Before discussing the topic of this paper, it may be important to first discuss what being female or the idea of “woman” means to me. This idea of woman that I have been trained, taught, subtly and not so subtly prodded to accept or envision is the main reason for choosing this subject: women in the hate movement. I needed to see for myself how much and what degree they are in and what they are capable of. When I think of “woman” I first think of the obvious physical form of cisgender female: waves and curves, maybe superheroine-like with boots and badassery, but also a gentle basket-carrying friend of animals and children, a kind, gentle creature who nurses people to health and lends a loving hand. Overall, I think of some kind of compassion, empathy, a version of woman that we can trust, the belief that though the world is evil, women are somehow universally more kind. That is what I have aspired to be in between my need to sometimes be a bitchy rebel, which is an affront to the patriarchy. But that “rebel” acts with the knowledge that it is not going to hurt, discriminate or harm others beyond the rapist, harasser and misogynist.
I know women get thrown in prison daily, that women have been capable of cruel, treacherous acts, but I have never immediately thought of women as being independently strong and effective in the hate movement. My naive tendencies had acknowledged the number of women found in these movements previously but really hoped that this was a product of terrifying group think, brainwashing, and fear process that took place at that time, not inherent to the feminine “nature” and that somehow their strong conscience would stop them in time before going forward with horrid acts against humanity.
I’ve mostly thought of the Hate Movement in the United States as Southern men, men who looked like Alabama Governor John Patterson of in the 60’s who went against JFK in his effort to maintain segregation and halt the Freedom Riders. Or Nazi Skinheads like the character that Edward Norton played in American History. That face, demeanor, is usually what I see when I hear “hate movement”. Which is why it struck me when I accessed the recent release by Anonymous the list of Ku Klux Klan members that has been circulating the internet. People said the list was a hoax, and someone put one out earlier than the real list with inconsistencies in it to downplay the real list that was to be released a week later, but my research proved it was very much real. People at first were curious, but did not take it seriously after the hype and once again, went back to talking only about brown hate from Syria, pushing the white hate off, scoffing at the fanning of flames by people like Trump and somehow not fully addressing this movement that has been around for a really long time, that is organized, armed, really serious about who they don’t like and who they want out of their vicinity. The list is long and no one seems to care all that much.
Here is what Anonymous had to say in the intro to the list: “The Ku Klux Klan has approximately 150 active cells, operating in 41 states, with membership concentrated in both the South and the Midwest. The KKK is not what it once was but it does continue to survive in various locations throughout the United States. At its peak, membership was in the millions. Now, membership is likely less than 5,000. It is very important to understand – the KKK does not have a central unified leadership. Instead, they are split off into local cells or groups. These groups generally oppose interracial relationships, homosexuality and illegal immigration and historically express this ideology through acts of terror. We want to remind you: This operation is not about the ideas of members of the Ku Klux Klan. This is about the behaviors of members of KKK splinter cells that bear the hallmarks of terrorism.” (Anonymous)
I started going down the list and was surprised at how many women I saw on it. One would expect some women, married to men on the list, but when I started clicking on to their social media links I realized that many were extremely forthright, committed to the cause and openly brutal in their message. This prompted me to gather and look closer at these women; how they experience their feminine selves while belonging to and facilitating a destructive ideology, what is feminine for them, do they have a maternal, kind side or are they numbed and dangerous sociopaths? I wanted to see and find what I could from these social media profiles that were still up (most of them jumped off social media when the list was published) I still had access to some that apparently just didn’t care who knew, I had to work fast to analyze as many of their pages as I could, before they to deactivated their accounts, noting their levels of cisgender femininity, use of language, symbols, overt or covert racism, how they present their children, families, and if they let on their affiliations, either openly or with known inside words and symbols.
Kathleen Blee’s book Inside organized racism: Women in the hate movement, and some related articles about this book helped me gain more insight into what these women are about and how they have merged womanhood with hate to form their own identity within their very ideological, close-knit yet growing larger by the day movement. I chose to finish my gathering of data on social media and take notes on all the women I could access before reading portions of Blee’s book, so I did not have a preconceived notion of what they were projecting through their profiles. I also read segments of the other books referenced to get a clear picture of the Hate Movement’s ideology pertaining to women specifically, so I could compare and contrast what the women of the Hate Movement are today with what they stood for or were expected to be/do in the first stronghold era of the movement in the 1920’s. I had a slight suspicion that the rhetoric and ideals of the Klan of the 1920’s and the presentation of the women today would be distorted, different. Have the women of the Klan blurred the lines of gender in an effort to bolster their community and/or have they sexualized themselves to be decorative cheerleaders for white supremacy? Is the female population of the Klan a helpless or dangerous entity? The discussion of the who and why and most importantly, how these women exist in these movements and how this may play out in the future, is what I hoped to understand.
