Sisters in Hate by Seyward Darby
- Hardcover, 309 pages
- Published July 21st 2020 by Little, Brown and Company
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Special thanks to Jess at Little, Brown and Company for my copy of this book.
When I first read the synopsis I thought in my misguided way that these women would have been born within the movement. Taught to hate as children; their voices getting louder as they reached adulthood. Although this does happen, this was not the case here. All of the women featured in this book are in their forties and joined the white separatist movement as adults.
Hate is far more complex than what we see on the surface.
Like Ibram Kendi’s Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas, Darby looks at the frameworks and ideologies from which racist sentiments arise. What is unique about Sisters in Hate is that it examines hate from a different angle- as a White woman looking in.
One assumption that Darby highlights is the “women-are-wonderful effect“. Basically we as a society look at women and automatically classify them as sweet little girls or nurturing moms. Either way, women are considered harmless, fragile beings that need to be protected. The KKK capitalized on this ideology on its rise to prominence after the premiere of The Birth of a Nation. Instead of being perceived as terrorists they were knights in white-robed armour; gentlemen guarding the purity of the white woman, the mother of the Aryan race.
Historically, Darby cites the “postwar fable of the apolitical woman.” The egregious acts committed by women in the Third Reich have been documented. It has been shown that Nazi women were just as culpable as the men. They too had blood on their hands, but often escaped prosecution. Instead, being of the fairer sex, these women were labeled as victims of their circumstances. So instead of being rightfully vilified, they became victimized. You see this same pattern in other points in history including the antebellum South, the Civil Rights Movement and even in today’s news. Fragile White women, dubbed “Karens” by social media, feel it’s their inherent right to call the police on Black people doing everyday things. They feel threatened by Black people barbecuing, bird-watching, studying in their dorm . . . and are quick to manipulate this framework to the disadvantage of black and brown people.
The Alt-Right has realized that they can use this “women-are-wonderful effect” to their advantage. Kind of like a Trojan Horse, no one would expect a bomb to be dressed as a flower. A woman can be a weapon because she doesn’t look like a threat and because not much is expected of her. In fact, the exponential growth that we’ve seen is due in part to the recruitment measures of women. As mothers – soccer moms, PTA, mommy bloggers – they have access to a market that men don’t. They put a happy smiling face on the movement. With their traditional values, homespun ways and beautiful corn-fed babies, they help to normalize the movement and make it seem benign.
Out of this sacred motherhood, Darby shows these women get a sense of purpose and belonging. They feel important and embrace the movement out of this personal need for self-affirmation. This is by far a scarier notion of hate and signals that much work will be required to dismantle White Nationalism and move towards healing as a nation.