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Women, Tyranny and Politics: Unfolding the Reich and Present

On the occasion of International Women’s day let us look upon the allegory encompassing women and despotic political trends with a salience to the contemporary arena.

Image Credits: New-Yorker

Recently a wave of female politicians can be observed in the Indian political arena swearing their allegiance to the right-wing majority party, the BJP itself. The ‘personal is political’ idea associated with the women political representation serves out to be good in the recent trends. But some recent political theorists fear that many women in politics, especially those associated with the current right-wing led government are a compelling example of the instrumentalization of women to accomplish the political goals of the majoritarian trends. This kind of representation of women is opposed to being women's rights advocates dedicated to solving problems affecting women. However, the association of women with the right-wing parties is not a trend belonging to the contemporary era, but significantly, tracing its roots back to the infamous Reich itself.

Hitler’s Reich was obsessed with the glorification of the pure aryan women, maxims such as sacrifice, loyalty and gallantry defined the modern Reich women. Indeed, the membership in the Federation of German Girls, the female Nazi youth wing was compulsory. At Hitler’s residence in Berghof, groups of female visitors used to make appearances for the Führer’s newsreels; the dictator used to present himself as a father figure for these women as well as for the entire Nazi Germany. The paragon of Germanic women as exemplified by Hitler was that the final objective for the future soldiers for the Reich’s army, was the illustration of chivalry from both aryan men & women. In one of his news broadcasts from the 1940s, the early phases of World War 2, he states that, “In the year from the summer of 1943, ever more women must stand by their men, this time as armaments workers, in anti-aircraft service, and as emergency workers for the German Army, wearing their uniform for their Homefront.”

Referring the German women as loyal fellow combatants, Hitler valued women for their respective activism in the Nazi movement, their efforts in the war and most importantly as biological power as generators of the racially pure aryan race. The racially pure women were encouraged in their respective fields such as Helene Bertha Amalie Riefenstahl in the field of films and cinematography, Hanna Reitsch; the infamous air force fighter; and most importantly Magda Goebbels in the field of politics. Goebbels like many was a prominent face in the Nazi politics of the 1940s, she represented the ideal Germanic women in the mainstream Nazi politics being a close political ally to the dictator himself.

But a thing to be noticed here is that, the women who agreed to the majoritarian political trends, who supposedly belonged to a certain lineage or ethnic group were given the chance of upliftment. Not surprisingly this upliftment was restricted only to the privileged section of females in the society then; the females who belonged to the communities subjected to bigotry or the females who weren’t that privileged where in fact, systematically denied their basic rights. The notion of women empowerment then was indeed exclusive in its very nature. Speaking of the privileged women, essentially some of them were swayed by the lucrative though chauvinistic wave of the Nazi movement and others were taken away by the motto of self-interest & personal power aggrandizement.

Reiterating our focus to the contemporary times in the Indian politics, there is a mosaic for the women's perception about the political wings in India. The right wing is chiefly associated with notions of preservation of home and race; primarily talks about enforcing order framework. On the other hand, the left, which is undoubtedly a late innovation in human-political evolution, celebrated the not so conventional trends, rejoicing in laments, atrocities and thrashing wounds. The thing which attracts the female masses to this political trend is mainly associated with the majoritarian trends rather than any successive comparison with any other front. The mobilization of the Upper Caste Hindu sentiments attracts these women to the forefront, A popular tape of the speeches of Uma Bharati, one of the most prominent women aides, asserts, “If needed we will make bricks out of our bones, and our blood will be the mortar to build the temple.”

In the Bombay riots of January 1993 when several thousand Muslims, including women and children, were killed, Muslim women gang-raped and between 2,000 and 4,000 Muslim homes and shops burnt down, the role of Hindu women's neighborhood organizations became brutally clear. Women from the ultra-right-wing fascist organization, the Shiv Sena, came and sat down in the streets to prevent fire trucks from reaching Muslim neighborhoods.

But the women power hails at a very cynical point. Even in the training camps, patriarchy remains sacrosanct; the ideal woman is one who has an intellectual grasp of the values of Hindu culture and devotional attachment to the ideals of Hindu womanhood. Preserving the family is deemed all-important. The women's organizations do not provide legal counselling; nor are there any shelters for victims of domestic violence. Conflicts between husband and wife are supposed to be resolved through arbitration and discussion with Association members. The contradictions between supporting motherhood and family while drawing on the energies of youthful volunteers is evident in the vocabulary used. The party manifesto of the BJP evokes 'matrishakti' as its position on women and as would be expected in a fascist movement, there is no tolerance of homosexuality.

Historically we can see a clearly painted montage, the majoritarian politics only associated and pitches the provided privileged women; and in the bigger discourse the women who are victims of systematic oppression and disadvantages never get a political bullhorn. The cynical nature of women in right-wing politics has always been covered under the veil of chauvinism and political aggrandizement rather than the notion of equal gender representation.


By Nirmanyu Chouhan

Nirmanyu is a history honours student from Hindu college, pushing and exploring his interests in the numerous aspects of global and national political arena, also driven towards the study of regional socio-political affairs. He is more towards research and development of a particular issue and active journaling.