Everything Is Just Dandy!

Petronella Lee – Anti-Fascism Against Machismo

The Anarchist Library

Author: Petronella Lee
Title: Anti-Fascism Against Machismo
Subtitle: Gender, Politics, and the Struggle Against Fascism
Date: October 3, 2019
Source: https://north-shore.info/2019/10/03/anti-fascism-beyond-machismo/

Introduction: The Rising Tide of Fascism

“It’s a naturalized, state-sanctioned, normalized and deepening fascism, whose waves of violence seem to measure the strides of a giant… So here this question is key: What do we mean when we speak of feminism? Feminism cannot be defined at the surface level…It’s a struggle that is only renewed by restoring the historical memory of our women fighters, those who have been forgotten in the dustbins of revolutions… We cannot think of a feminism, an anti-patriarchy, without anti-capitalism, without anti-fascism, without anti-racism and without class struggle….”[1]

In the spring of 2017, a video of an anti-fascist being beaten at a counter demonstration in Berkley went viral. The video depicted counter protestor Louise Rosealma being punched in the face and knocked to the ground by white supremacist and founder of Identity Evropa, Nathan Damigo. On social media, in major news articles, and within movement circles, the video was the subject of extensive commentary. This incident and the various reactions to it tell us much about our current moment. It reveals that we are living through a time where alt-right, white nationalist, and neo-nazi forces are gaining momentum and becoming emboldened. As the video circulated, the response of the far-right laid bare the depth of their misogyny and vividly illustrated the extent to which patriarchal ideology is a key component of their politics. Louise was doxed and viciously denigrated online – her personal information including home address and phone number was widely distributed and her career as a sex worker was publicised. She was called disgusting and a whore, and was inundated with both rape and death threats. Photos of her being punched, as well as photos taken from her work in porn became the backdrop for a plethora of memes appearing on both the internet and the streets. For example on the streets of Berkley, oversized posters appeared showing Louise’s naked body beside Damigo’s smiling face with the text “I’d hit that” written across.[2] Her attack and violence against women in general, was promoted and celebrated. Others chimed in on the video and their responses were equally revealing.

The reaction of liberal feminists was predictably disappointing and highlighted the many shortcomings of their political project. Some speculated about whether or not the attack would have happened under Hilary. Others, framed Louise as a victim and in many cases as non-violent. Narratives circulated claiming she was attacked while attempting to deescalate and prevent the violence of others, or was attacked unprovoked while peacefully protesting. A gendered pacifism was implied, and violence was presented as something done to Louise (as a woman), but not something that Louise (as a woman) could or would do. Hand-in-hand with these claims, were calls for police involvement and the arrest of Damigo. In the typical style of carceral feminism, increased policing, criminalization, and incarceration were proposed as the appropriate response to the incident. Reactions coming from the left weren’t much better, and exposed the sexism ingrained in anti-fascist politics. Posts, photos, and memes covering the incident were highly patronizing and critiqued Damigo on the basis that he was a coward for hitting a woman (assumed to weaker and less of a threat). Despite a long history of women putting their bodies on the line to fight fascism, physical confrontation was implicitly presented as the realm of men.

Even in supposedly progressive circles, the popular image of the anti-fascist is a male body; often a white male body that borrows heavily from the aesthetics of antifa movements in Europe. Based in a tacit denial of women’s agency, conversations about Louise became a matter of identity (of her being a woman), rather than a matter of politics or activity. Last and certainly not least, this incident and the fact that it got so much attention speaks to the deep-seated racism that underlines both the left and the right. Women get attacked all the time, white supremacists beat women all of the time, and women of colour disproportionately face the brunt of it. Louise’s experience went viral and garnered such broad interest undoubtedly because she is a white, conventionally attractive cis-women.

The far-right has been on the rise and over the course of the last several years their ideas have been gaining traction. First at the level of grassroots politics, and now more and more at the level of institutional politics, far-right ideology has a notable foothold. It isn’t only that far- right movements have grown, but further, that far-right ideas from the margins have seeped into the mainstream. The situation is bleak, but not hopeless. We have to know our enemy and we have a lot of work to do; however, many of the options presented to us can be found lacking. We’re given the choice between a pacifying liberal feminism of “pussy hats” and “protective policing,” or a reductive anti-fascism defined by machismo and sexism. Against such a backdrop, this article seeks to examine the gendered dimensions of fascist movements and anti-fascist struggle, as well as to consider the possibilities for an anti-fascism rooted in revolutionary feminism. For the purpose of this article, I use the term fascism/fascist broadly to refer to a complicated and diverse phenomenon that includes a plethora of far-right groups, ideologies, and movements, including white nationalists, neo-Nazis, ultra-patriots, the alternative right, identitarians, and traditionalists, amongst others.[3] The article is divided into three distinct, yet interrelated parts, intended to cover the politics, practices, and histories of fascism, gender, and militant resistance. Part 1 explores the gender politics of fascism today, Part 2 examines the history of women’s participation in anti-fascist resistance, and Part 3 concludes with a consideration of the challenges and prospects for developing an explicitly feminist anti-fascism.