Proxy Power: White Women as the foot-soldiers of White Supremacy
Behind Every Great Man There’s a Great Woman.
On 8 November 2016 Americans went to the polls and elected Hillary Clinton to the Presidency. Hillary Clinton won the popular vote by roughly 2.8 million votes and surpassed the number of votes earned by any white man in American history. She carried African Americans by 89%, Hispanic and Asian voters by 66 and 65% respectively, 18–29 year olds by 55%, 30–44 year olds by 51%, households with incomes of less than $50k yearly by 53% and women overall by 54%. Her victory was sweeping. But she did not win whites. And although she captured some 94% of African American women’s votes white women went 53% to Trump.
The census bureau estimates that white non-Hispanics make up about 60% of the American population. That means that white men make up less than 30% of the American population. Yet, as I have repeatedly written, white men hold a super majority of Senate and House seats and of the 44 Presidents who have or are serving 43 of them have been white men. If society was logical — if people were logical — white women would have all voted for Hillary Clinton. It would have been impossible for the Electoral College and Russia and GOP voter suppression tactics to have altered the 2016 election simply because at a point the number and ratio of votes becomes insurmountable. Only 30% of the population had any reason to support Donald Trump in 2016 and that has been roughly reflected in his approval polls. Statistically speaking, white supremacy should not be a viable tactic in elections simply because it only provides supposed benefits to 30% of the population. But Trump was able to take the White House because just over half of white women joined with their men.
A similar thing happened with Roy Moore, the pedophile Trump endorsed for the Senatorial seat vacated by Jeff Sessions. Ultimately, Doug Jones (D) won that seat thanks to the efforts of black women who turned out overwhelmingly for him (just as they did for Hillary). White women once again voted for the white supremacist.
In both these cases and really in any case where white women are supporting white supremacists and white supremacy there’s not really a logical explanation for it. This is bad juju. Or something else that sounds funny and apropos. Trump on election day stood credibly accused of raping a teenage girl at an Epstein party, raping his ex-wife Ivana, and sexually assaulting multiple women. Moore likewise was known for his serial pedophilia targeting specifically little white girls. This is before we even touch on Trump and Moore’s deeply racist and dictatorial world views. Both of them were known sexual predators and Trump even bragged about being a sexual predator openly discussing how he lusted after his own daughter. The logical thing for white women to have done would have been to vote both of them down because both of them represented a very real danger to women everywhere, but given their predilections, especially white women.
This is not meant to give men a pass. In all cases men vote more conservatively than women and white men are especially bad about it due to the mistaken belief that white supremacy is going to help them. But men doing that kinda makes sense. White supremacy is all about preserving the hegemony of the white male. It’s stupid and doesn’t work, but if you take it at face value it does make sense why white men always vote predominantly for white supremacy. They’re a lost cause and it’s up to them to prove me wrong by electing me to the Senate in 2020 when Kamala Harris becomes President. What white men are doing is wrong and they do it to a far greater degree than any other demographic, but at least for them it sort of makes sense. What white women are doing though does not really follow.
So in we dive.
There’s basically two ways of understanding white women in white supremacy. There’s white supremacist men’s means of dealing with women and there’s white supremacist women’s apologia. I’m going to deal with them in that order, but before we start I want to warn everyone …. white supremacy is AWFUL. You already know it’s awful, but just reading the ADL’s material on it made me kinda sick. And I study the Holocaust in my free time and my PhD involves me handling human skeletons. So there is a pretty high likelihood that some of the hate I have to relay in here is going to make you a bit ill. You need to power through. The only way to fight these things is to stare them dead in the face.
Misogyny in White Supremacy: Thots and Tradhots
White supremacy is about hate, control, and destruction. It’s necessary that white supremacy include heaping doses of misogyny because without misogyny white supremacy doesn’t work. Male white supremacists generally view women including their own family members as objects for sexual satisfaction and procreation. End of story. They absolutely do not recognize women as humans nor do they understand that women may have sexual interests or desires. And they of course do not recognize women as intelligent.
