Recent events in Finland have raised some concern about Nazi and neo-fascist mobilization in the streets. The coming together of these groups in a larger demonstration during the Finnish independence day in 2014 is also worrying. The organizer of the demonstration, Timo Hännikäinen, is a controversial right-wing conservative mostly known for his misogyny. In the beginning of 2015 (in February) a new book by him is published, centered around fear of feminism. Why does he step out to the streets now, and why does he on the same time choose to focus on feminism and women?
A short description on the conservative and fascist world view, linked to gender, is needed. This world view includes the protection of the own people (race/ethnicity), language and culture. It is based on masculinity (masculine hegemony), militarism, violence and a hierarchical system, where traditional heterosexual gender roles play an important part. Emphasis is put on the importance of the nuclear family as a social pillar, on which all else is built. Woman’s role is considered to be as the mother and care taker of the children at home and the man’s role is to work outside the home, as protector of the family or as a warrior. This should not be news to anybody. Everything that threatens this order is considered dangerous. The outside enemy, also in Finland, is seen in immigrants and nowadays especially in Muslims. Immigrants are especially seen as a threat to the continuum of white or European supremacy. The enemy inside society is seen for example in lgbtqi- people (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, or intersexual) as they are seen as unnatural and immoral for not reproducing inside heterosexual marriage. Feminism again is an internal ideological threat, in wanting gender equality, which then of course threatens the role of men in the family but also questions the power white men structurally have in society over all women. In fascist views feminism is also most often linked to another enemy that is at the same time inside and outside society: marxism or nowadays even more to the antisemitic conspiracy theory of “cultural marxism“, that has its roots in the nazi theory of “secularized judaism” of cultural Bolshevism.
Timo Hännikäinen released an introduction1 to his new book Kunnia (eng. Honour) already in December 2014, which Savukeidas publishing house published in February 2015. Savukeidas claims to be an anarchistic publishing house that is owned by Ville Hytönen and Erno Selänne2. The theme of the book is threatened European masculinity, continuing Hännikäinen’s sexist theme (he has already published the misogynist book Ilman ‘eng. Without, 2009′). Hännikäinen has, as mentioned, also figured as the main organizer for a demonstration for the extreme right (612.fi) that gathered 150 known nazis and fascists under one umbrella in Helsinki on the Finnish independence day. Some of the participants were from the violent Finnish Resistance Movement and from the neofascists Suomen Sisu. Hännikäinen’s introductory text shows his misogynous and fascist thinking and is an attempt to provoke. He continues and creates conservative values about gender and race. As a new extreme right opinion “leader”, his texts should not be ignored.
Hännikäinen continues an old colonialist ideology in the text. He protects European culture, civilization and men. European colonial history is built on population and natural resource control and management in colonies, which continues under extreme capitalism in a globalized world. So Hännikäinen does not add anything new to the table, but uses and builds on the old familiar story of European colonial history. At the same time Hännikäinen creates an image of victimized European men, that are losing power, which he blames feminism for. So when attacking the feminist movement, Hännikäinen provides the ideal scape goating for the public’s attention from the society’s structural decline. If that decline would be questioned, attention would be focused on the capitalist state and its apparatus.
In nationalism, women or femininity often get to symbolize the nation. The symbol of Finland as a nation is that of the virgin, in comparison to Mother Russia and Mother Sweden. As a fairly young state the Finnish national identity has a bad self esteem. Timo Hännikäinen provides his own victimhood in his text, a rhetoric which attracts many Finnish men, that really are marginalized in todays society of growing unemployment. A comparing link about the use of victimhood in creating nationalism can be made to the Balkan wars in the 1990’s. In creating Serbian nationalism, victimization of Serbs was a big part. In Finland, the victimhood stemming from growing poverty, adds to the amount of dissatisfaction and anger, especially in young men. Hännikäinen speaks to these young men and quotes the movie Fight Club. But Hännikäinen is not oppressed nor a victim. His books are being published and debated in media, his points of views are not censored, even though he claims they are. He knows what he is doing in creating European, white supremacist manhood.
Fascism sees virility as an important part of masculinity. Interestingly enough, Hännikäinen wrote a book about him not having sex (2009) and now things seem to be getting out of hand with the new book. Hännikäinen is not the virile man desired by his ideology. He is neither a father or man of the house. It is not a coincidence then, that it is Hännikäinen writing about gender, and not Jussi Halla-Aho, who is fanatically interested in Islam.
