When fascism is female

Sophie Boulter

Giorgia Meloni could become Italy’s first female prime minister after snap election on 25 September. Her political rise is no isolated case: ‘femonationalism’ is flourishing throughout Europe, disguising extremes as the next socially acceptable, mainstream choice.

Recently, Giorgia Meloni, the leader of Italy’s post-fascist Brothers of Italy party, sent out a memo cautioning party members not to make the Roman salute, a political gesture reminiscent of Adolf Hitler’s Nazi Party. Meloni, who refers to Benito Mussolini as ‘a complex personality’, and who routinely stays in the building formerly frequented by Mussolini’s fascist followers, is doing a delicate dance as the female leader of a far-right party.

Meloni, like other right-wing politicians in Europe, wants to lead the Brothers of Italy into the cultural and political mainstream. Unlike many nationalist-populist leaders, she promotes a pro-NATO, anti-Russian foreign policy while scapegoating migrants for Italy’s problems. Yet she is socially conservative in recognizable ways. She often puts motherhood at the centre of her concerns, and she began her memoir with an ominous warning to her opponents: ‘If this is to end in fire,’ she warned, ‘then we should all burn together.’…