The Women Behind the 'Alt-Right'

N&P: Discuss governments, nations, politics and recent related news here.

Moderators: Alyrium Denryle, Edi, K. A. Pital

Post Reply
User avatar
Posts: 110
Joined: 2007-09-21 11:12pm

The Women Behind the 'Alt-Right'

Post by Megabot » 2018-04-26 08:23pm

(Warning, long post with lots of quotes and links)

I remember seeing this thread a few months ago on an article about the discrimination and poor treatment of women involved in the alt-right at the hands of the movement's men. I recently found an even earlier article on the same subject that paints a rather different picture of the movement's women. ... ht/537168/

The Women Behind the 'Alt-Right'

The overwhelmingly male crowd at the white-nationalist rally in Charlottesville shouldn’t be seen as an absence of women in the movement overall.

Caroline Kitchener Aug 18, 2017

Last Friday night, the white nationalists who marched on Charlottesville’s Emancipation Park all looked strikingly similar. They were almost exclusively white, of course. But they were also relatively young. And with a handful of exceptions, they were men.

The “Unite the Right” rally brought together white nationalists of all stripes, including traditional white supremacists like Neo-Nazis and the KKK, and other racist groups that have united under the banner of the new, internet-oriented “alt-right.” The rally was violent and bloody—one of the white supremacist attendees is being charged with deliberately ramming his car into a crowd of counter-protesters, killing Heather Heyer and injuring more than a dozen others.

It’s hard to determine just how many women identify with the alt-right, because many of the movement’s members keep a low profile. George Hawley, author of Making Sense of the Alt-Right, estimates that 20 percent of alt-right supporters are women. But in Charlottesville, a far smaller portion of the crowd was female. All 10 speakers at the rally were men.

There has been a lot of theorizing on why the white nationalism of the alt-right is more popular among men than women. The prevailing theory is that women are turned off by its stark anti-women rhetoric. But their lack of presence at the rally shouldn’t be read as an absence of women in the white nationalist movement overall.

“There are a lot of white women who buy into this movement, they’re just doing it in private,” said Kelly Baker, an author who specializes in gender and white extremist groups. “They’re not vocal, but they are supporters of the men in their lives who are.”

I talked to a few alt-right supporters after the Charlottesville rally. All of them gave the same explanation for the protest’s missing women: biology. There is no official alt-right platform—members are generally anti-immigrant, anti-Semitic, and see themselves as defenders of the white race. Most also maintain that there are certain characteristics inherent to each gender. Men are risk-takers, multiple alt-right supporters told me. Women are nurturers. Risk-takers belong at nationally televised protests. Nurturers don’t.

By and large, alt-right men don’t seem to be forcing these traditional gender roles on the women of their movement—the alt-right women are doing it themselves. The women share a profound disdain for the feminist movement, and are eager to claim the supportive, behind-the-scenes roles.

“As for female empowerment, there’s nothing that has made me feel more empowered in my life than supporting and being supported by a strong man,” Claudia Davenport, an alt-right activist, said in an interview with The Economist. “I think that men and women are better off when we stop fighting nature and allow our distinct identities to shine through.”

In our conversations, multiple alt-right supporters referred to the movement’s men as “protectors.”

“It’s not the role of women to protect the borders, the nation, or the family. So we do not expect this of women, nor do we find it strange that they are less represented in something that we view as an innately male occupation: guarding territory,” said Tara McCarthy, a female alt-right blogger.

White supremacy movements have used the language of protection since the height of the KKK in the 1920s. The KKK rallied to defend white supremacy from the forces it perceived as threatening—namely immigrants and recently enfranchised African Americans.

“The KKK made it its mission to defend the spaces it saw as its own: white women, the home, the schools, the nation. They thought, ‘This is our job as knights, protection is what we do,’” said Baker.

Unlike the alt-right, however, Klanswomen were on the front lines of the movement. There were fewer of them—at the Klan’s peak, half a million, compared to four million men—but they didn’t confine themselves to supporting roles. The vast majority wore robes, marched in parades, and participated in highly visible picnics. They were involved in the fight for female suffrage, arguing that only white women should get the vote.

