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On Charlottesville: How Racism and Misogyny Have Fueled a New Wave of Hatred

On August 12, 2017, white supremacists from across the nation descended on Charlottesville, Virginia for a “Unite the Right” hate rally that quickly descended into violence and chaos. Blackburn Center joins our statewide and national partners in condemning the racism, anti-Semitism, homophobia, xenophobia and the hatred shown by the white supremacists during this rally in Charlottesville.

Although the rally seemed largely designed to inspire fear and show hatred for people of color and religious minorities, we recognize there are many different forces at work that have shaped the “alt right” movement. White supremacy is the key tenant of this movement, but it is far from its only guiding force. Understanding how so many young men have come to be involved in this movement can help us more effectively prevent it from spreading.

The alt right has deep roots in misogyny. As one commentator noted, it isn’t just about white supremacy, but about white male supremacy. While the men are most visibly spewing hate about people of color, immigrants, and religious minorities, their rhetoric often includes incredibly sexist and misogynistic statements about women. Consider the words of Richard Spencer, viewed by many as one of the leaders of the movement: “Women should never be allowed to make foreign policy. It’s not that they’re weak. To the contrary, their vindictiveness knows no bounds.” Spencer went on to justify the comments made by President Trump in the infamous Access Hollywood tape, arguing, “At some part of every woman’s soul, they want to be taken by a strong man.”

The radicalization of young men into white supremacists — and in some cases, domestic terrorists — often begins in forums dedicated to anger at women. Many of the men who are involved in these white supremacist groups got their start in the so-called “manosphere,” where men who feel rejected by women come together online. They often believe that feminism is destroying the role of men in society, and then quickly decide that other forms of social justice beliefs (such as anti-racism) are harming them as well. This often leads to a toxic brew of misogyny and racism, where resentment builds against a society that they believe has treated them unfairly as white men. The result is situations like Charlottesville, where large groups of white men (and some white women) came together in a show of hate against Black people, Jewish people, Muslims, LGTBQ people, immigrants and others.

While we cannot and should not downplay the racism and anti-Semitism of the alt right movement, understanding how it intersects with misogyny and how many men come to be involved with it can help us more effectively combat its growth. When it comes to white supremacy, misogyny and racism are two sides of the same coin. We must stand against both in order to live in a society that is safe for all Americans. Blackburn Center joins the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape and the National Alliance to End Sexual Violence in denouncing the white supremacist rally in Charlottesville and opposing all forms of hatred, discrimination, and misogyny.

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