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07. Lecture ‘Out-Group Arrogance and In-Group Servility in Far-Right American Women’ Katie Peters
Katie Peters’ lecture on ‘Out-Group Arrogance and In-Group Servility in Far-Right American Women’ for the Extreme Beliefs project at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam.
Katie Peters is a PhD student in the Department of Philosophy at the University of Connecticut. Her dissertation works on a feminist analysis of extremism—particularly far-right American women and moral responsibility. Katie also works on projects in virtue and vice epistemology. She received her MA in Philosophy from Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles, CA.
In discussions of far-right American extremism, women’s roles are often dismissed, overlooked, or painted as wins for women despite the regressive content of their beliefs. But both the history and present of the far-right is littered with women who spent their lives advancing authoritarian, fascist, and white supremacist ideology—Marjorie Taylor Greene and Lauren Boebert’s outsized influence in Congress being a current example. This is worth taking seriously, both as a threat and a potential site of moral and epistemic responsibility. White women’s work on behalf of American far-right extremism has always been complicated by the co-occurrence of misogyny with white supremacy in this country. As Tracy Llanera (forthcoming) argues, far-right women face a Marilyn Frye-style (1983) double-bind in which the better they promote their far-right extremist ideology, the more misogynistic backlash they face within their own organization. But despite these deep in-group pressures for more “feminine” (servile) behavior, far-right women seem to display all the arrogance we have come to expect from an extremist believer (Lynch 2019) when interacting with anyone outside their group. One way far-right women seem to navigate this discrepancy is through attitudes of arrogance with respect to out-group members while maintaining the servility that is demanded of them within in-group patriarchal structures. Using Whitcomb et al.’s (2017) structure of the relations between humility, proper pride, arrogance, and servility, we can define servility as deficient attentiveness to (or under-owning) one’s strengths. Arrogance can result either from excessive attentiveness to (overowning) one’s strengths, or deficient attentiveness to one’s limitations. But as this view defines arrogance and servility as opposing attitudes to one’s strengths, we have to explain why it seems to be common for far-right women to display both attitudes at once. In order to see how far-right women navigate this tension, we need to consider that the strengths and limitations these attitudes are based on are not their individual strengths and limitations—instead it is those of the in-group to which they belong. They are arrogant as a member of their far-right group, with respect to anyone who does not belong. As we are speaking of the American far-right, this means that we’re dealing with white supremacist beliefs. Thus, we can view their out-group arrogance as premised on attitudes of white supremacy—an expected outcome for a privileged group (Tanesini 2021). In contrast, in-group servility is premised on their subordinate position in a gendered hierarchy, as a woman within a highly patriarchal organization. This in-group servility would also be expected as a function of their oppressed position (Tanesini 2021). But even far-right women’s in-group servility might be less prominent than we would expect. White women in far-right movements often knowingly align themselves with white supremacy despite the inherent misogyny of far-right movements, with the expectation that they can push back against the misogynistic norms of their organizations. The problem is that this strategy often seems to fail—and they then face an even harsher backlash for their efforts (Llanera forthcoming, Manne 2017).