Women are becoming increasingly outspoken as a debate on female roles in the radical right takes shape.
In the late 1960s, in the heyday of radical left-wing groups, a debate developed within the Weathermen about the role of revolutionary women, who had been largely confined to supporting their menfolk. Before it was over, the Weathermen were renamed the Weather Underground, and many of the group's women were taking up the gun.
Thirty years later, in a distant echo of that debate, women on the radical right — who a leading analyst says now comprise 25% of many groups and as many as half of new recruits — are increasingly re-examining their position in the world of white supremacy.
And while they are far from radical feminists, many are espousing a new female activism and even leadership — often to the dismay and anger of the men in their movement.
"For years, it seemed that a White woman's role in the Racial movement was to write lonely prisoners and stand behind their boyfriends without much of an opinion about anything," writes Lisa Turner, who began the "Women's Frontier" of the neo-Nazi World Church of the Creator (WCOTC) in May 1998.
"In the last year or so, we have seen a lot of changes in this area. Everyone is starting to realize that if we are going to overcome in this struggle we are going to have to do it together — Man and Woman — side by side!"
From California to Maryland, and abroad from Australia to Canada to Europe, the voices of "racialist" women are being heard increasingly in a variety of forums. In the past, these movement women have been Nazi "Aryan breeders," the Klan moms who stayed home sewing robes for their men, the secretaries and helpmates of neo-Nazi leaders, the transmitters of "Aryan" values to the next generation.
Now, some of these women are seeking new, expanded roles for themselves and their gender. And although most reject "feminism" — which is widely seen as a Jewish plot to destroy the white race — they are leading key efforts to build a viable movement.
While their men try to tear down the current society, these women are building up the culture they hope to replace it with.
"There is a vacuum of leadership, and one that our menfolk must honestly look within themselves to explain," writes Turner, who recruits via the Internet. "Leadership is a legitimate and necessary role ... which women in the Church can fill."
WCOTC, which like almost all hate groups is led by a man, is only the most visible example of a concerted effort by the movement to reach out to women.
Forums for and about women, particularly on the Internet, are proliferating. They range from chat rooms featuring discussions about women's leadership capabilities to Skinhead Web sites with photographs of skimpily clad examples of Aryan female beauty to Internet advice columns for racist mothers on how to save money with homemade baby wipes.
From Kitchen to Cross-Building
· On Stormfront, the Web's oldest hate site, a debate on the role of women in the movement has been raging for months. One man wrote to a woman who had posted an earlier message: "I'm sorry to inform you, but a woman's place is in the kitchen. ... [M]en are physically stronger, which makes us more valuable... . A real white racialist woman understands this."
A second woman, speaking to the first, replies: "Don't be discouraged. Neanderthal attitudes like this one are few in the movement. ... I do think we should support our men, but we do not necessarily have to stay in the kitchen to do it."
· Women for Aryan Unity (WAU), a Web site run by a group of racist Odinist women in Canada, declares that "squeamish, bug fearing females" should "lose your forest phobias and start preparing for tomorrow" by acquiring survivalist, weapons and fighting skills.
A person identified as "Max Hammer" takes a similar view in a posting on the Web site: "Certain male elements who hold a rather Turkish attitude toward our feminine comrades should wise up and think Nordic, while certain female elements should cease behaving like mindless groupies and start doing political exercises instead."
· Sigrdrifa Publications, a unit of WAU, publishes a quarterly magazine "100% produced" by "Proud Aryan Women" with a mix of features like "Women of History," "Aryan Recipes," "White Prisoner Sponsorship Program" and "Baby Bulletin."
It also maintains a Web site for women describing, among other things, "Aryan Beginnings for Children (ABC)," a "co-operative of racialists ... organized to assist racially aware parents ... in raising proud white children in today's society." ABC plans "White Heritage" coloring books and newsletters on children's developmental stages.
· Tom Metzger, leader of the neo-Nazi White Aryan Resistance, recently criticized "the male dominance habit": "The Right Wing ... and the racial elements thereof have perpetuated some very negative attitudes. ... These positions have caused ... the political flight of many capable women... . Many women put the men to shame... .
"Historically, women have been proven to be great leaders, warriors, thinkers, scientists, etc."
· A few female leaders of other white supremacist groups have emerged recently. In Pennsylvania, the state leader of the American Knights of the Ku Klux Klan is a woman who goes by the name of "Kay Ryan" — although a newspaper recently identified her as Kathryn Christy Sonner Negley Hedrick, 47.
A May American Knights rally in Splendora, Texas, was led off by female speakers named "Bunny" and "Mary."
In Philadelphia, at least through 1997, the local leader of the racist National Association for the Advancement of White People (NAAWP) was a woman, Cortney Mann — who is, bizarrely, black.
