Thehistorical platform of feminism as a collective movement reside in the firsthalf of the nineteenth century, but its starting point was the end of theeighteenth century.
It was through progressive and active women that atheoretical formulation was joined to a political organization which made itpossible to actively oppose law and opinion. These women are the foremothers ofthe modern women’s movement that advocated for the dignity, intelligence, andhuman existence of women. In the late nineteenth century movements towards equalrights amongst women started to be become plainly recognizable and self-consciousand thus it progressed into a series of movements throughout Europe. Focusingmainly on suffrage, the women’s movement began to form it initial presence insociety during the chaotic years of the French Revolution.
Feminism,a concept that originated in France as well as finding it’s voice during theFrench Revolution July 14, 1789 – November 9, 1799, was no stranger of theFrench people. Since the Middle Ages, French women and men had voiced argumentsfor legal and political equality among the sexes. The eighteenth centurydesultory debate over the educational, economic, and domesticated status of womenslowly started to grow more intense with in the early years of the Revolution.The objectifying regulations tabbed on women during the decades of the ancien regime – Middle Ages until 1792– left women, without choice, full dependence on their husbands and if notmarried, then she must remain the property of her father. Law and customconfined women to domestic service, heavy labor, and ill-paid labor-intensiveindustries.
It was the notions presentedduring this time of conflict between a struggle for equality and live against anauthoritarian presence that foreshadowed the principles of equality and theopposition of oppression that was present in Europe in the late nineteenth andearly twentieth century. These ideas were opposed during this time byconservative authoritarianism that was present during the French Revolution. Throughoutthe revolution the masses experienced a great deal of hardship, however, thispresented the first opening to arbitrate in the political sphere and reshape theclass system of the hierarchical society in which they existed. The tie betweenfascism and the French Revolution involved a reorientation of European politicsthat was adopted first by modern European nationalism rooted in the biasconcept of Rousseau’s general will, that only when men act together as anassembled people can the individual be a citizen.
1 The general will became asecular religion under the Jacobin dictatorship – the people worshippingthemselves – while the political leadership sought to guide and formalize thisworship.2 The roots of fascism areseen in the Jacobin Club, first formed as an militant section of therevolutionary bourgeoisie but later dominated by Maximillien Robespierre whoembodied the most radical response to the revolutionary crisis; to defeat theforces of reaction, they found themselves compelled to take radical measures. Throughthe looking glass of the Jacobin dictatorship, the rays of fascism found comfortin the creation of a new man, under the aesthetic of politics, a new age ofpoliticization would function.
For the first time “the people” became adisciplined mass movement during the years of the Revolution, participating inthe drama of politicsLK1 . Throughtime change at the beginning of the twentieth century the principles of maleworship manifested in nationalism, later giving rise to fascism, was stilloppressing the principles of feminism that wished to pursue egalitarian ethicsLK2 . The arrival of the twentieth century broughtalong strong nationalism as well as the beginning of women’s movements and muchof the modern liberal world.
It was also during this time that fascisminherently excluded women despite direct demands for participation in feminismin its entirety. The spectrum of feminists ranging from radical conservatism demonstratedby the Nazi women who exemplified their natural identity in serving the nation toliberal feminists proclaiming that the full emancipation and participation ofwomen in society is vital for not only maximizing society but also preventingwar and fascism. Multiple writings and actions demonstrated by women post-WorldWar I and throughout the years of World War II confirm that fascism is not onlymisogynistic and ungrateful to the aid of enthusiastic women who were desperateto be a part of their fascist regime in ways more than only producing futuresoldiers but also that feminism and fascism are mutually exclusive. Theinherent opposition between feminism and fascism is extremely evident in thephilosophy and doctrine of each – fascism’s evidence lies in the lack ofdoctrine as well. Virginia Woolf’s ThreeGuineas written in 1938 should be internalized by it’s historical contextregarding the rise of women’s rights, fascism, and Woolf’s intellectualengagement at the time. The unfamiliarity and fragility of women’s rights waspresent because just a little more than a hundred years prior to Woolf’s Three Guineas in 1832 Parliament passedthe Great Reform Act, which expanded the electoral system for all men to vote,making women still unable to vote. As the women’s suffrage movement continuedat a slow pace, in 1918 women over the age of thirty who had a higher educationdegree and who were householders or married to householders were grantedeligibility to vote. Only in 1928 did Britain grant universal suffrage to allpeople over the age of twenty-one.