It is worth noting that although Anonymous calls their published out-list “the KKK list”, the movement exists in many forms. For everyone on the KKK list there are hundreds if not thousands of their friends, who are not just nationally located but internationally as well, and a majority of U.S. members have connections to those outside the U.S. The number that Anonymous gives; they are not counting the people who are not officially on the list, but are still officially active in the movement, therefore mentioning the cells. There are White Knights, Aryan Nation, Nazi-Skins, Boot Girl Resistance, and people who simply say they follow the Iron Cross, Lone Wolves, so many sub-divisions and cell groups, they all have a tendency to overlap, are connected to each other . For this reason I will refer to them simply as the Hate Movement (HM).
When the Klan began, women were revered as strong, noble, regal but gentle and hyper-feminine beings, depicted in subtly racist and pro-white storybooks in the 20’s as blonde maidens, the last pure princesses, to be preserved and treasured. (Baker ) They were guardians of the home, doing God’s work, giving birth to milky-white rose-tinted babies and doing their husbands bidding. One of the earlier women’s division of the Klan was called Ladies of the Invisible Empire (Horowitz) and that is how they were mostly viewed as; keepers of order and teachers of ideology at home, not full activists like men. The men, however, were known debaucherists in the 20’s and even put their organizations at risk with illegal activities, all the while pledging purity and devotion to a higher cause (Macclean). This was a standard held loosely for the men but an absolute must for the women whose motherhood and purity were to always be protected.
The virtue expected of the women of the Klan was also used to justify brutality against blacks who were often pinned and even lynched for sex crimes against white women, regardless of who the actual suspects were. Posturing white women as helpless creatures who belonged in the home protected more than just their virtue. It also deflected from their own groups and involvement in the Klan in which their duties were mostly about marching, organizing events, publishing materials and sending the “message”. However, many white women can be seen in the background of famous lynching photographs that have been published to document the rise of the Civil Rights movement that came 40 years later. It’s not possible to prove those women in the photos were in the Klan officially, nonetheless it’s hard to buy the image of a virtuous noble mother when they are cheering the hanging of another human being. In this respect, I don’t think the women of the Klan have ever truly been what they attempt to portray (maternal and noble), but I do think they took greater care in general to keep it undetectable to the average citizen, preferring to talk publicly about God and his children over swastikas and ammo. I also think this fabricated noble history is what helps recruit women in the HM.
There are two types of women in the HM: those raised in it, 2nd or 3rd or further generations, and those who wandered in due to a diverse set of circumstances. (Blee). The HM started actively recruiting more women in the 80’s when they realized that women had less criminal records, a slightly softer image and were attractive, making it possible to further the movement into what is has become today: an organization that is now 50% women.(Blee) However, as Blee states in her book after interviewing dozens: many women have joined not because they felt a strong connection to the ideology, but because they met men who were involved, their husbands made them, or they simply found a group of people that they could hang out with. The hate grew and solidified with time. This makes me wonder how many of these women are in this by force or abuse? That is not discounting their actions, it is simply asking how they got into this in the first place.
Out of about 50 women on the Anonymous list I was able to look up and analyze 23. They all had large numbers of friends (from the low hundreds to high thousands) and on average if you were to scan their friend list about 50% of their friends had profile pictures either displaying the confederate flag, wolves (which is a symbol and mascot within HM groups, based on the “lone wolf” ideology espoused by David Duke), swastikas, and iron crosses easily discernible just from their thumbnails. Many friends of the females were skinhead males with shirts off, covered in HM tattoos. It is important to note how they connect via the web and how many of them are not accounted for in the Anonymous list. Keep the numbers in mind of who was not on the original list, who has already left FB, how many people are connected to the 23 I analyzed and then the others who were never on FB, you can see how the numbers can climb rather quickly.
About 90% of the women online had openly racist or HM affiliated imagery. About 95% had pictures of their children, alongside HM imagery and almost all of them had commentary from others using HM terms like “88” “white power”, and referred to each other as “brother” and “sister”. One woman stood out as being a casualty of hard drugs, as her old pics showed her glowing and pretty while her newer pics showed a haggard woman with her teeth falling out and comments about her sobriety. (This brings about a deeper topic: who is looking at organized crime within the HM other than law enforcement within the prison system? Isn’t it known to most that meth has been run by White Aryan bikers since the 60’s?). About 25% of these woman had pictures of guns, swords and some of them holding guns and/or swords, in direct relation to their HM message. One women had a picture of Hitler standing next to the Eiffel tower with comments from others stating: “Hitler got it right” or things like “yes sister, 88”.
