Women Are Playing a Growing Role
In Right Wing Violence
Rasha N. Abual-Ragheb, Stephanie M. Hazelton, Marissa A. Suarez, Dawn Bancroft, Diana Santos-Smith and Patricia Todisco traveled to Washington, D.C., on Jan. 6, 2021 and they weren’t going for a Kaffeeklatsch.
The New Jersey women are among more than 700 people who have been arrested for their roles in storming the capitol as part of a violent insurrection by trump followers who sought to overturn the presidential election because of false claims of widespread voter fraud.
A total of 13 percent of those arrested so far are women, double the number of women identified as violent and non-violent extremists between 1948 and 2018, according to a report from the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism.
After entering the Capitol, the FBI said that Bancroft posted a video which she sent to her children. In it, Bancroft is heard telling her kids, “We were looking for Nancy to shoot her in the friggin’ brain, but we didn’t find her.”
In the past, women were usually active in extremism with behind the scenes roles, like the women who were recruited by ISIS fighters to be mothers of future soldiers or those involved with the Ku Klux Klan who sewed robes or published homeschooling tips and information on raising pure, white families.
The Women’s KKK was formed in 1923 in Little Rock, Ark., by white Protestant women. At its peak, the WKKK had chapters in every state, with special interest in Ohio, Indiana, Pennsylvania, and Arkansas. The women members were not known to participate in KKK violence but they worked to bring in new members, collected dues and planned events, all under the umbrella of their anti-black, anti-Jewish and anti-Catholic beliefs.
Women for Aryan Unity (WAU) is another longstanding white supremacist group. It was founded in 1990 as one of the only female-only white supremacist groups of recent decades. Among its activities, WAU has supported the imprisoned members of the neo-Nazi group, The Order. The WAU started in the U.S. but has had chapters in Australia, Argentina, Italy and Spain.
The landscape is changing. In recent years, millions of people were radicalized and accepted violent, racist, QAnon conspiracy theories and women were not immune. For example, among the women arrested thus far is Army veteran, paramilitary leader and Oath Keepers member Jessica Watkins, who was charged with conspiracy and destruction of government property. The government claims that Watkins and another conspirator tried to assemble a “quick reaction force” of armed militants that could sweep into D.C. if called upon. In addition to her involvement with the Oath Keepers, Watkins founded her own paramilitary group and runs a pirate-themed bar in Woodstock, Ohio.
Hazelton, who goes by the name of Ayla Wolf, one of the new Jersey women charged in connection with Jan. 6, also gained notoriety when she was charged with violating one of New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy’s COVID-19 shutdown orders by organizing a gathering outside Atilis Gym in Bellmawr.
The white supremacist, alt-right movement, which was well represented on Jan. 6, includes a growing number of women who call themselves “trad wives,” short for traditional wives; “shield maidens,” a reference to the female warriors from Scandinavian folklore and mythology; and “mommy vloggers,” groups of women who talk about home and family but also include fringe members who profess white superiority with a focus on the rosy, blissful image of women and the family of the 1950s.
Ayla Stewart, an American Mormon and white nationalist, refers to herself a “Wife with a Purpose,” and also has referred to herself as Ayla Serenemoon Israel, a self-proclaimed “Alt-Right Mormon” who makes controversial racialist YouTube videos. She is known in alt-right circles for her spreading her white genocide conspiracy and advocating for white people to have more babies. In 2017, Stewart’s Twitter account was permanently suspended.
Canadian white nationalist, Lauren Southern, is known for her promotion of the Great Replacement conspiracy theory via a YouTube video of the same name that she released in July 2017. The Great Replacement conspiracy contends that white people are systematically being replaced by people of color to take over the nation. Southern’s video had more than 600,000 views by March 2019. She has since been demonetized by YouTube, and banned from payment processers such as PayPal. The Southern Poverty Law Center has described Southern’s videos as antifeminist, xenophobic, Islamophobic and borderline white nationalist.
“Red Ice” is a far-right multimedia company led by the married couple Lana Lokteff, formerly of Oregon and Henrik Palmgren of Sweden. The Southern Poverty Law Center has described Red Ice as important in the YouTube alt-right radicalization pipeline, further radicalizing people tentatively on the far-right and having “a history of embracing white supremacist rhetoric and talking points.”
In April 2019, You Tube disabled comments and monetization for Red Ice because of the group’s use of anti-Semitic slurs, videos glorifying Nazi ideology, spreading Holocaust denial and making derogatory remarks about women. The group’s You Tube channel had around 330,000 subscribers when it was removed.
After trump’s election in 2016, Lokteff stepped up her efforts to recruit more white women to join the alt-right movement to play supportive roles to the male-dominated movement. In 2018, as a guest on the podcast by a Florida schoolteacher who used the pseudonym Tiana Dalichov, Lokteff encouraged white nationalists to become schoolteachers to influence children.