So why are today’s white nationalist women less visible than the 1920s Klanswomen? Today, visibility entails significantly more risk. When the KKK marched in the early 20th century, it was powerful and influential in the South. When the white nationalists marched through Charlottesville, they knew they would face social media backlash and counter-protests across the country.

In this way, white-nationalist protest—and protection—has become a more traditionally masculine act in the view of its proponents. It’s more dangerous, and requires more risk, than it did 100 years ago.

The alt-right is divided on how visible—and vocal—they want women to be. On one hand, there are organizations like Men Going Their Own Way (MGTOW), a gender separatist group that cautions men against relationships with women, that bar women from membership. On the other, there is a growing contingent of alt-right men who encourage the women in their community to speak out and become leaders themselves.

“Many alt-right men like it when they have women who are contributing content, recording podcasts, making YouTube channels. That’s because women in this movement have an easier time amassing followers,” said Hawley.

According to Hawley, outspoken women on the alt-right are particularly effective mechanisms for recruitment. Because there aren’t many of them, a female alt-right blogger, YouTube star, or Twitter enthusiast attracts more attention than a young white man who fits the alt-right stereotype. “Women make the movement seem more normal,” Hawley said.

There are only a few alt-right women interested in claiming leadership roles within the movement. A recent Harper’s article on alt-right women described a live-streamed video chat in which Colin Robertson, a popular Scottish alt-right blogger, discussed U.S. politics, among other things, with two of the most prominent female personalities on the alt-right, Lana Lokteff and Ayla Stewart. As soon as Robertson opened the conversation up to the audience , misogynistic comments started rolling in. One viewer wrote, “These women are the same old tainted, fucked-up strong womyn,” using a spelling of “women” some feminists use to mock Lokteff and Stewart as feminists in disguise.

To fit into the movement, alt-right women must be visible in the right way. They have to prove they aren’t threatening traditional gender roles: both through what they say, and how they look. The majority of well-known, female alt-right personalities are young, attractive women.

“When women do appear in alt-right journals or online discussions, it’s as objects of attraction,” said Baker. “They need to appear as victims or passive objects of male desire.”

Above all, women on the alt-right must accept the movement’s dogma on biology: the idea that men are meant for certain roles, and women are meant for others.

Both interpretations aren't mutually exclusive, the movement's women can certainly be treated badly while still actively supporting it, but I think it's important not to paint a broad brush of the alt-right's women as ineffectual victims of misogynist men. Especially given the historical basis of the dangers of such a mindset. I found the above article from this blog post which sums up my feelings on the matter...

sullengirlalmlghty: the similarities between this article and the history of female nazis in hitler’s furies are chilling, i don’t know how else to describe it

vaspider: White women, we need to own our shit. We need to stop talking about the alt-right like they’re sexless virgins unable to get laid. Many of them are married with children, raising the next generation of dangerous racists.

...or at least it would if I were a white woman. The link in the first quote got me to check out Wendy Lower's book "Hitler's Furies," a detailed account of the active roles played by Nazi women in the Holocaust, and the parallels are indeed chilling. Since I certainly don't expect everyone to read the book, I found this Daily Mail article which provides a summary of the book that is as informative as it is horrific:

The Nazi women who were every bit as evil as the men: From the mother who shot Jewish children in cold blood to the nurses who gave lethal injections in death camps

Chilling new book has unearthered thousands of complicit German women
At least half a million witnessed and contributed to Hitler's terror
Have been dubbed the ‘primary witnesses of the Holocaust’
Secretaries typed the orders to kill and filed the details of massacres
Only a small number of women were called to account for their crimes

By Tony Rennell for MailOnline

Published: 18:14 EDT, 25 September 2013 | Updated: 08:24 EDT, 26 September 2013

Blonde German housewife Erna Petri was returning home after a shopping trip in town when something caught her eye: six small, nearly naked boys huddled in terror by the side of the country road.

Married to a senior SS officer, the 23-year-old knew instantly who they were.

