On a recent Sunday afternoon, self-proclaimed fascist Blair Cottrell filmed himself chasing down and abusing a street performer wearing a pink leotard. For daring to don the costume, the performer, known as Dandyman, was called a “paedophile”, threatened with violence and forced to end his act, fearing for his safety.
Cottrell had been at Federation Square’s Transport Bar, drowning his sorrows after hosting a pitiful “Aussie Flag Pride March” earlier that day, hyped in the days before as the “biggest nationalist/patriot event on the Australian calendar”.
Cottrell and his fascist mates had been outnumbered by anti-racists four to one. So, drunk on beer and disappointment, Cottrell, keen to restore his manhood, launched an unprovoked attack on the unsuspecting Dandyman.
Video of the attack went viral. There was an outpouring of solidarity with Dandyman. Several days later, 200 people came to Federation Square to cheer on Dandyman’s next performance.
While the attack may have been opportunist and the target random, Cottrell’s use of the word “paedophile” to describe what he judged deviant behaviour dredges up a well-worn homophobic trope about effeminate men threatening children’s safety. It also indicates the sacredness with which the right, especially the far right, hold traditional views on sexuality and gender roles.
Alt-right figures such as Milo Yiannopoulos – who once travelled the US on a “Dangerous Faggot” speaking tour – might seem to indicate that a new generation of the far right is more accepting of LGBTI personalities.
Yiannopoulos and other LGBTI far right figures, such as former deputy of the French National Front (FN) Florian Philippot, can broaden the far right’s reach and tap new audiences (a 2016 poll found that almost 40 percent of married gay men in France voted for the far right FN).
But you need only scratch the surface to find that strict adherence to traditional gender roles remains a core plank of the far right. Even Yiannopoulos regularly asserts that “lesbians aren’t real” and are just “confused straight women”.
The seeming acceptance of the LGBTI community within fascist ranks is cynical and is regularly weaponised against the far right’s main enemy – Muslims. In 2015, the far right Swedish Democrats organised a “pride” parade in Järva, a neighbourhood to the north of Stockholm with a high immigrant population. The parade’s organiser had a history of homophobia and admitted that the parade was a “provocative” performance against the “Islamisation” of Sweden.
The embrace of women within the far right is also used to target Muslims and migrants. For example, Swedish-based US far right activist Lana Lokteff regularly manufactures false claims and statistics linking an increase in rape to mass migration.
Canadian far right activist Lauren Southern regularly talks about the so-called great replacement of the white native population by Muslim migration.
The fascists’ solution to this alleged threat is illustrated by the white supremacist slogan called the “Fourteen Words”: “We must secure the existence of our people and a future for white children”. According to both Lokteff and Southern, white women must breed with white men in traditional family structures to secure the future of the white race.
Despite Southern proclaiming on her YouTube channel that traditional family values are “the new punk”, and despite the shock that the mainstream expresses at the most egregious and extreme versions of far right sexism – such as the “involuntarily celibate” and men’s rights activist movements – the far right’s adherence to traditional family roles is far from transgressive.
There’s nothing punk about the modern nuclear family, a bedrock institution that ensures private property inheritance and privatises child rearing. The maintenance of this institution requires the promotion of strict gender and sexual roles: a bread-winning father in a heterosexual marriage with a care-giving mother. Children born into nuclear families are naturalised into these roles: studies often show that baby girls are handled more gently and spoken to more softly than baby boys, for example.
While families can be a source of comfort for many people, the family institution promotes oppressive ideas such as sexism, homophobia and transphobia to instil the gender roles that the family needs to maintain itself. These ideas help to ensure social order and adherence to the status quo.
Today, many people don’t live in “traditional” families. In part this is because movements for women’s and LGBTI rights have fought against sexism and homophobia and for our liberation, demanding such things as equal pay, the right to divorce and the freedom to live as we choose.
And yet the spectre of “family values” continues to haunt us: think of the disproportionate pressure women experience when juggling childrearing and working; think of the persistent gender pay gap; think of the 13-year campaign it took to win marriage equality.
So while fascists such as Cottrell can make an appearance when flamboyant homosexuals like Milo Yiannopoulos tour Australia, his attack on Dandyman shows that the fascist thugs of the far right know which side their bread is buttered on.
Alt-right women such as Lokteff and Southern sometimes rail against the misogyny of far right men who criticise far right women for not fulfilling the gender roles they preach. For example, Southern said in response to her being harassed: “I’m not going to get married at 22-years-old just so that I won’t be called a degenerate on the internet”.
But their world view is perfectly in line with the most extreme ideas of the status quo, which view gays as deviants and women as property. There’s nothing transgressive or punk about that.