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Right-wing women: overlooked and underrated

On Monday, May 5th 2014, the Expert Center on Gender and Right-Wing Extremism of the Amadeu Antonio Foundation presented the findings of its most recent project at a press conference in Berlin. The project “Overlooked and Underrated: Women in Right-Wing Extremist Groups in Germany” has been sponsored by Open Society Foundations and Dreilinden – Gesellschaft für gemeinnütziges Privatkapital mbH. The press conference received a lot of attention by the media. Below please find a translation of an article written by a journalist who attended the press conference, published by die tageszeitung, as an example for the news coverage.

Overlooked and Underrated

The dangerousness of right-wing women has so far been neglected. Right-wing activists use gender-stereotypical perceptions strategically.

BERLIN taz | Since one year, the judge Manfred Götzl has been trying to clarify the crimes committed by the national socialist underground (NSU) and Beate Zschäpe’s involvement in them. But the main accused keeps silent.

While Uwe Mundlos, Uwe Böhnhardt and other male defendants have been described as dangerous and violent again and again, many media have downplayed Beate Zschäpe’s image as a terrorist to a harmless “cat mommy” and “girlfriend”, especially at the beginning of the trial. When she currently gets described as “ice-cold”, her emotions still seem more interesting than her deeds.
This distorted perception of a right-wing female terrorist corresponds to the general perspective which has been taken on right-wing women, according to experts of the Expert Center on Gender and Right-Wing Extremism: they get overlooked and underrated.

A study of the Amadeu Antonio Foundation of the same name analyses how the justice system, the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution and the police, but also civil society and the media underestimate the dangerousness of right-wing extremist women.
“The activities of right-wing women get ignored because of a stereotypical perception”, explains Heike Radvan of the Expert Center on Gender and Right-Wing Extremism. Right-wing female activists only get perceived as girlfriends of neo-Nazis, therefore they get denied an independent political attitude and the disposition for violence.

The NSU could have been uncovered earlier

According to the study, the deeds of the NSU could have been uncovered in various cases, if the activities of right-wing women had been taken seriously. Mandy S., a supporter of the NSU did not get registered during a profiling in the region of Nuremberg, because all women had beforehand been excluded from the search profile to reduce the size of the group during the determined manhunt.
The accessory prosecution lawyer Antonia von der Behrens states that right-wing attestors strategically use the gender-stereotypical perception to their advantage in court: They present themselves as naïve, ignorant and quickly overstrained und “fake tears” to withdraw themselves from further interrogation.

But women have been taking responsible positions in the right-wing scene for a while already: they run websites, register demonstrations and operate as cadres, as Esther Lehnert of the Expert Center on Gender and Right-Wing Extremism explains.
Right-wing women can strategically use their role as a nice neighbor, a worried mother from the parent’s association of the kindergarten or an active volunteer of the local dancing group and remain unnoticed, she remarks.

The study of the Amadeu Antonio Foundation therefore offers recommendations for government agencies, the media and associations in dealing with right-wing extremist women. Irrespective of how the trial against Beate Zschäpe turns out, only a debate about the efficacy of gender stereotypes in society and a differentiated perspective on the role of women in the right-wing extremist scene can guard against further right-wing violence.

Author: Zoé Sona
Translation: Carmen Altmeyer

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