The new emergence of female equality inEngland during this time framed Woolf’s work as a significant both in terms offeminist thought, but also in terms of the rapidly changing world.Acornerstone of Woolf’s writings as well as this paper is that fascism isinextricably tied to the patriarchy. In her novel—essay Three Guineas, Woolf argues that a male-centric society inherentlyleads to the action of war, associating the destruction of households and theloss of life as the saddening result of war. Woolf makes it perfectly clearthat it is not only male aggression but also the incentive to only educate,critique, and perfect the male identity through higher education opportunities,stable professions, and admiration from political and social organizations. Dueto the anxious notion that men may lose status in their professions with theintegration of women into the workforce, men become “possessive, jealous of anyinfringement of their rights, and highly combative if anyone dares disputethem.
” 3 Woolf argues, “are we not right then inthinking that if we enter the same professions we shall acquire the samequalities? And do not such qualities lead to war?”4 Compliment John Mill’s The Subjection of Women 1869LK3 , and his argument revolving around theidea that men have oppressed women into not participating in social orpolitical activities because men prevent them to. Mill suggests that whetherwomen can perform certain activities will be dependent on reality. Millproposes that women should be an integrated into more traditionally male rolesbecause it will also have a positive outcome for men, making it amale-utilitarian society. The seizure of power by fascism uses femininity as aleverage, bringing back the sentimental moments of the first world war, whenmothers of men were killed, and mother’s sons were martyred. Adolf Hitlerconfirms this claim that fascism uses femininity as a tool of leverage when hesaid, “in politics, it is necessary to have the support of women, because themen will follow spontaneously.” 5 Treatingwomen as an inferior aid to male progress is typical of fascist behavior and isespecially relevant to Nazism. Hitler himself was quoted speaking on thegrounds of women’s position in the Third Reich saying, “I detest women whodabble in politics.
And if their dabbling extends to military matters, itbecomes utterly unendurable.”6 Hitler expands hisposition on women’s roles by saying, “Everything that entails combat isexclusively men’s business. There are so many other fields in which one mustrely upon women Organizing a house, for example.”7 In 1933 a group of Naziwomen had a gathered a collection of letters Deutsche Frauen an Adolf Hitler (German Women to Adolf Hitler) toconvince Hitler that the Third Reich would not only benefit from, but neededGerman women in positions of power. Theseizure of power on Jan.
30, 1933 brought an anticipation of an end to thebewilderment that many Germans felt during the Weimar Republic. The peoplelooked to Hitler as he promised a renewal of German values, but also a NationalSocialist revolution that would clear Germany of the bourgeois ways. Unfortunately, most Germans failed to see thepotential confusion and radicalism in Hitler’s contradictory rhetoric. Theearly days of the Third Reich’s rule left many women with the hopeful thoughtthat the promising new regime would be open to the involvement of women inpolitical and social positions, regardless of class. The open letters publishedto Hitler, German Women to Adolf Hitler, emphasizethe significance of female participation in Nazi Germany. The introduction ofwhich, written by Irmgard Reichenau, states “Our love for Germany gives us theright and makes it our duty to say below a few things that German women have tosay to the German man.”8 The use of the word “duty”9 implies the essential needfor women to be involved with the operation of the Third Reich.