They must be the Jews she’d heard about — the ones who’d escaped from a train taking them to an extermination camp.

But she was a mother herself, with two children of her own. So she humanely took the starving, whimpering youngsters home, calmed them down and gave them food to eat.

Then she led the six of them — the youngest aged six, the oldest 12 — into the woods, lined them up on the edge of a pit and shot them methodically one by one with a pistol in the back of the neck.

This schizophrenic combination of warm-hearted mother one minute and cold-blooded killer the next is an enigma and one that — now revealed in a new book based on years of trawling through remote archives — puts a crueller than ever spin on the Third Reich.

Because Erna was by no means an aberration. In a book she tellingly calls ‘Hitler’s Furies’, Holocaust historian Professor Wendy Lower has unearthed the complicity of tens of thousands of German women — many more than previously imagined — in the sort of mass, monstrous, murderous activities that we would like to think the so-called gentler sex were incapable of.

The Holocaust has generally been seen as a crime perpetrated by men. The vast majority of those accused at Nuremberg and other war crimes trials were men.

The few women ever called to account were notorious concentration camp guards — the likes of Irma Grese and Ilse Koch — whose evil was so extreme they could be explained away as freaks and beasts, not really ‘women’ at all.

Ultra-macho Nazi Germany was a man’s world. The vast majority of women had, on Hitler’s orders, confined their activities to Kinder, Küche, Kirche — children, kitchen and church. Thus, when it came to responsibility for the Holocaust and other evils of the Third Reich, they were off the hook.

But that, argues Lower, is simplistic nonsense. Women were drawn into the morally bankrupt conspiracy that was Hitler’s Germany as thoroughly as men were — at a lower level, in most cases, when it came to direct action but guilty just the same.

Ironically, it was the professional carers who were the first to be caught in this evil web. From the moment the Nazis came to power and imposed policies of Aryan racial purity, countless nurses, their aprons filled with morphine vials and needles, routinely slaughtered the physically disabled and mentally defective.

Pauline Kneissler worked at Grafeneck Castle, a euthanasia ‘hospital’ in southern Germany, and toured mental institutions selecting 70 ‘patients’ a day. At the castle they were gassed, which she decided was not that bad because ‘death by gas doesn’t hurt’.

Meanwhile, midwives were betraying a whole generation of German women by reporting defects in unborns and newborns and recommending abortions and euthanasia, as well as sterilisation of mothers.

From the outset, Lower concludes, ‘women made cruel life-and-death decisions, eroding moral sensibilities’. A line had been crossed. It was no big step when the racial purification process turned to the Final Solution of exterminating millions of Jews.

That Jews were the enemy and their annihilation the answer was taken for granted by millions of women who would later deny knowing what was going on under their noses.

Lower, though, dubs them ‘primary witnesses of the Holocaust’.

The worst outrages took place in the ‘Wild East’, Hitler’s newly acquired (by military conquest) territories in Poland, Ukraine and other parts of overrun Russia. At least half a million young women joined in this colonisation process, and became accomplices to genocide on an unprecedented scale.

A mass of secretaries, for example, typed the orders to kill and filed the details of massacres. This placed them at the very centre of the Nazi murder machinery, but they, like so many others, chose to shut their eyes and benefit from their proximity to power.

But, picnicking in the country on their days off, how did they miss the mounds that hid mass graves, the gagging smell of rotting corpses? Whose clothes and possessions — plundered from ghettos or confiscated at camps and killing fields — did they think they were cataloguing for redistribution back home?

Trainloads of booty went back to Germany in what Lower calls ‘the biggest campaign of organised robbery in history’. And German women, she charges, were among its prime agents and beneficiaries.

Even more caught up in the criminal madness were administrators such as Liselotte Meier, who worked so closely with her strutting boss, an SS officer, that they were almost indistinguishable. She joined him on shooting parties in the snow, hunting and killing Jews for sport.

In the early phases of the Holocaust, massacres were generally by shooting. In her area of Belarus, she coordinated the arrangements with the executioners and even decided who lived and who died.

