On February 22, Marion Maréchal-Le Pen, the niece of France’s far-right leader Marine Le Pen, took the stage at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference. She railed against globalism, decrying the European Union for turning France “from the eldest daughter of the Catholic Church to the little niece of Islam.”
Maréchal-Le Pen’s presence at CPAC demonstrates a disturbing trend where the Republican Party is increasingly abandoning its conservative principles for nationalistic “blood and soil” rhetoric. Just as disturbing — and surprising — is the number of women advocating for nationalism in movements that are strongly anti-feminist.
Anti-feminism is ingrained in various far-right groups, with outright misogyny sometimes on display, yet there are a number of prominent women speaking out against globalization and immigration, like political activists Lauren Southern and Tara McCarthy.
Southern, a far-right Canadian political activist, has over 330,000 Twitter followers and has contributed to Rebel Media and Breitbart. In 2016, she authored and self-published Barbarians: How Baby Boomers, Immigrants, and Islam Screwed My Generation, which “expose[s] the frauds, liars, idiots, and above all, barbarians” as those responsible for the decline of Western civilization.
Tara McCarthy, a British white supremacist, hosts Reality Calls, a webcast promoting ethnonationalism and anti-globalism. She co-hosted the webcast, Virtue of the West, with Brittany Pettibone, a self-proclaimed American Nationalist before its GoFundMe was taken down for promoting racism.
Like Maréchal-Le Pen, Southern and McCarthy are focused on national identity, often combining their criticisms of globalism with a pursuit for racial homogeneity.
“I view ethnonationalism as the healthiest way for our world to function in accordance with nature as it has done since the beginning of humankind, and also as the most desirable way for it to continue,” McCarthy argued in a now-archived YouTube video.
Southern shares a similar sentiment in her book.
“Unchecked immigration is a moral eyesore,” Southern wrote. “It asks our states to fail their most basic obligations by putting the needs of faceless, dubiously friendly strangers over the needs of the citizens they exist to protect and serve.”
While Southern or McCarthy is unlikely to appear on stage at CPAC anytime soon, they shouldn’t be mindlessly dismissed as just white supremacy Barbies. These women are not just pretty faces. They have found a way to repackage xenophobia and anti-immigrant sentiments into a more palatable narrative: protecting women and preserving tradition.
Far-right nationalists like Southern have used the migrant crisis, which roughly began in 2015 and saw millions of African, Middle Eastern and Asian migrants fleeing to European shores, as proof of a Muslim invasion of white Christian Europe. The majority of migrants are indeed Muslims fleeing their war-torn homes in Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq, in search of security and better economic opportunities, but a portion are Yazidi Christians running from religious persecution from ISIS.
Nevertheless, far-right nationalists don’t see the overwhelming flow of refugees as a human rights crisis but as a threat toward European identity.
Génération Identitaire, a European alt-right movement, led a mission called Defend Europe to stop nongovernmental organizations like SOS Méditerranée from conducting search and rescue missions in the Mediterranean.
Southern, joined by Brittany Pettibone, an American alt-right activist, helped crowdfund for Defend Europe missions. In May 2017, Southern joined a mission to try and stop the SOS Méditerranée’s vessel Aquarius from bringing migrants to the coast of Sicily last July.
“If the politicians won’t stop the boats, we’ll stop the boats,” Southern said during a live stream of her Defend Europe mission.
Defend Europe, along with Southern, have argued the NGOs are complicit in human trafficking and are responsible for migrants drowning by acting as a “pull factor.” The group alleges that the NGOs presence leads migrants to think the passage to Europe is safer than it actually is.
This is a shallow attempt to rebrand their anti-migrant efforts as concern for migrants’ lives, as Defend Europe’s ships are decorated with banners reading, “You will not make Europe home.”
In a similar vein, far right activists have painted their xenophobia as concern over sexual assault.
A far-right campaign, promoted by Génération Identitaire, called 120 decibels is attempting to co-opt the MeToo movement to raise awareness of sexual assault committed by migrants. Pettibone herself has advocated for this movement.
The far-right’s concern over sexual assault in this matter is a thinly-veiled attack on migrants, an attempt to demonize them in the minds of politicians and the public. They present an apocalyptic vision of a migrant crime wave sweeping across Europe with white women as the primary victims suffering from sexual violence.
The campaign’s website argues there is a surge in sexual assaults by migrants which is caused “by the misogynistic cultural-conditioning that migrants inherit from majority-Muslim countries where in many cases women are treated like second-class citizens.”
The truth is far more complicated than 120 decibels wants people to believe. In 2005, Sweden broadened the legal definition of rape to include incidents where a man removes a condom during sex. This expansion along with victims feeling more comfortable going to the police may account for an increase in rape statistics.
As Mona Charen argues in National Review, “the image of hordes of immigrants raping Swedish women, however, is, to say the least, overheated.”
A wave of sexual assaults committed by migrants is also overblown in Germany.
Far right women like Southern and Pettibone may claim they care about human rights and sexual assault victims, but the reality is they only care about promoting nationalism. No amount of flawless foundation and glossy lips can hide the ugliness of white nationalism.
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