia Howard)
- The American politicians use Twitter more than Weidel and von Storch
- Boebert and Taylor Greene both frequently responded to trending media topics and current divisive issues
- Almost half of their tweets directly or indirectly referenced gender, which shows the political resonance of gender issues and how they can be connected to a variety of other topics
- Boebert: Frequently referenced Christian beliefs
- Taylor Greene: Alluded to right-wing extremism and conspiracy theories
- What kind of anti-feminism do female MPs of the PRR promote?
- How does their anti-feminism relate to other populist narratives?
- Which audiences are addressed?
Types of Anti-Feminism Found in Parliamentary Speeches
- Conservative: Focuses on upholding traditional or religious values
- Has the potential to reach moderate conservatives in addition to those on the far-right.
- Example: Speech given by Congresswoman Lauren Boebert in which she draws a connection between Democrats’ pro-life stance and the death of 13 American soldiers during the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan.
- Conspiracy theory: Worldview based in anti-Semitic and racist resentment and fear of societal change driven by migrants or the “gender lobby”
- Example: Speech given by Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene on the Violence Against Women Act, in which she suggests that Democrats want to create an “authoritarian woke state”
- Neo-liberal: Focuses on individualism, meritocracy, and austerity rather than equal opportunities for men and women
- Right-wing nationalist: Rooted in xenophobic attitudes and a desire to maintain the “natural order;” portrays feminism as a threat to national security
- Example: Speech given by Beatrix von Storch, in which she displays obvious contempt for LGBTQ+ people
- Conservative anti-feminism was the most prevalent form found in the analyzed speeches.
- Anti-feminism is often connected to other populist narratives.
- Different types of anti-feminism can reach different audiences (even people who do not consider themselves populists).
- The similarities in political rhetoric in Germany and the United States show that anti-feminism has a transnational quality.
- Anti-feminism in the United States was more strongly associated with Christian beliefs, anti-abortion attitudes, and gun rights than in Germany.
- By looking at how these four women employ anti-feminist rhetoric, we can better understand which changes in PRR parties are being driven by women.
- Anti-feminism can serve as a powerful political tool to create a sense of belonging, encourage mobilization, and garner more support.
- The ability of these women to influence right-wing politics by espousing anti-feminist views is dangerous and should not be underestimated.
- Future research on this topic could delve into:
- Comparing how anti-feminism is used by men and women
- Elements of nonverbal communication
- Various functions of anti-feminism