She spared the life of the Jewish woman who did her hair, while another secretary removed from a woman from the death line who hadn’t yet finished the sweater she was knitting for her.

Secretaries had another important role, too. After each operation, it was usual for the SS killers, many of them drunk on schnapps, to seek solace in the women’s quarters, whether for sexual release or a shoulder to cry on after the exertions of mass execution. In support of the men, women even manned refreshment tables during executions so the killers could take a break.

But much worse than these active accomplices were the women who killed — often the wives of SS officers. Erna Petri — callous dispatcher of those six Jewish boys — was one such Frau. She had followed her husband to Poland and lived in a mansion overseeing a vast estate for the Race and Resettlement Office of the SS, with ‘sub-human’ Slavs as slaves.

Another SS wife, Lisel Willhaus, wife of a camp commandant, used to sit on the balcony of their house and take pot shots at Jewish prisoners with her rifle.

Also in Poland was Vera Wohlauf, whose husband Julius commanded a police battalion ordered in 1942 to round up 11,000 Jewish inhabitants of a small town for transportation to Treblinka for liquidation.

She sat by her husband in the front seat of the lorry that led a convoy of killers to the town, and stood in the market square brandishing a whip as nearly a thousand who resisted the round-up or collapsed in the summer heat were beaten to death or shot.

She was pregnant at the time, a further incongruity.

In the Ukraine, 22-year-old secretary Johanna Altvater played an even more prominent role in a massacre while working for regional commissar Wilhelm Westerheide.

During the liquidation of a Jewish ghetto, Fräulein Hanna, as she was known, was seen in her riding breeches prodding men, women and children into a truck ‘like a cattle herder’.

She marched into a building being used as a makeshift hospital and through the children’s ward, eyeing each bed-ridden child. Then she stopped, picked one up, took it to the balcony and threw the child to the pavement three floors below. She did the same with other children. Some died, and even those who survived were seriously injured.

Her speciality — or, as one survivor put it, her ‘nasty habit’ — was killing children. One observer noted that Altvater often lured children with sweets. When they came to her and opened their mouths, she shot them in the mouth with the small pistol that she kept at her side.

On another occasion, she beckoned a toddler over, then grabbed him tightly by the legs and slammed his head against a wall as if she were banging the dust out of a mat.

She threw the lifeless child at the feet of his father, who later testified: ‘Such sadism from a woman I have never seen. I will never forget this.’

Close to the mass-shooting site where the ghetto inhabitants were herded to await their deaths, Westerheide and his deputies partied with some German women. Altvater was among the revellers, drinking and eating at a banqueting table amid the bloodshed.

Music playing in the background mixed with the sound of gunfire. From time to time, one of the Germans would get up, walk to the shooting site, kill a few people and then return to the party.

Violence to children was also the trademark of Gestapo wife and mother Josefine Block, who liked to carry a riding crop and lash out at prisoners waiting to be deported.

A little girl approached her, crying and begging for her life. ‘I will help you!’ Block declared, grabbed the girl by the hair, smashed her with her fists, then pushed her to the ground and stamped on her head until she was dead.

Desperate Jewish parents often approached Block to ask for help, assuming that, as a young woman and mother, she’d be sympathetic.

But she would use her pram to ram Jews whom she encountered on the streets and was said to have actually killed a small Jewish child with it. Such treatment is an affront to any sense of humanity, let alone womanhood — all the more so because most of these crimes went unpunished.

Erna Petri was the exception and spent more than 30 years in prison. But all the others mentioned here were either tried and acquitted or released after questioning.

Their defence was often to play the helpless woman card and blame the men. ‘I was just a secretary,’ pleaded Johanna Altvater. Meanwhile, the millions of other women who were complicit in these odious events got on with their lives after the war as best they could, as if the whole Hitler era had been a nightmare to be put aside and forgotten once everyone had woken up.

Yet the deep stain remains. Thirteen million women were actively engaged in the Nazi Party. Not all of these could have been innocent bystanders.

