The Rise of the Alt Right’s Female Social Media Influencer

There are nearly 1,000 classified hate groups in America today, with an outsize distribution of white-supremacists nationwide.[1] Men are typically considered its evangelists, an assumption aided by imagery like the Unite the Right’s torchlit Charlottesville rally[2] and our collective awareness about online “incel” culture.[3] But the advent of social media has spurred attempts to curtail the movement’s inherent misogyny to attract a new cohort of vocal advocates to its political cause, a group scholar Annie Kelly dubs: the housewives of white supremacy.[4]

This trend has some historical basis. We can recall the Indiana Klanswomen of the 1920s, and their role in recruiting through “women’s klaverns,” upholding brutal standards of social exclusion for women who did not enlist, and disseminating the organization’s favored narrative, fueling its sense of belonging and importance. Membership was positioned as a “break from the monotony of small-town life,” and actively countered mainstream reports of Klan activities through dubious charity drives and pageantry.[5] These self-described “100% American women” have found their match in today’s female alt-right YouTube influencers, who promote a reactionary counterculture that rejects liberal ideals.[6] Spreading anti-feminist rhetoric, disinformation and hate  – while monetizing their speech through algorithms of oppression[7]– has made these digital martyrs a force to be reckoned with.[8]

The playbook put forth by its female alt-right personalities is especially instructive in how gender can be leveraged to persuade, recruit and splinter viewers’ perception of social, cultural and political “truths” that can best serve them. Journalist Seyward Darby notes that they “see themselves as straddling a line between male and female norms.”[9]

“Gender is often viewed as an invisible, sometimes secondary, factor in extremism. But it can often play a central role in comprehending processes of appeal, recruitment, and retention.”[10] While the emergence of the “involuntary celibate” (incel) and “manosphere” subcultures – dominated by rhetoric of men’s ostensible repression, denial of sexual relationships and disavowement from public spheres of influence – rules headlines, the role of fanning the flames of hate is labor left mostly to its female proponents. Their political orientation is centered on racial superiority, a rejection of multiculturalism in favor of “race realism,”[11] and direct engagement with audiences that prioritizes a version of the truth detached from the coastal elite legacy media agenda –  replacing credibility, norms of objectivity and fact checking with personal anecdotes and subjective storytelling tropes.

There are many dimensions to influencers’ appeal and success, aided by adept gaming of YouTube’s search engine optimization by tagging trending terms like “intersectionality” and promoting extremist ideas rewarded by the site’s recommendation model.[12] Videos center on “reclaiming,” emphasizing and performing hyperfeminine traits, overtly subscribing to old-fashioned gender norms, and selling an idealized traditional (“tradwife”) lifestyle.[13]

Respectability narratives play a big part in the patriarchal contract female alt-right personalities sign onto. As Kendall suggests, “white privilege knows no gender,”[14] but that does not exclude white women’s self-professed role to delineate its boundaries and police it. Attacks on feminism and the sexual revolution are doubled down upon through a vocal exploitation of “female” fears of objectification and sexual violence, and then offers chastity, marriage and motherhood as an escape. One YouTube commentator affirms that traditionalism does “what feminism is supposed to do” in preventing women from being made into “sexual objects” and treated “like a whore.”[15] This vision also entails defining what types of masculinities are to be performed and rewarded in a binary contrast, thus further socially coding and constructing what Butler identified as the naturalization of gender as performance.[16] The “hegemonic masculinity” upheld by alt-right women map back to essentialist characteristics discussed in Connell’s scholarship, namely around the roles of head of the family and main breadwinner, defined by his physical strength and overt sexual prowess whose needs must be met, and as a valiant protector of feeble and vulnerable women who surround him.[17]