There was a duality that stood out to me, where they would post pics of cute babies and animals, but then next to it a pic of an iron cross or nazi regalia. It is like they are living two lives, one that holds the belief of good mother, follower of God and the other: militant at the ready for the coming “race war”. For instance, one member had a photo of a Christmas Card wishing everyone a Merry Christmas from the Aryan Nations. This snowy winter scene complete with a Santa in his sleigh and Christmas trees is a gracious, traditional gesture, with an added dash of White Hate. This same woman had a photo of all her kids lined up and someone commented “14” a KKK affiliated number. She liked that someone referred to white hate when looking at a photograph of her children.
Another woman seemed to have a bit more independence and education (through her website she is attempting to sell healing sessions, voice coaching, and some other random things with no mention of KKK or racist content). However this is her nurturing female persona that she attempts to do business with, but if you go to her twitter page it is a completely different scene. She states in her bio that her brother was shot by blacks, that she is pro-white, pro-gun, anti-immigration, extremely anti-Semitic, and a super paranoid conspiracy theorist who mixes up her political rants and heated rage with posts about healthy eating and cute animals. Again, a duality of hate and nurture. She posted a few times denying her involvement with the KKK, but everything else on her page would allude to the contrary, including openly corresponding with people in a familiar way who have the numbers 14 and 88 in their twitter handles.(Twitter)
Another member is the morbidly perfect juxtaposition of the hardened almost masculine female with the more cisgender, softer female; her profile pic is Hello Kitty flipping the bird. This is her only photo shown to the public, and it is worth noting that the photo itself contains a background image of a white supremacy symbol. Her most recent post in bold capital letters was talking about white pride and how people should be able to have white pride and not be labeled a racist. A lot of her friends are openly nazi, including one that put for their employment “soap maker at death camps”. One woman from the UK, who actually has 3 separate FB profiles, openly displays swastikas, much to the approval of her friends. Her profile picture is of a cartoon girl with giant cleavage wearing a skin tight SS uniform and swastika armband, aiming a gun. The ideal feminine beauty here is of exact same uniform, insignias as men but just skin tight, big boobs and long hair. An over-exaggerated sexist version of female, who could not run, walk, or may not even be able to shoot a gun in the outfit she is wearing, nonetheless making it a sexy entertainment for men and a sexually attractive ideal for HM women.
Another woman posts recipes for holiday cakes and memes about being a good wife. She also posts cute puppies and a lot of of really boring stuff about sports, all the while conversing and supporting her HM friends. It is a slightly hardened version of classic cisgender female. She also displays a picture of her half-black granddaughter. How is grandma going to explain all this when the girl gets older? Her friends all commented “cute” or something similar about the photo, no one is talking about the black part. In Blee’s book, she states that women in the HM have told her that it is not necessarily what race you are, but what you hold to be true. If that black child is raised by wolves, so to speak, will she grow up hating blacks as well? It is painful to see a child being loved by her grandma while at the same time being possibly groomed for hate.
One posts racist symbols and ideologies on her page and also complains that her friends don’t support cancer awareness for kids. A wife of an Aryan Nations leader states that the order of importance in a household is Christ, then husband who provides for family and wife, then wife, who manages home and children. She is obsessed with white genocide, which shows a sense of guilt? If you don’t deserve to be harmed why are you so afraid? Racist, alarmist posts are mixed with pictures of cute pets, God-related stuff and anti-gay memes. Another woman has picture of herself with a dog collar on. (she’s about 55+ years old.) She lists her occupation as “Executioner at Iron Cross”.
There is a woman who is the real organizer behind the Knights Party and lists it on her profile. She posts a lot about white Christian revival and celebration of “heritage”, inviting people to come to the 30th annual White Pride Walk. This is a fluffy, softer version of racism. It’s packaged so neatly, but still with the same terrible ideology. No one is trying to take white heritage away, they are simply bringing to light the racism and brutality that has existed and still exists. But to the HM this turns into a “heritage” thing or “white genocide”. She has a creepy cover photo of her as a teen dressed in a white robe holding up a sword to some kind of altar to the Klan with 2 older white guys looking on. She has also posted a Knights’ Party business card with address and phone number.