White supremacy carries under its umbrella incels and MRAs both of which use white supremacist language and ideology to reinforce their deeply flawed world views regarding in particular women. Incels and MRAs have a greater propensity towards gendered violence and gendered hate crimes, but in general the reaction of white supremacist males to any form of perceived threat from women including women’s existence is violence. Both the ADL’s analysis of misogyny in white supremacy and doctoral candidate Annie Kelly relate a vlog post by Lauren Southern where she responds to criticism that she as a 22 year-old is not married with five children (I should be concerned if any 22 year-old married or not has five children). Southern regularly advocates against what she calls “destruction of the nuclear family,” but became the target of intense (read: abusive) criticism from white supremacist men.
White supremacist men do on occasion recognize the necessity of women particularly if they expect to procreate, but their language is often peppered with extreme violence and also taciturnly recognizes that the freedom to choose paired with self-actualization will turn women away from white supremacy and the men who espouse it. Aside from actual terrorist hate crimes perpetrated against women white supremacist men often describe violent rape fantasies or fantasies involving essentially ownership of women they deem appropriately attractive.
There is also a severe delineation in white supremacy between women who are deemed trophies or prizes (tradhots) and women who white supremacist men find threatening in various ways (thots). Tradhot basically means “traditional hottie,” and thot is an acronym for “that ho over there.” Despite the terminology and the insistence that thots are unattractive there seems to be a great deal of male sexual inadequacy and frustration underlying these terms. Tradhots are supposedly blonde, blue-eyed, Evangelical Christian, and chiefly, obedient women. Thots are in contrast women in any form of a sexual relationship (or not) that does not include a white supremacist. According to white supremacists thots are universally unattractive, but given how worked up white supremacists tend to get over them it seems that a more meaningful delineation is that thots are simply women who are sexually unavailable to white supremacists.
Underlying this misogyny is the idea that specifically white men should be in control of women in general, but white women in particular. So that’s all very weird and a bit funny really given who these guys are (the ADL brief on them described one of them as an “academic,” but if that is an accurate description he’s rather poor at it), but it makes a weird sort of sense. These men think they’re entitled to things that they simply aren’t entitled to and when they fail to receive the deference they mistakenly believe they deserve they become angry and violent. The question though, is why would any woman put up with that? I shall attempt to answer that below.
Women in White Supremacy: Tradwives and the antonym of self-actualization
The psychology of white supremacist women is a bit more difficult to parse simply because there’s no actual or even imagined benefit to being female and white supremacist. Male white supremacists imagine themselves as being the rightful recipients of power and deference but as best I can tell female white supremacists are engaged in the constant practice of destroying their identities in favor of their male counterparts. And they receive absolutely no benefits from it. Male white supremacists are deceiving themselves, but they are deceiving themselves within a fantasy which promotes their own ego and lets them believe that — despite the fact that most of them have neither trained nor studied physically or mentally — they are superior to everyone else. Female white supremacists on the other hand seem to believe that they exist simply to fulfill the desires of their husbands and make babies. There’s no personhood or will attached.
Nonetheless, female white supremacists tend to be more effective and jarring than their male counterparts. Elizabeth Gillespie McRae quite literally wrote the book on this. It’s entitled Mothers of Massive Resistance: White Women and the Politics of White Supremacy. Here’s a review. McRae does not really analyze the psychology of these women, but she does analyze how they have been historically effective. In her piece in the NYT she warns that ignoring the “contributions” of women to any movement particularly white supremacy leads to false narratives surrounding that movement. This is why at the opening of this piece I spoke about white women voting for Trump and Moore. In America we tend to deceive ourselves into believing that women are not cruel and are less likely to behave in aggressive and destructive ways than men.
McRae’s points in this area are underscored by the work of Stephanie E. Jones-Rogers in her book They Were Her Property: White Women as Slave Owners in the American South. Jones-Rogers explores these female slave owners from slave accounts and court records. She finds that — far from the narrative of white woman as mother or benevolent mistress — these women were exceptional in their cruelty and vociferous in maintaining their property rights in regards to their slaves. For the student of history, the agency and cruelty of women is unsurprising, but Americans often ascribe to women “qualities” or “faults” which do not actually exist.
