The last time anyone had any reason to care about the thoughts of Naomi Wolf, she was trying to explain how Clinton’s over-the-top womanizing was consistent with feminist principles. No one really cared all that much about hat she was saying, but she was amusing in a weird way, so she got media attention. Here you had Bill Clinton carrying on like the male chauvinist pig of feminist lore and everyone of these women were excusing him. There’s hypocrisy and then there is American feminism.
Anyway, this was in the news recently. The Left seems to be entering the paranoid stage as this wave ebbs. Whenever they are up to something, they start howling about fascism. That usually means they are plotting some anti-democratic shenanigans. It also ties into the on schism within the Left between national socialism and international socialism. Naomi Wolf could be nothing, but it probably means the Left is feeling threatened by enemies, real or imagined.
Western feminism has made some memorable theoretical mistakes; a major one is the frequent assumption that, if women held the decision-making power in society, they would be “kinder and gentler” (a phrase devised for George H.W. Bush in 1988 to appeal to the female vote). Indeed, so-called “second-wave” feminist theory abounds in assertions that war, racism, love of hierarchy, and general repressiveness belong to “patriarchy”; women’s leadership, by contrast, would naturally create a more inclusive, collaborative world.
The problem is that it has never worked out that way, as the rise of women to leadership positions in Western Europe’s far-right parties should remind us. Leaders such as Marine Le Pen of France’s National Front, Pia Kjaersgaard of Denmark’s People’s Party, and Siv Jensen of Norway’s Progress Party reflect the enduring appeal of neofascist movements to many modern women in egalitarian, inclusive liberal democracies.
The past is prologue: Wendy Lower’s recent book Hitler’s Furies: German Women in the Nazi Killing Fields adds more data to the long record of women embracing violent right-wing movements. And the rise of far-right movements in Europe – often with women in charge – confronts us with the fact that the heirs to the fascism of the 1930’s have their own gender-based appeal.
One obvious reason for the success of women like Le Pen, Kjaersgaard, and Jensen is their value for packaging and marketing their parties. Europe’s far-right parties today must appeal to citizens by not seeming dangerously extreme and marginal. How dangerous can the movement be, after all, if women are speaking for it? Such parties come to be seen as more mainstream, and their appeal to traditionally harder-to-win women supporters receives a boost. It’s just marketing in a modern democracy.
In the last couple of years as the Obama show staggers to a conclusion, Progressives like Wolf have been wringing their hands over the rise of fascism again. The 1950’s were allegedly a revival of fascism, according to the Left, because Americans were happy, prosperous and being fruitful. For American Liberalism, everything is upside down. They spent the sixties allegedly fighting fascism, which was just an excuse to swing a wrecking ball through the traditional American life of their parents.
Fascism took a holiday in the 1970’s, but it came back in the 1980’s only to go back on holiday in the 1990’s. But, the fear of Hitler was back in full for the Bush years. The core of what these people believe starts with the end of the Constitution, yet they expect people to take seriously their concerns for liberty. They lack any capacity to self-examine, so they start howling about fascist threats to democracy, whenever their plans to undermine the normal functioning of democracy is impaired.
This deranged lack of self-awareness is tough to grasp at times, because it is so unlike what normal people experience. All of us are self-conscious to some degree. The Left is thoroughly and completely elitist. It is the religion of the ruling elite. You sure as hell are not going to hear a debate about third wave feminism in the ghetto or on the job site among working men. You are not going to hear Rotary Club Republicans advocating euthanasia or forced sterilization of the unfit. Those are topics discussed by Progressive in the faculty lounge. Yet, they think they are fighting those things.
That’s a big reason why Progressives have made fascism their eternal bogeyman. It’s a form of projection. They hate this truth about themselves, but cannot face up to it without blowing the whole religion up in the process. It gets deeply internalized to the point they can no longer recognize it in themselves. The fear and hatred are still there so when they go looking for a scapegoat or a bogeyman, they inevitably call it a fascist.
That’s the other part of this. As this Progressive wave ebbs and the people notice the garbage left behind from the flood, the Left seeks to cast the spotlight on some other. It has already started, for example, with health care. The law passed by the Left is a disaster. Instead of defending it, they are out attacking various bogeymen for failing to fix it. That sounds insane – and it is -but it is not intended to convince. It is intended to distract the people on the Left, so they don’t notice their own failures.