Finally, influencers actively invert and mock politically correct (PC) language and “social justice warrior” labels and jargon. A return to what Connell labels the “good old days” – associated with hetero relationships, early marriage and childbirth, male authority– is deemed aspirational.[18] This trend struck me as an embodiment in direct opposition to bell hook’s conception that “the master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house,”[19] as it strategically reclaims power over linguistics of liberation to encourage followers to parrot problematic and inflammatory talking points, thus supporting the rejection of modernity and mainstream liberal views that are staples of white supremacy influence operations.[20]

Tradwives go beyond discussing existential threats by pushing “social outcast” personas, with discourse describing themselves as victims of racial, gender, and class oppression posed by the “other”— liberal feminists, LGBTQ+ folks, African Americans, and Jews. Here, we see an abject rejection of Crenshaw’s intersectionality, wherein white women align themselves with their racial status as a mechanism to divorce their identity from their gender and sexual preference, in order to partake in the spoils of a patriarchy their privileged whiteness grants them access to.[21]

Female alt-right influencers receive approximately 10,000 YouTube followers a year, while male counterparts see about ten times that reach. But the niche space is steadily growing. It is possible that an imagined stronghold in today’s attention economy, a monopolization in its marketplace of ideas and the monetization of their unique voice represents the ultimate “anti-feminist feminist” seizing of power.

Written by: Adriana Ladmirande MALD F21

[1] “The Year in Hate and Extremism 2019” Southern Poverty Law Center, March 18, 2020,

[2]“The most striking photos from the white supremacist Charlottesville protests,” German Lopez, Vox, August 12, 2017,

[3]“Our incel problem,” Zach Beauchamp, Vox, April 23, 2019,

[4]“The Housewives of White Supremacy,” Annie Kelly, New York Times, June 1, 2018,

[5]“A Poison Squad of Whispering Women,” Kathleen Blee, Women of the Klan: Racism and Gender in the 1920s, Chapter 5, University of California Press 1991

[6]“YouTube’s right-wing influencers are more organized than you think,” Steven Melendez, Fast Company, September 18, 2019,

[7] Algorithms of Oppression: How Search Engines Reinforce Racism, Safiya Noble, 2018, print.

[8]“How white supremacists are thriving on YouTube,” Casey Newton, The Verge, September 19, 2018,

[9]“The Women Behind The ‘Alt-Right’,” Emma Bowman, NPR, August 20, 2017,

[10]“From Incels to Tradwives: Understanding The Spectrum Of Gender And Online Extremism,” Dr. Eviane Leidig, Impakter, May 21, 2020,

[11]“The Dangerous Resurgence in Race Science,” Adam Shapiro, American Scientist, January 29, 2020,

[12]“YouTube’s right-wing influencers are more organized than you think,” Steven Melendez, Fast Company, September 18, 2019,

[13]“‘Tradwives’: the new trend for submissive women has a dark heart and history,” Hadley Freeman, The Guardian, January 27, 2020,

[14]“Solidarity is Still for White Women,” Hood Feminism: Notes from the Women that a Movement Forgot, Mikki Kendall, February 25, 2020, Viking Publishing

[15]“The Housewives of White Supremacy,” Annie Kelly, New York Times, June 1, 2018,

[16]“Performative Acts and Gender Constitution: An Essay in Phenomenology and Feminist Theory,” Judith Butler, Theatre Journal, Vol. 40, No. 4 (Dec., 1988), Johns Hopkins University Press

[17]“Hegemonic Masculinity: Rethinking the Concept,”R.W. Connell & James Messerschmidt, Gender and Society, Dec., 2005, Vol. 19, No. 6 (Dec., 2005), pp. 829-859


[19]“Feminist theory : from margin to center,” bell hooks, New York:Routledge, 1952

[20]“How White Supremacy Returned to Mainstream Politics,” Simon Clark, American Progress, July 1, 2020,

[21]“Mapping the Margins: Intersectionality, Identity Politics, and Violence against Women of Color,” Kimberly Crenshaw, Stanford Law Review, Jul., 1991, Vol. 43, No. 6,