Some of these women’s activity stood out to me as confusion rather than the mission. They know what constitutes a “good” woman, who raises children and makes the world a better place, but they also strive to maintain a position in the HM, almost as if they need to reinforce it among their peers. A triangulation of sorts, to make sure they keep good standing in the “us against them” fight. According to Blee, a lot of women she interviewed were from various classes and levels of education, but about 90% the women I observed appeared to be living at the lowest rung of the lower class and had little more than a high school (if that) education. The majority of these women were mothers; about 95% of them, but they looked hard, damaged, either from drugs, alcohol, bad food, poverty, or all of the above. In line with what Blee also said about a lot of them giving up a normal life and chances for success to stay in the movement, I agree and took notice of this as well. It was almost like they got in too deep or had acquired way too many HM themed tattoos and could never really go back or wanted to go back into mainstream society. How could they relate to people anymore who did not fit in or agree with their ideology?
One posted in her profile, that her and her kids just pretend to be “good, normal folks” for the outside, but fight the “good fight” underground. A woman who is married to a lead Knighthawk lamented on her profile that she wanted a pet but her husband wouldn’t let her. There were indeed a few women who seemed to be under the thumb of their spouses who were high profile activists and gave up their own needs and voice to keep the home life peaceable. That combined with their lack of education makes me think that many of them could not leave even if they wanted to, as their husbands support them and they have no hope of finding employment, especially as Blee pointed out: they get found out by possible employers who don’t want or trust an employee in the HM. That being said, I do not sympathize with these women. You embrace hate and it will come back to you, period.
There were a few younger women who seemed to be attracting a lot of HM men to their page, which brings up the idea of HM as dating pool. It looks like a lot of the young single or newly single HM members use social media to meet prospective spouses. This is something that was not available to them in the past and it helps to generate the leaderless cells that keep them in power. One woman, about 25 years old, sells used clothing on her FB page for $3-10. She is obviously on the edge of poverty but still pays to hold membership in a hate group. There are a lot of pro gun pics and memes on her profile. She has bright blonde hair and wears very little makeup, giving her the look of a very pale Nordic maiden, with the exception of one of her pics, where she is sitting next to a large bottle of Jim Beam, wearing boots and a dirty T-shirt under a banner that says “don’t tread on me”. The HM men appear to go crazy for her “hotness”. It is also kind of funny that she talks about the Lord but named her pit bull Wicca. A friend comments on a photo: “White Power”, which she likes, as well does a male friend, who appears to live in the Netherlands and has almost exclusively Nazi/white supremacy images on his profile.
Another young woman is a member of the FB groups Sadistic Souls, Anglo Saxon Speakers, American Freedom Party. She posted a photograph of a band of white protesters from the 20’s holding signs that say “not a ni**er lover” (my asterisks) and “integration is illegal”. She lists bands she likes, that are almost exclusively skinheads or white supremacy themed. There is not much to see on her page, but what there is, is completely open about her political/ideological leanings. She posts no pics of herself or her family. Her friend list looks outwardly to be comprised of 75% KKK or other related hate groups. In conclusion, the ideology of pure noble women is there somewhere, underneath it all, the holding onto God as their shepherd to justify their actions, but the horse riding noble maiden has given way to hardened, impoverished “white trash” for lack of a better descriptor, that feels safe enough in their communities to post hateful rhetoric right next to photos of their young children.
It is amazing that we don’t hear much more about these people in the media even though they are blatant hate mongers and activists in the HM. Is it because they are white or because the FBI has them covered and does not perceive a threat? That is not clear to me or probably anyone on the outside looking in. I do believe that these people are everywhere, that the cover of womanhood serves them well to branch out undetected, indeed some of the more prosperous ones are nurse’s aides, business owners, and preschool teachers, and that the stereotype of old Southern men and their bridge club wives is outdated.
The anti-immigrant and black violence cases are bringing them out into the light, but it is not clear if the FBI really wholeheartedly keeps a tight rein on the HM, as the HM is over a century old and still runs very deep. We see here potential instigators in hate crimes everywhere, but they will never truly find victory because they have lost on two important factors: a solid education and a life with some experience of the rest of the world. I don’t know what good exposing them will do to change their outlook, but I do think exposing them has made it clear that they are functioning quite comfortably despite our country’s commitment to end terrorism, and continue to grow and prosper in their effort to spread hate and prejudice, with the new woman of the HM being gun-savvy and not afraid to fight.
The HM needs to be looked at and women need to be taken into account as we maneuver through a period of intense hate and instability due to government, religion and class systems. The women of the HM may be proportionately weak in intellect and money, but they aid in the growth of something that should have been more strongly addressed and held accountable for hate crimes in the last 80 years.