Often, when nationalist or fascist movements are planned, born and reinforced, a picture of not only the “other” but also the “other women” is created, together with “the own woman”. In Finland, especially Finnish Resistance Movement (FRM) is focused on men and masculinity. The stereotypical racist and sexist image of the Black or Muslim man as a rapist is used. (In speaking about Islam, it is important to underline the difference between the religion Islam, and the political ideology islamism. Kurdish women are fighting islamism on ground3.) Finnish white women are portrayed as victims of rape by this “other” man. In the recently published article on FRM by Helsingin Sanomat, symbolism in recruiting new members is discussed on the FRM inside forum. Symbols such as the hangman’s noose are considered strong imagery, and should only be used in the case of gang rape. Rape is discussed as something that evokes strong feelings, even of lynching, in people and should be used together with aggressive images when used in propaganda4. Consider then the face that Finland is one of Europe’s most violent when it comes to gendered violence, where Finnish men beats Finnish women.
One FRM article defines women only in relation to men: as singles, single mothers and wives. The National Socialist woman is, as single, the “guardian of “moral”, as “the single mom” she support the children in everything, but only as the “wife”, she support her husband and children. And as a strong woman and mother, she brings forward the National Socialist ideology5. Homosexuality and the decline of the nuclear family are again seen as a bigger threat towards the white race6.
Patriarchy, especially white supremacist patriarchy, defines gender on a binary axis of male and female. It places the white European man as supreme. The other masculinities are portrayed as animalistic, beast-like and uncontrollable. They are seen as a threat to white masculinity that, even though it is militant, powerful and armed, has one weakness, its females (the weaker sex). Therefore, as white masculinity, through for example the FRM, arms itself and prepares its self for racial war, it must provide for the security of its women, who can be raped to produce “other” children, that are unpure. Consequently, in order to control its (national, racial) purity, the women must be secured, controlled and monitored. The “other” woman is not seen as such a big threat because she is portrayed and viewed as a sexual object.
Again, to take an example of Serbian fascism, that was spread largely through extensive media campaigns, and that the Finnish Resistance Movement refers to. The genocide and the systematic rape by the Serbian soldiers of women (femicide) was planned and part of the fascist ideology. The Serbian culture, like most European cultures, is patrilinear, meaning that the family and ethnicity is seen to continue through the father. The purpose of the established rape camps where to create a new generation of Serbs through raping Bosnian and Croatian women, mainly Muslims. All sides of the conflict used rape as a weapon, but not as systematically as the Serb army. The image of the “other” woman simultaneously created with the “Serbian” woman (and also one of religion as most of the women raped were Muslim) was created before and during the war. If the Serbian men raped Serbian women in the home, it was hidden or not talked about. The creation of nationalist ideas were here strongly linked to gender7.
Also for example in Italian Fascism the patriarchal role and masculine hegemony were important to establish as part of the political ideology. In Europe today conservative and fascist ideologies are similarly seeing feminism as a threat and upholds traditional values that belongs in a pre-modern world. In 2011 Oslo bomber and mass murderer Anders Behring Breivik’s manifesto, that also refers to Finnish extreme nationalist groups, lists feminism as one of the most destructive elements of “cultural marxism” to European civilization8.
Breivik writes: “Today, the feminisation of European culture, moving rapidly since the 1960s continues to intensify. Indeed, the present-day radical feminist assault through support for mass Muslim immigration has a political parallel to the their anti-colonial efforts. This current assault is in part a continuation of a century-old effort to destroy traditional European structures, the very foundation of European culture. – – Indeed the feminisation of European culture is nearly completed. And the last bastion of male domination, the police force and the military, is under assault. – – The fate of European civilization depends on European men steadfastly resisting Politically Correct feminism.”
One important aspect to take into consideration however is that different right wing and fascist groups do have different views on gender and sexuality. The Finnish Defence League (FDL), that tried to establish itself in Finland a couple of years ago, are racist anti-Muslims, but side with gay people, in a “strange bedfellows” alliance9. Fascist or racist groups (or states) might use marginalized or oppressed groups in society in trying to create “others” as threats. According to the violent and hierarchical world view, this is only a propaganda tool, not something they actually care for.
Timo Hännikäinen aims at a shift in public debate through creating feminism as a threat. Why does he not focus on immigrants or LGBTQI-people in his ultra conservative politics? The Finnish government produces structural racism well enough and the racist term “immigrant criticism” is already normalized. Feminism in Finland is not strong in general society if you compare, say, to Sweden. However, the national image that the Finnish state gives outwards is one of gender equality. It is equality measured by a woman president, and also relying on an image of “the strong Finnish woman”. Gendered violence in Finland, affecting all classes, is widely spread in homes, is not dealt with nor talked about properly. Transgender people are sterilized by force by the Finnish law. The structural problems of capitalism e.g. inequality and poverty created by ownership of means of production by the state and private capitalists – and protected by police and army – , affects underclass people, unemployed, racialized people, queers, women and men in different ways. This is where antifascist, anti-racist and feminist focus should be.