Report — From the September 2017 issue

The Rise of the Valkyries

In the alt-right, women are the future, and the problem

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A month after Donald Trump took office, an activist named Lana Lokteff delivered a speech calling on women to join the political resistance. “Be loud,” Lokteff said in a crisp, assertive voice. “Our enemies have become so arrogant that they count on our silence.”

Lokteff, who is in her late thirties, addressed an audience of a few hundred people seated in a room with beige walls, drab lighting, and dark-red curtains. The location, a building in the historic Södermalm neighborhood of Stockholm, Sweden, had been secured only the previous night, after several other venues had refused to host the event, billed as an “ideas” conference. Lokteff wore a white blouse and a crocheted black shawl over her trim figure, with a microphone headset fitted over her long blond hair. In addition to the attendees seated before her, she spoke to viewers watching a livestream. “When women get involved,” she declared, “a movement becomes a serious threat.”

Illustrations by Tavis Coburn

Since Trump’s election in November, that same idea had inspired more than 4,000 women to contact EMILY’s List, an organization that backs female pro-choice candidates across the United States, about running for office. It had compelled women to organize a series of marches that brought millions of anti-Trump protesters into streets around the world.

To Lokteff, however, those women were the enemy. She is a member of the “alt-right,” the insurgent white-nationalist faction that backed Trump’s campaign. A motley coalition of online provocateurs, the alt-right opposes political correctness and multiculturalism. Many of its supporters rhapsodize about the eventual creation of white ethnostates in Europe and North America. The group is the offspring of various extremist ideologies — the European New Right, identitarianism, paleoconservatism, and Nazism, to name a few.

The alt-right is widely considered a movement of young white men, and Lokteff was trying to rally women to the cause. “It was women that got Trump elected,” she said. “And, I guess, to be really edgy, it was women that got Hitler elected.”1 The crowd applauded and cheered.

1 Adolf Hitler lost a presidential race, but the Nazis earned enough votes in a parliamentary election in 1932 to become the dominant party in the Reichstag. Hitler was appointed Germany’s chancellor the following year.

Lokteff said that “lionesses and shield maidens and Valkyries” would inspire men to fight political battles for the future of white civilization. “What really drives men is women,” she explained, “and, let’s be honest, sex with women.” Lokteff, who has a penchant for diffuse historical references, asked her audience to imagine the vesica piscis, the shape created when two circles intersect, as in a Venn diagram. She pointed out that it adorns the doorways and windows of many old European churches. “It lured people in, making them feel warm,” she said. “To get graphic, the vesica is reminiscent of the vagina.”

Lokteff was the conference’s only female speaker — perhaps because the alt-right has certain ideas about how women should behave. Another presenter, Matt Forney, a fleshy, goateed blogger in his twenties, once wrote a screed called “The Case Against Female Self-esteem.” In his Stockholm speech, Forney bemoaned social norms telling white men that “your natural masculine instincts, your natural desires to bed and wed women, make you an oppressive misogynist.” Paul Ramsey, who appeared at the event to decry a purported scourge of left-wing violence in America, is better known to his more than 38,000 Twitter followers as RAMZPAUL. Middle-aged with black, thick-rimmed glasses, he doesn’t embrace the alt-right label, but his views align with those of many in the movement: He thinks women shouldn’t vote, and has called gender equality “the mother of all delusions.”

Other soldiers in the alt-right’s fractious army regularly insult women on digital platforms such as Twitter, 4chan, and Reddit. The man who claims to have coined the term “alt-right,” Richard Spencer, has said that women shouldn’t make foreign policy because their “vindictiveness knows no bounds.” Andrew Anglin, who runs a neo-Nazi website called the Daily Stormer, once criticized as a traitor any white woman who has mixed-race children. “It’s OUR WOMB,” he wrote. “It belongs to the males in her society.”

Soon after the Stockholm conference, Lokteff’s speech was posted on YouTube and several alt-right websites. One commenter called her an “Aryan goddess”; another joked, “I’m with her.” Some, though, were less kind. “Those claims of . . . ‘women being the force behind the men’ etc., are just feminism infecting the so-called ‘movement,’ ” a reader wrote on AltRight.com. “If women are busy giving speeches and making YouTube broadcasts, they are not going to have time to give birth.”

Despite the vitriol she faces from ostensible ideological allies, Lokteff is a passionate warrior for the alt-right, the closest thing the movement has to a queen bee. And she isn’t without her high-profile supporters. David Duke, the éminence grise of American white supremacy, has praised her as a “harder-hitting” Ann Coulter, with a “movie-star quality.” Lokteff earned the endorsement with her prolific online broadcast work: She and her husband, Henrik Palmgren, run a media company called Red Ice. With studios full of high-end recording gear, blue lighting, and plush furniture, Red Ice is a slick propaganda platform for white nationalists.

Lately, Lokteff has been using Red Ice to amplify the voices of self-made female pundits. All of them are bitterly disappointed in the feminist agenda and believe that nationalism has their true interests at heart. They also embody a glaring contradiction: By supporting the alt-right, they stand shoulder to shoulder with men who think that female independence has undermined Western civilization. As the alt-right creeps out of the digital shadows and strives for civic legitimacy, however, these female commentators are trying to temper the movement’s misogynist reputation. They describe the alt-right as a refuge where white women can embrace their femininity and their racial heritage without shame.

The question of why they’ve embarked on this crusade has a practical answer: No movement can survive on men alone. As one female pundit recently wrote, the prospect of the alt-right attracting women “terrifies the left, and it should, because they know that once a threshold of female involvement is reached, there’s no going back.” The philosophical answer is more complex — as are the intellectual contortions women must perform to justify participating in a movement so hostile to their freedom.

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