· A female leader of the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, identified only as "Klaliff" (a title of a local Klan group's vice president), declares on a Web page that "Men and women are in the fight together" and says her group has a female national advisory board member.
"There has been some crossover in the more traditional tasks, but not too much. For the most part, women still work in the kitchen and men work on building the crosses."
· Women within a racist Odinist group based in northern Alabama have taken steps to form their own day-care center to isolate their children from what are seen as the pernicious influences of Judeo-Christian values, as well as to free up women for other work.
· Mothers of the Movement, another Web site for racist women, features relatively little political talk. Instead, it concentrates on such matters as how to save money with recipes for baby food.
Chastity, Feminism and Vicki Weaver
"Family values" have long been a staple of the radical right. A chief mission of the Reconstruction- and 1920s-era Klans was the protection of the "honor" and chastity of white women.
In more modern times, the "Fourteen Words" penned by imprisoned terrorist David Lane in the 1980s has become a family-oriented mantra for the white supremacist right: "We must secure the existence of our people and a future for white children."
White women long have been portrayed as a tiny minority in a dark-skinned world (the National Alliance, a neo-Nazi group based in West Virginia, terms them the "Earth's Most Beautiful Endangered Species"), seeking only to protect their fair-haired children.
Now, the role of radical women is expanding.
Part of this new activism owes a debt to the examples of several previous female extremists. The most notable early case is that of Kathy Ainsworth, a Mississippi housewife and Klanswoman who was killed in a 1968 shootout with police as she and a companion tried to bomb the home of a Jewish businessman in Meridian. While Ainsworth was widely seen as a heroine, few women tried to emulate her.
That is less true of Vicki Weaver, the wife of white supremacist Randy Weaver who was shot dead by an FBI sniper in the 1992 Ruby Ridge standoff. Many movement women say they were deeply inspired by Vicki Weaver, who seems to have been a far stronger character than her husband.
Still, many women who join the white supremacist movement seem to do so for fairly traditional reasons. Kathleen Blee, a leading expert who estimates that fully a quarter of many hate groups' members are now female, has written that while many women enter the movement "because of worries about crime, the quality of children's schools or family dissolution," others do so primarily because of personal relationships.
Indeed, many racist women today are pointing out that they were brought in through a lover or husband, and that many women are not true believers like the men.
And they are seeking to change that.
Using Women to Recruit Women
Sitting at a picnic table in Sacramento, 19-year-old Brandi Houston looks like many a young mother as she cradles her baby Freya Geniveve — except for the WCOTC jacket and the Skingirl-style hairdo she sports.
Houston heads up the California chapter of a second WCOTC women's group, "Sisterhood," which works to recruit women to the cause and which also has chapters in Washington and Michigan. She and Melody La Rue, head of the Washington chapter, publish a Sisterhood newsletter five times a year.
That's not all they do. On alternate Fridays, Houston hosts study groups in her living room with a group of women who read up on Church of the Creator founder Ben Klassen's works, such as The White Man's Bible. They devise organizing techniques for women like slipping WCOTC literature into women's clothing on store racks.
They've designed an annual "Sister of the Year" award ("We thought since White Women are taking on a more vigorous role within our Church, some healthy competition would be fun!"). They are working on a "racialist" educational curriculum for women who home school.
And Houston coordinates "winter solstice" gatherings and other female recruitment efforts.
In such recruitment efforts, she says, she has an advantage. "It's easier for women to talk to women, instead of men approaching women," Houston notes. "When I approach women, I get a much better response than when a man approaches a woman."
Adds "Sister Blondi," another Sacramento area women's organizer for the WCOTC: "The fact that I am a fairly young woman, nicely dressed, and white, actually helped. I'm not a threat to anyone and others feel that they can speak to me freely."
Houston, speaking in an interview this spring, says she also works with female WCOTC members to help them gain the political confidence to deal with men. "I had this girl who was so shy, she never talked to anyone," Houston says. But now that Houston has taken her under her wing? "She opens up to everybody. ... She's a better leader than she was."
When dealing with women's self-esteem and confidence, issues that are critical to building future racist leaders, Houston finds that "girls just relate better. ... It's easier [for women] to talk to [other] women about those things."
For her part, Turner uses the Internet and newsletters to advise racist women to raise more children ("We must reawaken in our womenfolk these basic natural instincts and drives"); to push jewelry that celebrates their racial heritage; and to offer information on self-defense.
She calls for an all-woman white power rock band and proposes the creation of a magazine for white women "to compete with the Glamours and Mademoiselles ... that extols the glory of motherhood, rather than climbing the corporate ladder... or 'how to trap a man' by wearing the right shade of lipstick."
Turner blasts those of her "male Comrades" whose art on Web sites and in periodicals depicts white women as "sexual bait."