In fact, this idea that women are or should be naturally obedient, kind and caring largely stems from Evangelical Christianity. And in turn white Evangelical Christian communities and churches have become the vanguard for white supremacy. Judeo-Christian traditions but not necessarily teachings do stress a sexual hierarchy, but the teachings themselves in places promote egalitarianism, and even female agency and autonomy. While the Old Testament is replete with wars and strife and while several of the parables in the New Testament emphasize communities’ distrust of one another (eg the Good Samaritan) there is no textual basis for the racism promoted in white Evangelical Christian churches. Typically the origin of this racism — appropriately or not — has to do with either Lilith or Hagar and Ishmael. But again, the Evangelical Christian idea that dark skin is associated with sin and women are property is not based on any firm biblical, moral, or scientific sourcing. It is a fantasy, but it is nonetheless proselytized.
The issue for white women in conservative communities or even white women wishing to be performatively “good” is that they must simultaneously fulfill their role as “hausfrau” (more commonly referred to as “tradwives” for “traditional wives”) and obedient conservatively dressed but still attractive long-suffering wife, and also do the grassroots work of white supremacy. This is what I like to refer to as the Ivanka paradox, but I’ll get into that in a bit more detail in a moment. Some of this has to do with the bastardization of historical warrior women. I’ll have a great deal more to say about that in a later post because it is a problem, but women in the past who took up arms did not stay at home and — as we can definitely imagine — were sexualized. White supremacy likes to lock onto the image of shield-maidens or even Valkyries, but has completely misunderstood or intentionally misinterpreted their cultural context. The idea here — incidently diametrically opposed to the rest of the framing of the ideal white supremacist woman — is that women may be expected to fiercely and fearlessly defend their home and values and raise “warriors.”
This brings us back to McRae and her points on women’s involvement in grassroots white supremacy. Motherhood in white supremacy may be understood to male white supremacists as simply (!!) bearing five to six white children, but to female white supremacists also involves the work of raising those children with the requisite racist and sexist beliefs to make them good white supremacists. In many cases this involves the aggressive promotion of segregation through encouraging their children to bully children of color, actively harassing families of color, marching and organizing against racial equality, removing children from organizations that promote integration (including schools), discouraging “mixed” marriages, sniffing out “mulatos,” or discouraging families of color from buying or renting in “white” neighborhoods.
All of these activities require work, cooperation, and a form of education which can probably be fairly characterized as brainwashing. In some forms the racism and prejudice is overt and cannot be undertaken by individuals who do not at their core believe in racial hierarchy. But this is not true of most of women’s white supremacist work. Much of this can be and is framed at preserving a certain kind of civility or gentility. It’s not phrased as racism even though it clearly is, and the people engaging in it do not always understand it as racism. (This is slightly off-topic, but Prof. Brittney Cooper gives an excellent talk about precisely this sort of thing in a University or academic context and since I’m kinda girl-crushing on her I need to link this awesome talk she did.)
“The Right Kind of People”
At this point we can really get into the Ivanka Paradox. I love to hate Ivanka Trump because she is basically exactly everything I have fought tooth and nail not to be. I’m going to first talk a bit about her, and then I’m going to explain why I call it the Ivanka Paradox.
First off, her name’s not Ivanka. This is an Eastern European thing and it’s one of the only Eastern European things that managed its way into just about all of Eastern Europe. Usually Hungarians are just out there in everything being weird, but in this case we’re in the thick of it too. The Ivanka’s name is actually “Ivana.” Just like her mom. And that’s pretty normal. My brother is named after our great-grandfather and my son will be named after my grandfather. It’s just a little cultural thing. But obviously it leads to a bit of confusion if you have an old guy and a kid running about with the same name. So, we use honorifics. In Hungarian if you for example get a doctorate you are politely referred to as so-and-so “ur.” But for kids or people you’re close to you use “ka.” Growing up my mom always called me “Ari-ka,” (which lead to some confusion because it sounds like “Erika,”) and my grandmother to her dying day refered to my father as Gyorgy-ka. Ivana was just referring to her kid the way any mom would …. but it stuck. Hard. Coming from that cultural context I might take umbrage if the entire world started calling me “Ari-ka,” but …. I dunno, maybe Ivanka doesn’t value her intelligence or accomplishments. Given that those are both sparse I guess that’s fair.
