Cinzia Padovani – The significance of Gender within Fascist social movements: an Ethnographical approach




Event Date: 15 – 17 May 2019
Richmond University – The American University in London
Queen’s Rd,
Richmond TW10 6JP

The Centre for Analysis of the Radical Right in partnership with Richmond, the American University in London presents:

A Century of Radical Right Extremism: New Approaches

Dr Cinzia Padovani (University of Loughborough) – The significance of Gender within Fascist social movements: an Ethnographical approach

This paper is the result of ethnographic fieldwork in which I have implemented various techniques of data gathering in order to provide fresh insights and generate new knowledge on aspects related to gender and the far-right. The movements under investigation are CasaPound Italia (CPI) and Forza Nuova (FN), two self-defined fascist organizations in Italy. For analytical purposes, this paper focuses on exploring the interactions among the following three dimensions of gendered politics: gender representation and participation, gender-related policy issues, and power dynamics related to gender within the organizations.
The focus on gender implies the following layers of analysis, which I have organized in terms of: 1) representational issues; 2) policy issues; and 3) political leadership and power dynamics. In order to address the first set of issues, I focused on language use (in official communiqués, in exchanges on social media and/or on the ground) and on public performances (and the role of women during those events). In order to study the second set of issues (policy issues), I paid attention to political campaigns addressing typical “female” topics, in particular, motherhood and fertility. For the third set of issues (power dynamics), I gathered data from interviews, and in particular, from one in-depth interview with “CP,” the only female mayor candidate for CPI at the 2017 Administrative Elections in Italy. During the interview, we focused on CP’s positions on gender issues and her experience as a woman inside the organization. This included: details of her personal history of how and why she joined the movement; her family circumstances; and finally her activism and leadership role within the organization. In line with earlier research on women in far-right movements (Blee, 2002), the data from this interview portray a different image than those that have been traditionally depicted. The respondent, curly blond hair shoulder length, contagious smile, and a bubbling personality, is a well educated 30 some years old woman, with a high school degree from a prominent classic lyceum in town as well as a Master’s; is married—although she questioned her decision to marry—works two jobs and is the mother of two young boys. Most importantly, she did not enter the fascist organization because of a man, as it might have been typically assumed, but rather, she joined and continues to be very active, despite her husband’s firm opposition to her political activism and his dislike of the organization. Whereas she described her husband as struggling with low self-esteem and depression, she seemed to embody the perfect image of a well adjusted, self-reliant woman
The observations and the interviews provide a wealth of data that will be useful to better understand women’s changing roles in contemporary fascist movements. The examples from the two organizations will give an opportunity to compare and contrast gender representation and participation, policy issues, as well as power dynamics related to gender.



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