'This is not a Dating Service'
Indeed, the WCOTC and some other women's groups explicitly reject the notion that their women's forums are meant to further Aryan romance, like the Web's now defunct Aryan Dating Page, which was a classified personals section for racists.
"We are not here to flirt with men or get 'dates,' but to conduct ourselves professionally and in a decent, understanding way," says Turner's Women's Frontier page. As to Houston's organization, "Sisterhood's main objective is to tie together the female allegiance ... We are not a dating service and will not turn into a 'Cupid's Corner.'"
The WCOTC's "Creator Connection" page, Turner adds, "is a service for White women to network with one another... . THIS IS NOT A DATING SERVICE."
(Some men apparently don't heed that warning. In the Sisterhood guest book, for instance, one man announces that he is seeking a wife among "racially conscious women." He claims to be a Harvard graduate, "6' 3" and 220 lbs, with light brown hair... .")
Such talk has set off many a debate, as Turner points out. "Our male Comrades, both inside and outside the Church, have generally been extremely supportive and at times even thrilled" about the new Women's Frontier.
But, she adds, "there are always reactionary elements who grumble under their breath" about its formation.
The resulting exchanges are instructive.
"Women have got to start pulling their weight in greater numbers and stop treating the race movement as a tittering clubhouse," a man named Keith says in a Stormfront posting. "The guys cannot do it all on their own, nor should they be expected to."
"Quite a vicious feminist, aren't you?" retorts "Tarkec."
That angers "Litta": "Forgive my lack of humility here, but in case some of you haven't noticed, we women are capable of high IQs too," she says. "As for activism, even warfare, women have been there, done that, and if necessary we can do it again."
Tarkec: "To the angry feminists on this forum: find yourself a White husband. To the feminine a**-kissing males on this forum: defending the angry feminists will not help you become a breeder. What ever happened to the tough, rugged American cowboy image? ... The impetus of activism, leading, writing ... remains overwhelmingly male."
"On each and every list I've been on," New Jersey housewife "Marge" laments, "the subject of what the role of women should be has come up, and inevitably the most popular ideas are the ones about barefoot and pregnant and ... 'cook our meals, wipe our brows, understand we're in a war and give us comfort.' I'm actually surprised so many women do make contributions, given the misogyny of too many men on our side."
Che Guevara or Mrs. Cleaver?
Be that as it may, there is one thing most movement women are clear about: They are not feminists. One Web site, Women in the White Pride Movement, opens with a declaration: "This is not a feminist page, but rather a page to celebrate and honor ARYAN WOMEN." Many others denounce feminism as a Marxist-Zionist plot to destroy the white race.
Houston announces that "girls tend to feel sorry for people" and "think with their emotions" while their menfolk think "with their brains." And Turner declares: "Feminism is not and never will be anything remotely connected with the WCOTC."
Petra sounds a similar note in the Stormfront forum: "This new Aryan woman ... is most certainly not the strident, sometimes lesbian, often race-mixing Marxist-loving woman, or the career-minded, selfishly aggressive woman that modern 'feminism' desires to create... . We must reject the Zionist myth and illusion of 'sexual equality.'"
In fact, Houston and Turner say part of their job is to create racist mates for men. "I think our men too are looking for more white racial women to marry and to raise their kids," says Houston.
Adds Turner: "Even though many [male comrades] would like to marry, settle down and begin raising families, they have no one to do it with because most 'mainstream' White women are brainwashed and lost to our Race."
None of this should imply a uniform perspective on the part of movement women. While some of these women hail the women's movement — and one even cites the example of Che Guevara as a role model — others clearly reject nontraditional roles.
"Indeed," Blee wrote in 1996 of extremist women, "the organizing momentum of the racist movement in recent years, and its ability to attract substantial numbers of women recruits, may reflect its ability to accommodate some measure of ideological dissension within its ranks even while maintaining a facade of political unity."
The current debate about women underscores Blee's point, cutting across all kinds of ideological lines on the extreme right. Those involved in the discussion include women who worship pre-Christian Norse gods, WCOTC members who practice a "theology" known as Creativity and others who practice heretical variants of Christianity.
They are neo-Nazis, Skinheads, Klanswomen and those who follow the "Third Position" — a racist political stance that rejects both communism and capitalism. Not only does it cut across these lines, but this debate conceivably could help draw these extremist factions closer together.
To the WCOTC women, one thing is clear. While group leader Matt Hale, who calls himself "Pontifex Maximus," encourages women members to become church "reverends" and other kinds of leaders, there remains a ceiling on their aspirations.
Hale's job, Houston says, "is best suited for a man." Or, in the words of Turner: "I certainly would not wish to take on the role of PM [Pontifex Maximus]! ... A man is simply geared biologically and by nature to take on this most daunting of positions."