Lower says: ‘To assume that violence is not a feminine characteristic and that women are not capable of mass murder has obvious appeal: it allows for hope that at least half the human race will not devour the other, that it will protect children and so safeguard the future.

‘But minimising the violent behaviour of women creates a false shield.’

At least half a million women, she says, witnessed and contributed to the operations and terror of Hitler’s genocidal war. ‘The Nazi regime mobilised a generation of young women who were conditioned to accept violence, to incite it, and to commit it.

‘This fact has been suppressed and denied by the very women who were swept up in the regime and by those who perpetrated the violence with impunity.

‘But genocide is also women’s business. When given the “opportunity”, women too will engage in it, even its bloodiest aspects.’

For those tempted to think that things are different now, consider those shocking photographs earlier this month of a beheading in the Syrian bloodbath.

What was even more gut-wrenching than the gore was to see children looking on, unperturbed, drawn into a terrifying topsy-turvy morality, just as German mothers and children were 80 years ago.

Perhaps, too, the executioner wielding the sword went home to a wife who mopped his brow, in the same way as Hitler’s firing squads did. The lesson of the atrocities of the Holocaust is that they are not something of the past to be filed away and forgotten, but still very much with us.

TL;DR The book states that there were approximately half a million of these women deployed to the eastern front, which is ironically the same number of klanswomen given in the first article, and many didn't let the limitations placed on them keep them from directly partaking in actual atrocities. And after the war many of them who were caught played the "innocent victim woman" card for all it's worth and took full advantage of the gender biases of mostly-male juries and judges in inquiries and trials with varying degrees of success, but it's undeniable that many of them got off scot-free because of it.

I'm reminded of DS9's portrayal of the Cardassian Occupation of Bajor, a direct parallel to Nazi Germany's crimes, where as I recall the regime's brutalities were entirely at the hands of brutish, evil Cardassian men while the Cardassian "innocent women and children" involved in the occupation who were casualties at the hands of the Bajoran resistance were portrayed as tragic but sometimes inevitable collateral damage in the fight for freedom...yeah, no. The last few paragraphs of the introduction to Hitler's Furies neatly sums up the danger of this "women are innocent" mindset:

Among the myths of the postwar period was that of the apolitical woman. After the war many women testified in court or explained in oral histories that they were “just” organizing things in the office or attending to the social aspects of daily life by managing the care or duties of other Germans stationed in the East. They failed to see—or perhaps preferred not to see—how the social became political, and how their seemingly small contribution to everyday operations in the government, military, and Nazi Party organizations added up to a genocidal system. Female fascists—in Nazi Party headquarters in Kiev, in military and SS and police offices in Minsk, and in gated villas in Lublin—were not simply doing “women’s work.” As long as German women are consigned to another sphere or their political influence is minimized, half the population of a genocidal society is, in the historian Ann Taylor Allen’s words, “endowed with innocence of the crimes of the modern state,” and they are placed “outside of history itself.”

The entire population of German women (almost forty million in 1939) cannot be considered a victim group. A third of the female population, thirteen million women, were actively engaged in a Nazi Party organization, and female membership in the Nazi Party increased steadily until the end of the war. Just as the agency of women in history more generally is underappreciated, here too—and perhaps even more problematically, given the moral and legal implications—the agency of women in the crimes of the Third Reich has not been fully elaborated and explained. Vast numbers of ordinary German women were not victims, and routine forms of female participation in the Holocaust have not yet been disclosed.

Generalizations about all German women should certainly be avoided. But how do we begin to get some sense of women’s roles vis-à-vis the Holocaust, from rescuer to bystander to killer, and all the gray areas in between? How can we more accurately place women in the regime’s genocidal machinery? Assigning people to criminal categories such as accomplice and perpetrator does not by itself explain how the system worked and how ordinary women witnessed and participated in the Holocaust. It is more revealing to look at the wider distribution of power in the Nazi system and to identify more precisely who was doing what to whom, and where. For example, a female chief detective in the Reich Security Main Office directly determined the fates of thousands of children, and did so with the assistance of almost two hundred female agents scattered across the Reich. These female detectives collected evidence of “racially degenerate” youths whom they branded future criminals. They devised a color-coding system in their pursuit of some two thousand Jewish children, “gypsy” children, and other “delinquents” incarcerated in special internment camps. Such organizational, clerical skills were considered female, and well suited to the modern, bureaucratic approach to “fighting crime.”

