The body politic: gender, the right wing and 'identity category violations'

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The post-Brexit, post-Trump climate in the EU has seen a series of challenges from the right wing of politics to the liberal consensus of recent years (e.g. the rise of Gert Wilders in the Netherlands and the increased support for Alternativ für Deutschland in the 2017 German election). This article examines the gendering and embodiment of the new far right in France and the UK. It offers a comparative focus on two recent political challengers from the right who are female: Marine Le Pen (born 1968), the leader of the Front national in France since 2011, and Anne Marie Waters (born 1977), the Islam-critical candidate who was runner-up for the UKIP (UK Independence Party) leadership in the UK in 2017, and who has since started her own political party, “For Britain”. It focuses on media coverage of, and self-representation by, these two figures. It argues that the discourse of the “Right” and “Left” wings has, historically, been gendered on the basis of assumptions that women are naturally more inclined towards consensus-building, collectivity, and compassion (and therefore left-wing politics), by dint of their biological function as child-bearers and traditional gender role as care-givers. Right-leaning women have been treated as anomalies, both by feminist political analysts and the mainstream media. Feminist concerns over the very existence of right-wing women is suggested by books such as second-wave feminist Andrea Dworkin’s Right-Wing Women (1983), the more recent edited collection by Paola Bacchetta and Margaret Power, also called Right Wing Women (2013), and, in the French context, Claudie Lesselier and Fiametta Venner’s L’extrême droite et les femmes (1997). Le Pen and Waters appear as doubly aberrant, doubly exceptional figures – firstly as (far) right-wing women and secondly as (far) right-wing female leaders. The article considers the stakes of our categorical understandings of (gendered and political) identity more broadly. Specifically, by introducing the original critical concept of “identity category violation”, it analyses the ways in which the recent trend for identity politics on the left in the West, often under the banner of “intersectionality”, leads to over-simplified understandings of 2 how categories of gendered, sexual, class, and race-based identities are assumed to
determine political affiliation.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)367-377
Number of pages11
JournalFrench Cultural Studies
Issue number4
Early online date28 Oct 2018
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2018


  • The right wing
  • Feminism
  • Identity politics
  • Marine le Pen
  • Front national


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