Gendering the ‘White Backlash’: Islam, Patriarchal ‘Unfairness’, and the Defense of Women’s Rights Among Women Supporters of the British National Party

  • Jon Mulholland


Formed in 1982 out of the overtly fascist National Front, the British National Party (BNP) went on to be the most successful ultra-nationalist party in British electoral history, reaching a high point of influence in 2010, only to suffer a dramatic disintegration shortly after. Capitalizing on a host of demand-side conditions, including the ever-increasing socio-economic and welfare precarities of the post-industrial working class, and profound social transformations associated with processes of globalization and mass migration, the BNP successfully allied a drive for modernization and professionalization within the party to an effective appeal to important sections of the white ‘have-nots’ directly on the basis of the latter’s sense of resentment at the ‘unfairness’ of their position in their own national home. Such resentment, and the invocations of ‘unfairness’ that are its necessary bedfellow, constitutes what has usefully been conceptualized as a ‘white backlash’. As an extreme right, ultra-nationalist party, the BNP belongs to a party family commonly referred to as Männerparteien (men’s parties), on account of the predominance of men in their leadership, membership, and support base. But this rendition may also contribute to a failure to recognize the important role played by women in such organizations. Drawing on semi-structured interviews, this chapter explores how resentment and ‘unfairness’, as key features of the ‘white backlash’, become gendered in the hands of women supporters of the BNP and deployed as a tool for signifying and pathologizing the specific presence of Islam and Muslims in the UK as a direct threat to gender-related justice and equality.


  1. Akkerman, Tjitske. 2015. Gender and the Radical Right in Western Europe: A Comparative Analysis of Policy Agendas. Patterns of Prejudice 49 (1–2): 37–60.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Ardizzoni, Michela. 2004. Unveiling the Veil: Gendered Discourses and the (In)Visibility of the Female Body in France. Women’s Studies 33 (5): 629–649.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Bunzl, Matti. 2007. Anti-semitism and Islamophobia: Hatreds Old and New in Europe. Chicago: Prickly Paradigm Press.Google Scholar
  4. Carter, Elisabeth. 2005. The Extreme Right in Western Europe: Success or Failure? Manchester: Manchester University Press.Google Scholar
  5. Copsey, Nigel. 2008. Contemporary British Fascism. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Cutts, David, and Mathew J. Goodwin. 2014. Getting Out the Right Wing Extremist Vote: Extreme Right Party Support and Campaign Effects at a Recent British General Election. European Political Science Review 6 (1): 93–114.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Drabble, Laurie, Karen F. Trocki, Brenda Salcedo, Patricia C. Walker, and Rachael A. Korcha. 2015. Conducting Qualitative Interviews by Telephone: Lessons Learned from a Study of Alcohol Use Among Sexual Minority and Heterosexual Women. Qualitative Social Work: Research and Practice 15 (1): 118–133.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Fekete, Liz. 2006. Enlightened Fundamentalism? Immigration, Feminism and the Right. Race and Class 48 (2): 1–22.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Ford, Robert, and Mathew J. Goodwin. 2010. Angry White Men: Individual and Contextual Predictors of Support for the British National Party. Political Studies 58: 1–25.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Goodwin, Mathew J. 2010. Activism in Contemporary Extreme Right Parties: The Case of the British National Party. Journal of Elections, Public Opinion and Parties 20 (1): 31–54.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. ———. 2014. Forever a False Dawn? Explaining the Electoral Collapse of the British National Party (BNP). Parliamentary Affairs 67: 887–906.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Goodwin, Mathew J., Robert Ford, and David Cutts. 2012. Extreme Right Foot Soldiers, Legacy Effects and Deprivation: A Contextual Analysis of the Leaked British National Party (BNP) Membership List. Party Politics 19 (6): 887–906.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Harteveld, Eelco, Wouter Van Der Brug, Stephan Dahlberg, and Andrej Kokkonen. 2015. The Gender Gap in Populist Radical-Right Voting: Examining the Demand Side in Western and Eastern Europe. Patterns of Prejudice 49 (1–2): 103–134.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Hewitt, Roger. 2005. White Backlash and the Politics of Multiculturalism. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Köttig, Michaela, Renate Bitzen, and Andrea Petö, eds. 2017. Gender and Far Right Politics in Europe. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.Google Scholar
  16. Kundnani, Arun. 2012. Multiculturalism and Its Discontents: Left, Right and Liberal. European Journal of Cultural Studies 15 (2): 155–166.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Lim, Jason, and Alexandra Fanghanel. 2013. ‘Hijabs, Hoodies and Hotpants’; Negotiating the ‘Slut’ in SlutWalk. Geoforum 48: 207–215.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Mayer, Nonna. 2013. From Jean-Marie to Marine Le Pen: Electoral Change on the Far Right. Parliamentary Affairs 66 (1): 160–178.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Mayer, Stephanie, Edma Ajanovic, and Birgit Sauer. 2014. Intersections and Inconsistencies. Framing Gender in Right-Wing Populist Discourses in Austria. NORA—Nordic Journal of Feminist and Gender Research 22 (4): 250–266.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Mudde, Cas. 1996. The Paradox of the Anti-party Party. Party Politics 2 (2): 265–276.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. ———. 2004. The Populist Zeitgeist. Government and Opposition 38 (4): 541–563.Google Scholar
  22. Mudde, Cas, and Cristóbal Rovira Kaltwasser. 2015. Vox Populi or Vox Masculini? Populism and Gender in Northern Europe and South America. Patterns of Prejudice 49 (1–2): 16–36.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Puar, Jasbir. 2014. Rethinking Homonationalism. International Journal of Middle East Studies 45 (2): 336–339.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Rhodes, James. 2010. White Backlash, ‘Unfairness’ and Justifications of British National Party (BNP) Support. Ethnicities 10 (1): 77–99.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Sanders-McDonagh, Erin. 2014. Conducting ‘Dirty Research’ with Extreme Groups: Understanding Academia as a Dirty Work Site. Qualitative Research in Organizations and Management: An International Journal 9 (3): 241–253.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Spierings, Niels, and Andrej Zaslove. 2015. Conclusion: Dividing the Populist Radical Right Between ‘Liberal Nativism’ and Traditional Conceptions of Gender. Patterns of Prejudice 49 (1–2): 163–173.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Spierings, Niels, Andrej Zaslove, Liza M. Mügge, and Sarah L. de Lange. 2015. Gender and Populist Radical-Right Politics: An Introduction. Patterns of Prejudice 49 (1–2): 3–15.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Tufail, Waqas. 2015. Rotherham, Rochdale, and the Racialized Threat of the ‘Muslim Grooming Gang’. International Journal for Crime, Justice and Social Democracy 4 (3): 30–43.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Zúquete, José Pedro. 2008. The European Extreme-Right and Islam: New Directions? Journal of Political Ideologies 13 (3): 321–344.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. ———. 2015. The New Frontlines of Right-Wing Nationalism. Journal of Political Ideologies 20 (1): 69–85.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jon Mulholland
    • 1
  1. 1.School of Health and Social SciencesUniversity of the West of EnglandBristolUK

Personalised recommendations