The female witnesses, accomplices, and perpetrators featured here are based on research in wartime German documents, Soviet war-crimes investigations, East German secret police files and trial records, West German and Austrian investigative and trial records, documentation from Simon Wiesenthal’s archive in Vienna, published memoirs, private wartime correspondence and diaries, and interviews with witnesses in Germany and Ukraine. The official wartime documentation—the SS marriage applications, personnel records of the civil administration, Red Cross records, and Nazi Party agency reports—proved valuable for establishing the presence of women in various positions, detailing their biographical data, and elucidating the ideological training of the organizations to which they belonged. But such records, while written and typed by individuals, are all but devoid of personality or motive.

Biographical portraits that delve into personal experiences and outlooks over time require a greater reliance on what German scholars aptly refer to as “ego documents.” These are self-representations created by the subject: testimonies, letters, memoirs, and interviews. These mostly postwar accounts pose many serious problems, but as historical sources they are not to be dismissed. Over time one learns how to read and hear them, how to detect techniques of evasion, exaggerated storytelling, and conformism to literary tropes and clichés. And one tries to corroborate them to test their veracity. Yet it is the subjectivity of these sources that makes them especially valuable.

There are significant differences between the testimony given to a prosecutor, an oral history or interview given to a journalist or historian, and a memoir. The narrator tailors her story to meet the expectations of the listener, and that story may change over time as the narrator learns more about her past from other sources and as the questions of the audience change. Oral histories published in the 1980s, for example, do not show the same sensitivity to the events of the Holocaust as memoirs published in the early twenty-first century. The more recent memoirs often attempt to deal with the question of knowledge and participation, since the female witness anticipates that the reader or listener will ask her, “What did you know about the persecution of the Jews? What did you see?” Furthermore, memoirs—usually penned by the elderly—are often a collaborative project shared by a parent and her descendants. The aged wartime witnesses wish to leave a legacy, to record a dramatic chapter in the family history; the knowledge that their memoirs will be read by future generations dissuades them from being candid or graphic in recounting their encounters with Jews, their enthusiasm for Nazism, or their participation in mass crimes. Sometimes the language in these accounts is coded, or only hints are given. In several cases I benefited from direct contact with the memoirist and was able to ask for more details.

One should not assume that memoirists and witnesses intend to deceive or hide facts, and that some terrible truth waits to be uncovered. It is natural to repress what is painful as a form of coping. The women who published memoirs wished to be understood and to have their lives affirmed; they did not want to be judged or condemned. As I waded through multiple accounts, it became clear which ones were more credible than others.

The consensus in Holocaust and genocide studies is that the systems that make mass murder possible would not function without the broad participation of society, and yet nearly all histories of the Holocaust leave out half of those who populated that society, as if women’s history happens somewhere else. It is an illogical approach and puzzling omission. The dramatic stories of these women reveal the darkest side of female activism. They show what can happen when women of varied backgrounds and professions are mobilized for war and acquiesce in genocide.

(Bolding emphasis mine) Well duh, we all know that women's history takes place in a pocket dimension, completely isolated from the rest of the universe and therefore unworthy of being recorded or discussed! Seriously though, I find it easy to imagine the alt-right women described in the article being in exactly this position if there were born in post-WWI Germany rather than modern day US. Or maybe we can even go back further in history...Sarah Dunant's historical novel In the Company of the Courtesan, which opens with the 1527 Sack of Rome, has another chilling depiction of women that I can imagine alt-right women as...

