Today, common parlance associates feminism with the “left wing” of politics, and Nazism, anti-Semitism, and racism in general with the “right wing.” However, this is mostly modern arbitrary terminology based on tribalism. The truth is that, at the time, Nazism was closely related to and stemmed from contemporary socialist movements that are now classified as “left wing.”
In the same way, this left-right dichotomy helps modern feminists distance themselves from fascist movements like Nazism while in reality many of the early feminist activists were actually supporters of Hitler, Nazism, and white supremacy. This becomes increasingly clear when we look at the close similarities between Nazi and feminist mythology.
For a more extensive look at the origins of Nazism, I highly recommend reading The Road to Serfdom by Friederich Hayek. In this article, I will provide a more condensed analysis within the context of the feminist movements of the early 20th century.
Yes, Early Feminists Were Racist
Feminism has long had to wrestle with its shockingly racist past—usually by just sliding it under the rug and pretending it never happened. Unfortunately, Internet services like Google and Facebook reduce the ranking or visibility for feminist historical revisionist articles that shed light on the movement’s racist past.
However, that history is well known by African American historians, and many black activists have chosen to call themselves “womanists” instead of feminists, something I fervently support.
Consider these rarely revealed quotes from historical feminist leaders:
“You have put the ballot in the hands of your black men, thus making them political superiors of white women. Never before in the history of the world have men made former slaves the political masters of their former mistresses!”-Anna Howard Shaw, President of the National Woman Suffrage Association
“White supremacy will be strengthened, not weakened, by women’s suffrage.”-Carrie Chapman Catt, founder of the League of Women Voters
“The white men, reinforced by the educated white women, could ‘snow under’ the Negro vote in every State, and the white race would maintain its supremacy without corrupting or intimidating the Negroes.”-Laura Clay, founder of Kentucky’s first suffrage group
“Alien illiterates rule our cities today; the saloon is their palace, and the toddy stick their scepter. The colored race multiplies like the locusts of Egypt.”-Frances Willard, founder of the National Council of Women
However, the worst of all was easily Emmeline Pankhurst, who founded the militant Women’s Social and Political Union. Known as “Suffragettes,” they carried out terrorist attacks and bombings around the UK that killed five people and injured many more.
What few people know is that Pankhurst was an anti-Semite, white supremacist, and Nazi sympathizer who advocated for ethnic cleansing and supported concentration camps. Her daughter Adela was also a strong supporter of fascism and was ultimately interned in Australia for pro-Japanese rhetoric during World War II.
This is all besides the fact that feminism was a large part of Nazi Germany itself. Deutsche Frauen an Adolf Hitler was an active movement in the Third Reich that combined Nazi racism and nationalism with feminist theory. Partly as a result of their lobbying, the Nazis actually sponsored activities to get women into jobs, the Frauenwerk.
Nazi Anti-Semitism and Radical Feminism Share Similar Worldviews
Modern commentators and academics, as you can see from the links above like to pretend that these facts are baffling and inexplicable contradictions. However, this is just another attempt to whitewash the history of feminism. The truth is that feminist theory shares a lot with Nazism and anti-Semitism, which is why early feminists were so quick to support white supremacist causes.
The first similarity is the inherent collectivism of both ideologies. Collectivism inevitably degrades into nationalism or some other type of tribalism because global, humanity-wide collectivism is next to impossible to organize. More importantly, collectivism is almost certain to disadvantage those advocating for it. Therefore, people end up supporting collectivism only for those similar or like-minded to themselves, be it “Aryans,” women, or simply the cult of feminism itself.
Still, this alone does not explain why racist and anti-Semite ideologies specifically were so attractive to early feminists. They were attractive to early feminists because they both rely on the apex fallacy to support their victim narrative.
Both Naziism and Feminism Created a Boogeyman Scapegoat
Nazis were quick to blame the Jews for Germany’s problems. Hitler specifically used them as a scapegoat for Germany’s surrender in World War I and the subsequent economic troubles of the Weimar Republic. He pointed to wealthy Jews in positions of power and claimed their disproportionate economic success was due to a global Jewish conspiracy that privileged Jews above the superior Aryan race.
Of course, this claim ignored a few obvious facts. First of all, most Jews in Germany and Europe, in general, weren’t in positions of power nor were they wealthy business owners. Rather, they were members of a poor, disenfranchised minority living in ghettos. Because the alternative was poverty, they had greater motivation to become successful.
Additionally, Jews were widely excluded from more “virtuous” jobs such as those in academia and government. As a result, they had no choice but to take those seen as base or immoral like banking or starting a business. They became successful in these professions and were therefore hated even more and seen as complicit with “the evils of capitalism.”
Likewise, feminists have long needed to portray men as conspiratorial oppressors of women. But to do this, they must ignore similar contradictory facts. For instance, most men are not successful. Men represent the vast majority of those on the bottom rungs of society, such as the homeless, incarcerated and addicted.
Because they don’t receive the same social help and support as women, men have far more motivation to be successful. Nevertheless, feminists only talk about the small minority of wealthy and powerful men.
It’s Time to Stop Hate-Based Narratives
Similarly, many career fields we erroneously classify as more “selfless” than the others have long been dominated by women and have severe barriers to entry for men. These include health care and education. Men don’t have the option of doing “selfless” jobs for their own self-fulfillment. Since society pressures men to provide for their families, they must be as successful as possible, and then they’re criticized for it.
As you can see, the underlying worldview and mentality of feminism are very similar to Nazism and anti-Semitism. That’s why many early feminists were racists and anti-Semites, a historical fact we must address. Women, just like men, certainly have social issues that are worth fighting for. But, like those who have decided to identify as “womanists,” it’s time to stop doing it based on a narrative and ideology rooted in hate, dishonesty, and discrimination.