But this sort of weird self-infantilization or performative weakness is Ivanka in a nutshell. Her hair’s not blonde, it’s brown, she’s had plastic surgery (I assume it was unsuccessful), she publishes carefully curated images of herself playing with her children or decorating a Thanksgiving table but based on all indications leaves most of that to her staff, advertises herself as a successful businesswoman, but does not pay her interns and is constantly mired in scandals regarding either plagiarism of designs or poor quality of the product. One can see why her father loves her so much. She’s as much of an unmitigated failure as him, but in a dress and pumps. They’re basically like if Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers were really terrible at dancing but continually filmed.
But all of Ivanka’s massive and hilariously tragic failure aside she is a big part of the reason her father was elected President. I need to stress, this is not a mistake. A lot of white men and more crucially although to a lesser degree white women were not voting for Donald Trump, but for Ivanka Trump. At this point I need to stress something. Among women, liking or admiring Ivanka Trump is a better indicator of white supremacist sympathies than anything else including anti-vaccine sentiment, locale, church attendance, or the inability to add seasoning to your damn casserole, Karen. But you’ll also note that those of you who like Ivanka Trump and women who like her in general often would NEVER consider themselves white supremacists or even racists. They/you are if you like her and I’ll explain in a moment, but a lot of them/you probably didn’t see that coming.
The insidious thing about Ivanka is that she is the white supremacist ideal in all of the ways. She’s not bright, she’s not argumentative, her business “acumen” is largely based on her father’s “fortune,” her hair is blonde, she dresses conservatively, and she’s soft-spoken and apparently sweet. There is nothing about Ivanka that is challenging. She is in all form and function simple. And she is liberal. Ivanka is basically what I mean when I use the term “fauxgressive.” (That is, when I’m not talking about principal components in political ideology, but …. just go with it. We don’t have time to get into matrices right now.) Ivanka has given lip-service to things like environmentalism, paid maternal leave, and even feminism. But never once has she followed through on those ideals in a meaningful way. They are her ideological hair dye. And she frames her political action in relation to her father and husband. That right there, is the ideal white supremacist woman. She does not exist outside of the context of her father or husband and her ideology exists only in promotion of her family or more specifically the men in her family.
Ivanka is “the right kind of people.” She’s got her appropriately sized heels and her reasonably fashionable but not too flashy dresses. One can imagine her attending PTA meetings and baking pies. She’s the perfect “suburban” woman. This is not a mistake. Well, it might be for Ivanka, but both suburbia and the concept of gentile society are founded on the concept of exclusion of non-whites. I’ve linked “Adam Ruins everything,” because his discussion on this is quick and entertaining, but McRae’s analysis of the changing goals and language of white supremacy particularly after World War II and during the civil rights movement thoroughly explain this sort of signalling.
Go Get Your Girl
Listen, if you want to wear pumps and dresses and bake pies whilst being gluten free, you do you. I myself live for a pumpkin spice latte. But for all the white girls reading this, we’ve got some work to do regardless of how shocked you were when I told you Ivanka was a rather good indicator for white supremacy.
Now, again, I need to stress men are worse. Male white supremacists use rape to control women including their own wives and male white supremacists just recently passed laws limiting abortion in several states. They’re awful, and the best way to deal with them is hope they eat rancid garbage and die.
But, and I cannot stress this enough, it was Phyllis Schlafly who killed ERA.
For someone as openly racist and sexist as Schlafly, there’s not much hope. But she’s a rarity. And the biggest concern among female white supremacists is gentility and “keeping the peace.” I was at a black caucus event recently and one of the ladies there mentioned that white women always want to look good around one another. We care what other white women think. So use that. Generally it is used to promote white supremacy, but this is something that can be turned on its head.