Morespecifically, the opening of the first letter states “A Volksgmeinschaft…ofGermanic blood cannot in the long run be led and controlled by only men.”10 The foundation of thisinitial argument is in the prehistory of Germany. The letter continues with thematriarchal prehistory, asserting that the development of society requiresequality so that “the three generations now living are directed by the will ofthe creator to the third stage: to the social order of the two-unified, thetotal human being.”11 Prehistoric women ofGermany were said to be equal to men, holding the same rights as them regardingmarriage and property. Hitler later officially falsified that assumption ofprehistoric German women in a speech to the National Socialist Women’s Leagueon September 8, 1934 by saying “in really good times of German life the Germanwoman had no need to emancipate herself.
She possessed exactly what nature had necessarilygiven her to administer and preserve; just as the man in his good times had noneed to fear that he would be ousted from his position in relation to thewoman.”12 The letters make a clearposition for women who are ready to become actively involved with the ThirdReich. Yet, another contradiction to Woolf’s Three Guineas where organization is another form of male oppressionand Hitler’s these women back in time. The authors of the open letters directedto Hitler are no stranger to the atrocities committed by the Weimar Republicand furthermore, the patriarchy. In attempt to abolish the association of thewomen’s movement with the Weimar Republic from Nazi angst the authors of theletters mark the patriarchy as the origin of all that National Socialismrejects. Reichenau provides an argument rejecting the patriarchal state bysaying all the phenomena surrounding the “ultimate causes of the world crisis”13 is only secondary but”primary, however, is the decadence of sheer male domination which produced allof these phenomena!”14 The phenomena being allthings that the Nazis despised; democracy, Jewry, and liberalism. Theirony of Nazi women who continued to fight for equality – politically andsocially – is the complete and utterblindness to devotion that prevented them from clearly seeing that all forms offascism inherently are shaped by sexist values.
These values intend to keepwomen in the home and produce children as a duty to their nation. In Woolf’s Three Guineas she makes it clear that amale-centric society inherently leads to the action of war. The Nazi womenagree with the feminist criticism portrayed through Woolf’s novel-essay on thegrounds that the patriarchy is the root of all reviled by Nazi officials, butthe dichotomy occurs in the action of organization amongst the women supportingthe Nazi regime.
The Nazi women wished to join the action and organization thatthe Third Reich had to offer for exclusively men which fundamentallycontradicts Woolf’s imperative that women should not “bind herself to take noshare in patriotic demonstrations; to assent to no form of nationalself-praise; to absent herself from military displays, tournaments, tattoos,prize-givings and all such ceremonies as encourage the desire to impose ‘our’civilization or ‘our’ dominion upon other people.”15 An example of fascistoppression even more flagrant of than that shown in Nazi Germany was the policiestowards women in Mussolini’s Italy. Akey divergence between the experiences German and Italian women was their statusesin their respective societies.
Italian women under the Kingdom of Italy(1861-1925) were not permitted to vote but women did work and were active and participatingin society. In the midst of World War I Italian women, as women elsewhere, wereexpected to get suffrage. In Italy socialist trade unions, leagues, and labororganizations had a grand amount of support by women who comprised a largeportion of the total industrial labor force, leaving women with a tripartite shareof the nation’s total employment population. However, policy disbanding womenwas crucial to fascism along with the inherent illogicalities that wereembedded into the regime, which was constantly torn between the call ofmodernity and the course of reinstating traditional authority. Fascism bynature destroys democratic functions that allow all peoples to participate insociety. Most notably for women, their restriction from employment that wasonce permitted presented a major reversal in their identity and struggle for anequal social status. Furthermore,in fascist ideology it is an imperative that men and women remain different bynature; fascist government, Victoria De Grazia claims in her book How Fascism Ruled Women: Italy 1922-1945, “politicizedthis different to the advantage of males and made it a cornerstone of anespecially repressive, comprehensive new system for defining female citizenship,for governing women’s sexuality wage labor and social participation”16 Fascism’s ultimate perceptionof the female roles was dualistic and inconsistent: as only bearing childrenfor the nation women were to manifest traditional values; as nationalistcitizens, they were to be aggressive and public.
The inconsistency of theregime’s policy was at its peak when it was directed towards working-classwomen. Fascism wanted to peruse the exclusion of women in the labor force andstation them back into the households. Mussolini dangled the unachievablecarrot of employment in front of women while the stick of childbearing for thenation made sure to discourage any viable female employment.