The square was silent now, our neighbors either dead or more effectively gagged. Around me, Rome was caught between fire and dawn, part of the city glowing like hot coals in the dark while clouds of smoke billowed east toward a gauzy gray sky ripe with the promise of another perfect day for killing. I moved like Ascanio, close to the ground and the edges of the walls, before breaking into the main street. I passed a few corpses in the gutter, and once a voice yelled after me, but it was wayward and might have been a cry out of someone’s nightmare. Farther down the street, a single figure came rolling toward me out of the gloom, moving as if in a daze and seeming not to see me. As he passed, I saw him clutching his shirt, with a bloodied mess of what might have been his own innards in his hand.

The cardinal’s palazzo was off the Via Papalis, where the city gathers to gape at and applaud great church processions that pass through to the Vatican. The streets here are so fine you need to dress up even to walk along them. But the more the wealth, the greater the devastation and the heavier the stench of death. In the dawn light, there were bodies everywhere, some broken and still, others twitching or moaning quietly. A small knot of men were moving methodically through the carnage, poking around for leftover wealth like crows plucking out the eyes and the livers. They were too intent on their business to notice me. If Rome had been Rome and not a battlefield, I would have had to be more careful on the street. While I may be the size of a child, people still spot my rolling walk from a distance, and until they see the gold trim of my cloth—and even then, sometimes—they can tend to all kinds of cruel mischief. But that morning, in the chaos of war, I would have looked simply small, and therefore neither a promise nor a threat. Though I think that is not enough to explain why I didn’t die. Because I saw enough children skewered and split into pieces as I went. And it was not because I had my wits about me either, for I stepped over the remains of all kinds of men, some of whom, from their clothing—or what was left of it—had had more status or wealth than I ever would, though little good it would do them now.

Later, when the stories from the night screamers who survived told of a hundred ways in which an enemy can squeeze gold out of seared and punctured flesh, it became clear that those who were butchered in that first attack were the lucky ones. But at the time it didn’t feel like that. For every dead soul I passed, there was another barely living one, propped up against the wall staring at the stumps of his own legs or trying to push his guts back into his stomach.

Yet, strangely, it was not all awful. Or perhaps it was not all awful precisely because it was so strange. In places there was almost a sense of wild pageant to it. In the area closest to the Vatican, where the Germans now ruled, the streets were full of fancy dress. It was a wonder the invaders knew whom to fight anymore, so many of them were wearing their victims’ clothes. I saw small men swamped by velvet and fur, their gun barrels high in the air laced with jeweled bracelets. But it was their wives and children who made the show. The women who follow mercenary armies are legendary, living as they do like cats in heat around the edges of the campfire. But these women were different. They were Lutherans, harpy heretics driven as much by God as by war, their children conceived and suckled on the road, thin and hard as their parents, their features blunt as woodcuts. On their stick bodies, the pearled gowns and velvet skirts fell like tents, the jeweled combs clung to limp hair, and swathes of priceless silk trains turned black in the blood and mud behind them. It was like watching an army of wraiths dancing their way out of Hell.

...Or at least I would, except I consider it an insult to harpies, heretics, cats in heat, and wraiths who dance out of Hell everywhere. More seriously, I consider it an insult to precisely the kind of women described in that last paragraph. Speaking of women's agency throughout history being underappreciated and erased, here's a fun historical detail that a lot of people seem to overlook, and particularly clashes with the alt-right's bullshit biotruth of "men are risk-takers while women guard the homefront": Prior to the advent of modern logistics, historical armies were often dependent on women's active, on-site support as camp followers. Women, be they soldiers' wives, merchantwomen or prostitutes, marched right alongside the armies and performed many important duties in the encampments, and could be the most dedicated looters in the battles' aftermath. (The latter of which has eerie parallels with Hitler's Furies account of SS wives hoarding Eastern European war plunder...) Even if they didn't participate in combat, they were still marching with the armies, present in significant numbers on the battlefield, could very well be attacked and killed if they're on the losing side, and were basically exposed to a hell of a lot more danger than a modern-day political rally. As this US Navy woman so nicely puts it, "Women have ALWAYS been on battlefields."

So either women have become biologiocally more risk-adverse than they were for most of history, or the Neo-Nazis are full of shit. Hmm, which could it possibly be...

Post Reply