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Misogyny is a key element of white supremacy, Anti-Defamation League report finds

‘Misogyny has the potential to act as a gateway into the white supremacist world,’ NGO says

Maya Oppenheim
Women's Correspondent
Thursday 26 July 2018 17:50 BST
Changing social norms are powerful inspirations for misogyny in the far right, new research claims
Changing social norms are powerful inspirations for misogyny in the far right, new research claims (Reuters)

Misogyny is a key element of the so-called alt-right movement and there is a strong link between men’s rights activism and white supremacy, a report has found.

The Anti-Defamation League’s report argues hatred of women is a “dangerous and underestimated component of extremism”.

The research – titled When Women are the Enemy: The Intersection of Misogyny and White Supremacy – found the increasingly popular narrative of white men as victims of feminism has been a key driving force behind the misogyny which has become rife in far right movements.

Changing social norms and the growth of progressive thought and politics are also powerful inspirations for misogyny in the far right, according to the report.

“Misogyny has the potential to act as a gateway into the white supremacist world,” Jessica Reaves, the report’s author who is an expert at the league’s Centre on Extremism, said.

“The hatred and resentment of women voiced by groups like involuntary celibates and men’s rights activists is disturbingly similar to white supremacists’ hatred of minorities. And some white supremacists, especially those on the alt-right, use the same degrading, violent anti-woman rhetoric we hear coming from misogynist groups.”

The Anti-Defamation League – a Jewish NGO based in the US which fights antisemitism and all forms of bigotry – found it is common to find men’s rights activism and incel (short for “involuntarily celibate”) language on alt-right message boards.

It also found message board commenters perpetuate rape culture and encourage violence against women who they deem to be refusing them their “rightful” sexual experiences.

Members of the incel movement believe men intrinsically deserve to have sex with women. They believe that women owe them sex and women are to blame if they are not having it.

“When we see the vile hatred that comes out of the white supremacist movement, we immediately and rightly call out this hatred as a dangerous threat. The hateful and sometimes violent rhetoric of misogynist groups should be treated no differently,” Jonathan Greenblatt, the chief executive and national director of the league, said.

“Increasingly, the tropes and themes used by misogynists to describe women and their place in the world are no different than those used by many white supremacists.”

The report looks at the case of Alek Minassian – a self-professed incel – who repeatedly drove a van into a crowd of people in Toronto in April. The 25-year-old tech expert killed 10 and injured 15 others – with eight of those killed being women.

It has since become accepted he was motivated by a hatred of women.

The report – which marks the first time the Anti-Defamation League has investigated misogyny as a component of extremism – makes a number of recommendations to law enforcement, anti-bias and tech communities on how to combat violent misogyny.

It proposes legislators focus on passing policy that specifically provides protections for gender-based violence and ensuring gender-based crimes are included under hate crime laws.

Ms Reaves told The Independent the link between misogyny and white supremacy was not surprising to her but the organisation thought it was important to open the wider public's eyes to it.

"The inherently anti-woman culture of the alt-right makes it a welcoming space for misogynists who are interested in white supremacist ideology," she said. "There are also factions in the alt-right that are less overt in their expressions of white supremacy – it’s there, but swathed in white polo shirts and khakis, rather than swastikas or Klan hoods. That makes them appealing to misogynists who may just be testing the waters."

Explaining how people on alt right forums perpetuate rape culture, she added: "There’s a profoundly anti-woman undercurrent to many white supremacist/alt right online exchanges, and that can easily veer from disrespect into the full-on promotion of violence, including rape. This is even more evident if you visit incel and MRA boards, where anger towards and hatred of women is the primary focus – and participants celebrate and encourage misogynist violence."

The alt-right – a political movement which has been accused of misogyny, racism, and antisemitism, and of sharing an ideology with far-right parties such as the French National Front – has significantly expanded and become increasingly emboldened since Donald Trump launched his bid for the White House.

The movement gained increasing attention after anti-fascist activists clashed with neo-Nazis, Ku Klux Klan members and alt-right supporters at a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville last August.

Tensions between fascists and counter-protesters made headlines across the world after a 20-year-old man, who officials say had Nazi sympathies, mowed his car into the crowd of peaceful anti-fascist demonstrators and killed a female civil rights activist.

The US president prompted fury for responding to the violence by drawing a moral parity between white supremacists and anti-fascists, suggesting counter-protesters were as violent as the far-right supporters – which he suggested included some “very fine” people.

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