Doing so by,occupying the time of women with producing soldiers to the Fatherland of Italy.This naturally disheartened employers from hiring women which inherently forcedworking-class women back into the households. It was the policy of Italy’sregime to keep women out of the work-force and inherently out of politics. Thisis the nature of all fascist regimes. Again,in Woolf’s Three Guineas she recalls that”we can hardly deny that there have been women who have influenced politics.”17 Woolf refers to influentialwomen within the English monarchy whose “famous houses and the parties that metin them play so large a part in the political memoirs of the time that we canhardly deny that English politics, even perhaps English wars, would have beendifferent had those houses and those parties never existed”18 The role of being a hostessis not a new one for the politically active women in Europe during World WarII. Gerturd Scholtz-Klink played an active role as the head Nazi Women’s Leagueand as the Reich’s Women’s Fuhrein, a title appointed to her by Adolf Hitler. Scholtz-Klinkconsistently promoted German male superiority and the importance ofchild-bearing.
In a speech Scholtz-Klink addressed to German women that: “thedeepest calling we women have is: motherhood,”19 continuing to say that “motherhoodwas often robbed of its deepest meaning.”20 Scholtz-Kilnk hosted allof the qualifications of being the ideal Nazi women due to her mission toexclude women from politics, her loyalty to the Reich, and her preservation ofa patriarchal society. Klink speaks to the “nature” of men and women in her writing To Be German Is to Be Strong and that though “equal bearers ofGermany’s future” men and women should “accomplish the tasks that are appropriateto his or her nature.”21 The nature of a women’stask is that of women’s work which Klink says is a women’s “deepest calling” –being a mother. Klink discusses the period between 1918 and 1933 that was “thebad fourteen years” that “motherhood was often robbed of its deepest meaningand reduced to something superficial, something that was even held in contempt.”22 Klink continues to paintmotherhood as the “deepest affirmation of the women and of life”23 and by doing so sherepositions the negativity of limited mobility in society for women to thecreators of the society. She therefore establishes the task of women in Germany”to make the calling to motherhood the way through which the German woman will seeher calling to be mother of the nation.
“24 Historicallyfascism entrusts absolute authority in a single leader, who controls the nationin it’s entirety with a hierarchy of accredited powers. Robert Paxton states inhis The Anatomy of Fascism that “the history of the fascist regimes we haveknown has been filled with conflict and tension.” One of these tensions is consistently thefight between women’s participation or subordination in cooperation with thefascist regime.
Unfortunately for women and all minority groups the phenomenaof a fascist regime typically dominant within a social group that holds strongracial, ethnic, or religious values. Fascist leaders promoted jarringnationalism based upon social myths, and provoked irrational sexist stratificationand racial hatred that led to organized oppression by a nation. Fascismconstantly proposes false promises to the peoples that they plan to oppress –the lower-class, Jews, women, and any minority group the central social groupof the regime differs from. Faced with the presence of vigorous attempts andpleas to participate in an equal manner from Nazi women, the Nazi regime spaton the requests and subordinated the role of women to the household. Hitleridolized the likes of Gertrud Scholtz-Klink who was representative of womenwilling and able to provide the fascist nation with offspring and contributenothing else further. These events, sentiments, and actions contradict VirginiaWoolf’s calls for female intervention for the end of war. Woolf suggests womenshould have no false loyalties to regimes that have had no loyalty to them.
