White Nationalist Richard Spencer's tiki torch rallies in Charlottesville, Virginia, and his distant dream of forming a white ethnostate steal headlines, but his views about women—that their role in politics be shrunk down to a barely visible place that would be unrecognizable to almost anyone in modern America—is seldom highlighted.
I spoke to Spencer this week, and in the context of a discussion about two documents that he admires, the American Naturalization Acts of 1790 and 1795, laws that once set out rules for the United States in limiting naturalization to only free white persons of good moral standing, I pointed out that the U.S. was a fundamentally different country at the turn of the 19th century. More specifically, I asked him if he wanted to return to a time in which women weren't allowed to vote.
"I'm not terribly excited about voting in general," Spencer said. "I think that mass democracy is a bit of a joke to be honest."
I pressed him on the question again.
"I don't necessarily think that that's a great thing," Spencer said of women voting in U.S. elections.
The subject of misogyny in alt-right circles has been well documented, not only in terms of its prevalence in the movement, but as being a fundamental part of why the movement exists in the first place. Angela Nagle, a leftist writer, for example, catalogued the movement's journey from frequently apolitical, primarily misogynistic threads on the imageboard site 4chan into the kind of "blood and soil" racial nationalism embraced by men like Spencer in her book Kill All Normies: Online Culture Wars From 4Chan And Tumblr To Trump And The Alt-Right. But Spencer's comment perhaps hints at how he and other alt-right leader's views about women might manifest in terms of actual policy, should they be able to gain direct access to the levers of power.
Spencer declined to explain to me how Americans would choose their leaders without the use of democracy. Nevertheless, his words are likely to draw raised eyebrows from his many critics, which currently span from the left to the center-right. The remark also falls in line with similar comments Spencer has made in the past about the opposite sex, suggesting that the U.S. should be protected from what he views to be the danger of having a female commander-in-chief.
"Women should never be allowed to make foreign policy," he wrote about then candidate Hillary Clinton in September of 2016 on Twitter. "It's not that they're 'weak.' To the contrary, their vindictiveness knows no bounds."
Megan Squire, a professor of computing sciences at Elon University in North Carolina, and a civil rights activist who says she was targeted for harassment by white nationalists in May of this year in retaliation for participating in a protest against a Pro-Confederacy group, has paid close attention to the tech industry, and its relationship to the alt-right. She says that tech's ties to the movement set a tone in which women's ideas and voices are not welcome.
"He believes that the average guy in the alt-right movement is a 28-year-old who works in IT," Squire says, referring to statements Spencer made to Mother Jones. "And the tech industry is filthy with misogyny."
Squire said the alt-right's ideas about women originate from the same place as their beliefs about immigrants.
"I think that they're upset that the world is changing, and one of those changes is looking around and seeing more women in the workplace," she says. "Everyone is to blame for their problems but themselves—white men."
Christina Greer, an associate professor of political science at Fordham University in New York City, and the author of book about the role black immigrants play in shaping America's political landscape, laughed when I told her Spencer's comment about women voting.
"My first question is, what did your mother do to you to make you feel like this?" she says.
Greer says that while some statements made by "alt-right" figures like Spencer might shock some people who haven't been paying close attention to our political debate since President Donald Trump took office, they should be taken seriously, given the aggressiveness with which the far right is pursuing its agenda right now.
"It's not just Roe v Wade," Greer says. "They want to roll back the entire 20th Century on us."