Why Do European Women Vote For Far-right Parties?
In the past decade in elections all over Europe, the proportion of far-right parties has increased enormously. Parties like the Alternative für Deutschland in Germany or the Rassemblement National in France whose values are strongly racist, xenophobic, and anti-feminist experienced unprecedented popularity. Some of these parties were founded only in the past decade and some others like the Front National have a long history in European politics. Something that has changed strikingly is that not only men are actively part of parties with the values that were mentioned above but that the proportion of women as active members and in leading positions of far-right parties has increased extremely.
There have always been far-right parties and it is crucial to say that gender does not justify supporting far-right parties but since it is very striking that the amount of European women supporting far-right parties increases more and more, it appeared important to me to research and analyse European women in the far-right and their intentions behind their voting behaviour. Not only did I as a woman find it crucial to do so but I noticed in my previous work done that, at least the literature I used was mostly research done by women with similar intentions.
Reasons for a shift in women’s voting behaviour
A lot of scholars and academic writers consider the outbreak of the Arab Spring at the end of 2010 and the following humanitarian crisis happening in the Mediterranean Sea as a major reason behind why many Europeans started to vote for far-right parties. Most people that had to leave their countries due to wars and humanitarian crises, came from countries with a different cultural and religious background than the ones that are mostly represented in Europe. The European far-right parties such as the Alternative für Deutschland have publicly spoken out against welcoming refugees. Part of their programmes was protecting women from harm that’s caused by male immigrants with different values and understanding of equality.
Scholars are convinced that this is one significant reason for women to shift their voting behaviour since it was a huge topic that the people migrating to Europe support other values and have a different understanding of equality. While far-right parties spread that migrants fleeing from the happenings of the Arab Spring have a different understanding of equality and oppress women, it is controversial that at the same time of spreading those assumptions about different values and understandings, those parties also have very conservative and hetero normative views on women and their duties.
Another significant pattern scholars have found that should be mentioned is that women who vote for far-right parties say about themselves that they were born into those political views and directions and tend to come from conservative families. Conservative is a wide phrase but in this case, it refers to families that support the hetero normative family module. Some scholars basically argued and found out that there are women who vote for far-right parties because it simply just happened to them by being born into conservative and far-right parties rather than actually being ideologically convicted.
The Example: Marine Le Pen
This can for example also be seen in the Le Pen family in France. The Rassemblement National, which was known for decades as Front National in France was among others founded by Jean-Marie Le Pen. His daughter Marine Le Pen who took over the leadership of the party in 2017 was born into those far-right views due to the fact that her father co-founded the far-right party Front National in the 1970s. This does not justify her political views and actions but it is an example and evidence for the arguments of scholars.
Based on the research I have done it is noticeable that far-right parties address women with a traditionally conservative background that promote hetero normative family models. Because of those conservative values, it can be concluded that women with familiar predispositions tend to be less open to welcoming people with different cultural and religious backgrounds. The understanding of equality is also a significant reason for women to shift to far-right parties. The issue, in this case, is that even though equality is quite simple to understand namely that no matter the gender, ethnic background or sexuality everyone deserves the same rights, there are still different understandings in societies and cultures around the world. A person in a western European far-right party lays it out differently than, people that come from societies outside of Europe and myself as a left white western European woman lays it out differently again.
By actively educating about foreign cultures, religions, past historical happenings, as well as equality between all genders, and using media platforms wisely and not spreading fake news I am convinced that it could have been possible to avoid the rise of far-rise parties in the past decade. It is the task of governments to bring societies with different cultures peacefully together and actively integrate to prevent divisions in society.