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Women on top: the new face of the far right

Giorgia Meloni in 2020. Tiziana Fabi/AFP/Getty

Fascism and far-right politics are usually seen as hyper-masculine, says Alan Posener in Die Welt. Women under regimes like that of Nazi Germany were treated as “machines for cooking and giving birth”. But today many “key figures” in European right-wing populism are women: Alice Weidel is co-leader of Alternative for Germany; Marine Le Pen heads the National Rally in France; the Brothers of Italy’s Giorgia Meloni is about to become PM. And though they all tout traditionalism to voters, their own lives are strikingly modern. Weidel is a lesbian in a civil partnership with a Sri Lankan-Swiss film producer; Le Pen is twice divorced; Meloni is an unmarried mother.

Their prominence shows just how confused the modern far right is. The “supposedly glorious past” the women hark back to is one in which they probably wouldn’t have been able to have careers, especially alongside having children. Though they share a “hostility to the left”, they all profit from the rights for women largely won by the left. And though they support the patriarchal values of the past, they also target the “toxic masculinity” of today, labelling Islam as sexist and backward. This contradiction between the “propaganda of traditional values and the practice of modern values” is a paradox liberals should seek to exploit.