For example, if someone in your family has said or done something racist demand amends out of them. Do not “keep the peace.” Demand that they do. I have a rather racist kind of distant aunt and I’ve told the family that she is not welcome at my wedding or at any event where I am providing food until she publicly apologizes and cleans up her behavior. I have called her racist in front of the entire family and I have made it clear that until she sorts herself out she is not welcome.
Another thing you can do is have a lot of black friends. No. I’m serious. Turn gentile exclusion on its head. Don’t wait to be invited to the cookout, invite your girlfriends of color over for onesie night or a dinner party or whatever it is you do. Make your cute little plates of crudites and clink your cosmos or champagne or beer or whatever with your African-American girlfriends. Just bringing multiple women of color to the party will signal to other white women that any form of racism is not acceptable to you. And then if you have a white girlfriend who’s being racist you just go and socialize with your black girlfriends until she’s ready to behave herself.
As a white woman you’re going to have people coming to you trying to check your behavior or asking you to condone theirs. This is another opportunity for you to go get your girl. In previous posts I have related instances where other white women or non-black women have tried to confide in me their racist sentiments. Now, in this situation, I wouldn’t out them. But what you can do is challenge them. They are coming to you for comfort. Don’t provide it. Instead discuss with them why they feel the way they do. Eventually they’re going to come around to the same conclusion everyone does in regards to racism. It’s status threat. And from there you can build them back up sans the racism.
Now, I’ve also had mostly men although also a few women come to me and try to check my behavior. Guys have told me I’m too aggressive or too political to be attractive to them and women have told me that what I’m doing or saying is unladylike or divisive. The message here is, “you get your power by proxy, so stop rocking the boat.” At this point you need to hulk out. You do not get your power by proxy. You get nothing by proxy. Only white men benefit from your silence and complicity and they will use you to hurt you. So in that situation you can be nice and discuss civilly as you want, but what they are doing to you is innately uncivil. In that situation you must be clear. Remind them that, no, you don’t actually benefit from racism or sexism and yes, you are the avatar of your own destiny. With many of these people I have had to tell them to f directly off. But if they’re trying to control your behavior this might be a girl you cannot go and get.
And in Conclusion ….
Ultimately, proxy power is a myth. White women in white supremacy behave as if there will be brownie points for obedience, silence, and complicity. The idea is that if they vote the way their husbands want or help to limit diversity in the workplace their husbands will benefit. But this is false. Not only will any benefit white men accrue not be passed to women (see Stacey Abram’s essay on identity politics), but if a company is able to pay women or minorities less for the same work then why would that company hire white men?
White Supremacy earns white women absolutely nada and it doesn’t help white men either. It makes them fearful and I’m going to link Diana Mutz’s article on status threat yet again, but it does not result in anything but a slow march towards populism and fascism. But before I end I also really need to hit y’all over the head with the concept that white supremacy is 1. the responsibility of white people to fix and 2. thriving on both the political left and right. Things get better racially because white people listened to black people, not because black people did as they were told. If what I’ve said here upset you and you want to do a good, then step one is listening to specifically black women. There’s launching points within this article to do just that.
But the other thing, and I know I say this in every article I write, is that you are never immune. Check my stuff on populism and political ideology if you want a more thorough discussion on this, but the take home point is no political ideology or candidate inoculates you from the charge of racism and if they are trying to tell you that they do they are probably a racist candidate. The biggest indicator that you have a problem is if you are white and read this entire article bemusedly excusing yourself from the charge of racism. If you think that you are not capable of racism or have never given aide and comfort to white supremacy then you are one of the girls I wrote this to go get.
If we are ever going to get to a system of society and government where our power is accepted as our power and where we can wield it openly we have to practice a true form of intersectionality as described by Brittany Cooper and Stacey Abrams linked above. It’s not going to be nice. There’s not going to be banana bread and naval gazing. It’s going to be messy. But this is necessary.
Go get your girl.