Abstract by Dr. Katharina Hajek

Although often overlooked in public discourse, gender, gender relations and sexuality play a central role in right-wing populist party politics and mobilizations. For Germany, this is particularly evident with regard to two events from recent years: on the one hand the demonstrations called ‘Demo für Alle’ (Demonstration for all) organized in several major German cities from 2014 to 2016, which – inspired by the French Manif pour tous – protested against sexual diversity education in schools and the seemingly ‘state-forced destruction’ of the traditional family; on the other hand, the extensive right-wing mobilizations following the sexual assaults in Cologne on New Year’s Eve 2015, claiming to fight for the protection and right of self-determination of German women against alleged foreign perpetrators.

A gender sensible look at these mobilizations highlights especially three dimensions:

First, for right-wing populist actors, ‘gender’ and ‘the family’ are not just two topics among others. Rather, the evoked images of the ‘threatened traditional family’ and the ‘threatened German woman’ are used to construct a threat scenario in which nothing less than the cultural and biological reproduction of the German population and society is at stake. The associated fears are one of the most important pillars of right-wing mobilizations in Germany.

Secondly, these policies should not be misunderstood simply as an attempt to ‘re-traditionalize’ gender relations. Rather, they indicate an actual and genuine re-articulation of gendered subject positions and relations. Right-wing populist gender policies do not simply promote a ‘home-and-hearth’ policy. They articulate new female subject positions, such as the ‘defensive mother’: a specific mode of identification for white women based on an image of reproductive, yet always politically mobilized and supposedly emancipated femininity.

Third, antifeminism and anti-gender politics in Germany must not be reduced to one party or party politics as such. Rather, we are dealing with a broader right-wing discourse coalition that reaches far into the broader conservative and liberal spectrum. The right-wing populist project is, thus, also already highly successful, insofar as it taps into already existent discourses around gender and the family that are popular in German society. Not least they managed to shift these discourses clearly to the right in the last years.