Gender Irrelevance: How Women and Men Rationalize Their Support for the Right
Right-wing groups have generally been considered gender-conservative or, in some instances, sexist. Given this background, it is a puzzle why young people, particularly women with relatively liberal gender attitudes, support these groups. This article tries to answer this question by comparing men’s and women’s justifications for participation in nativist and antimigration political groups. It develops the concept of gender irrelevance, defined as the processes and strategies through which members of these groups render male dominance and gender segregation trivial within their organizations; the sexist behaviors of some group members tolerable; and concerns about gender inequalities unimportant, secondary, and ultimately irrelevant in their decisions to support these groups. The article further illustrates the strategies of gender irrelevance, which include the misrepresentation, naturalization, individualization, and universalization of gender inequality and biases; the construction and deployment of the twin discourses of female privilege and male disadvantage; the tendency to compartmentalize gender biases; the argument of compromising gender; and criticism against an allegedly exaggerated, inconsistent, and double-standard feminism. The research concerns Hong Kong’s young and educated supporters of nativist and antimigration political groups. They are political minorities in relation to the omnipresent Chinese state but majorities at home in relation to mainland Chinese immigrants whom they construct as the other. We believe that the concept of gender irrelevance is applicable to other contexts and not merely to these young people in Hong Kong. It has the potential to help us understand the global rise of the Right.
Journal title, volume/issue number, page range
Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society
0097-9740 (print) 1545-6943 (web)
International Relations and Politics
Gender and Identity