Woolf states that to be free from unreal loyalties one “must rid yourself ofpride and nationality in the first place; also of religious pride, collegepride, school pride, family pride, sex pride and those unreal loyalties that springfrom them.”25It has been made evident, not only in the Nazi regime, but also in the Italianregime, that women will stand no chance of equal participation in a fascistsystem. Italian women, who were on the cusp of suffrage and participation priorto Mussolini’s Italy were placed in the role of child bearer, consistent withthe operations of every fascistic regime. It is clear that fascist regimes oppressand restrict the role of women; however, it is an important factor thategalitarian feminist thought and structure would inherently disband any fascistideology or reality. Fascist ideology, as broadly put in Mussolini’s Doctrine of Fascism, “is a historicalconception, in which man is what he is only in so far as he works within thespiritual process where he finds himself, in the family or social group, in thenation and in the history in which all nations collaborate…Outside history manis nothing.”26Mussolini makes clear the position that fascism is a male construct, both madeby the man, and for the man, concerned with only the man and his violent wishesof expansion and obsessive need to be immortalized as is made clear by “outsideof history man is nothing.
“27 However, what is thewomen outside of history? Mussolini talks poorly of what he calls the oppositeof “a manifestation of energy…staying at home…a sign of decadence.”28 Iffascism ever intended to grant women a proper, respectable place in society theact of “staying at home” would not be drawn in such a negative light and assomething so abhorrent for a man to do. If women were to have a concrete rolein society, resembling the same level of worth and prestige as that of a man,the man would be forced to share the limelight of history with women; a conceptunimaginable to supporters of fascism. However, for women to take part in theactions and organizations that oppressed them in the first place would be abreach of another of Woolf’s warnings to women: “that if we enter the same professions we shall acquire the samequalities? And do not such qualities lead to war?”29 Inthis Woolf urges women to not fall into the same patterns of oppression thathave oppressed them, however she is not suggesting inaction. Woolf calls for “anywoman who enters any profession shall in no way hinder any other human being…butshall do all in her power to help them.”30 This sentiment cannot befound anywhere in any fascist thought or publication.
It is this thought ofequality that makes egalitarian feminism mutually exclusive to fascism.1 Mosse,George L. “Fascism and the French Revolution.” Journal ofContemporary History 24, no.
1 (1989): pg. 6. 2Ibid. 3Three Guineas, page 66. 4Ibid., 66.
5Macciocchi, Maria-Antonietta. “Female Sexuality in Fascist Ideology.”Feminist Review, no. 1 (1979): pg.
69. 6Hitler, Adolf, Norman Cameron, R. H. Stevens, and H. R. Trevor-Roper. Hitler’stable talk, 1941-1944: his private conversations. New York City: Enigma Books,2000.
Pg. 251. 7Ibid., 252. 8 Johnson,Richard L. “Nazi Feminists: A Contradiction in Terms.
” Frontiers: AJournal of Women Studies 1, no. 3 (1976): 55-62. doi:10.2307/3346169. Pg. 56. 9Ibid., 56.
10Ibid., 57. 11Ibid. 12http://germanhistorydocs.ghi-dc.org/sub_document.cfm?document_id=1557 13copied Johnson, Richard L. “Nazi Feminists: AContradiction in Terms.
” Frontiers: A Journal of Women Studies 1, no. 3(1976): 55-62. doi:10.2307/3346169.
Pg. 57. 14Ibid., 58. 15Woolf, Virginia, and Naomi Black. Three Guineas.
Oxford: Published for theShakespeare Head Press by Blackwell Publishers, 2001. 16De Grazia, Victoria. How Fascism Ruled Women: Italy, 1922-1945. Berkeley:University of California Press, 1992. Pg. 7.
17 Woolf,Virginia, and Naomi Black. Three Guineas. Oxford: Published for the ShakespeareHead Press by Blackwell Publishers, 2001. 18Ibid. 19http://research.calvin.edu/german-propaganda-archive/scholtz-klink2.htm 20Ibid.
21Ibid. 22Ibid. 23Ibid. 24Ibid.
25Woolf, Three Guineas. 26 Mussolini,Benito, and Jane Soames. The Political and Social Doctrine of Fascism. London:Leonard and Virginia Woolf at the Hogarth Press, 1933. 27Ibid.
28Ibid. 29Woolf, Three Guineas30 Ibid. LK1Talkabout fascism and then how it moved into hitler and other fascist leaders inEurope. LK2Comeback to finish whole intro. LK3Goback and see what mill was about.