July 23, 2021
In recent months, Tucker Carlson introduced the “Great Replacement” theory into mainstream discourse. Once relegated to white supremacist forums and manifestos, the “Great Replacement” is a conspiracy theory that argues white citizens of Western countries are being replaced by non-white immigrants. Adherents believe this demographic shift will eventually result in the extinction of the white race.
Discussions of the impact of the “Great Replacement” – among politicians, journalists and academics – have rightly recognized its virulent racism. However, less well understood is the misogyny that also underpins and informs this white supremacist conspiracy theory. At the heart of the “Great Replacement” and its obsession with demographics lies a hyper-fixation with controlling women’s bodies.
The Origins of the “Great Replacement”
The fear of immigration and perceived need to protect the white race by controlling women’s bodies is nothing new. The Ku Klux Klan has historically promoted itself as the protector of “pure womanhood” and preyed on racist fears of Black men raping white women to justify lynching them. Efforts to control women’s reproductive choices were once the hallmark of wartime propaganda for governments seeking to expand their territorial control, including Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy. Similarly, contemporary extremist groups have mimicked this strategy, with ISIS and the Proud Boys emphasizing the need for women to stay at home and raise the next generation. White supremacy in the United States has historically been predicated on patriarchal concerns about protecting (and controlling) white women.
In the U.S., miscegenation laws prohibiting interracial relationships were part of a similar government strategy. The motivations of these laws were clear, with one aptly named the “Bill to Preserve the Integrity of the White Race” which banned relationships between whites and non-whites in Virginia. However, these laws were historically used to specifically police relationships between white women and men of color. For example, well into the 20th century, the Mann Act was used to make it a federal crime for Black men to travel with white women across state lines.
During the slavery era, state laws in Virginia and Maryland made it a crime for white women to marry a slave or give birth to mixed-race children. Convicted women could be punished with a fine or five years of indentured servitude, and in some cases were considered to be so “defiled” they were forced to leave their communities. Meanwhile, it was widely seen as a white man’s right to rape his slaves, and any children that resulted from these relations would be his property. The applicability and enforcement of such laws indicate that “protecting the white race” meant monitoring white women’s bodies to ensure they are having “pure,” white babies.
The contemporary “Great Replacement” theory was popularized by French author Renaud Camus. He published an essay titled, “Le Grand Remplacement” or “The Great Replacement” in 2011 which warns of “reverse colonization” and explains that native white Europeans are being replaced by non-white immigrants from Africa and the Middle East. He believes this trend will ultimately result in the “ethnic and civilizational substitution” of the white race in Europe and the West.
Camus views non-white immigration as an invasion and insists it is eroding French culture. He argues that Muslims are strategically using their higher birth rates as an “instrument of replacement” and that they hope to immigrate to France, take advantage of Western welfare programs, and give birth to numerous “replacements.”
In 2018, attempting to reach a more international audience, Camus released an abridged version of his infamous essay in English. “You Will Not Replace Us” focuses on the same racist themes, describing immigration as “an invasion, a migratory tsunami, a submerging wave of ethnic substitution.” He views multiculturalism as the internal enemy within Western society, insisting the multiculturalists in Europe are conspiring to “replace [the white race] with populations with a higher fertility rate.” He insists that France cannot absorb ten million Arab immigrants because they “will be twenty million tomorrow and forty million the day after tomorrow.”
Camus’ political writings are filled with racist tropes and fraudulent assertions of white supremacy. His concerns over demographics, fertility, and birth rates suggest that misogyny also underpins this conspiracy. Kathleen Belew, an assistant professor of history at the University of Chicago and author of "Bringing the War Home: The White Power Movement and Paramilitary America" explains, “for people in the white power movement, everything is framed through reproduction and gender.”
Camus disguises his misogyny using thinly veiled language and a pseudo-academic framework. While he is explicit in his racist descriptions of immigrants, his description of the internal enemy is strategically vague. He writes that the “replacists” or “collaborators” support multiculturalism and are traitors who are willing to facilitate their own demise by encouraging immigration. This allows the reader to apply this framework to their own perceptions of who the enemy is, easily blaming liberals, Jews, or feminists for the impending white genocide.
Camus’ promotion of white reproduction positions women as both the problem and the solution, and rests on the premise that white women and their falling birth rates are contributing to the destruction and replacement of the white race. As pointed out by Belew, white supremacist magazines responded to the women’s liberation movement by framing abortion and contraception (as well as immigration) as part of the strategy to destroy the white race. Those who believe in the “Great Replacement” are invested in white women having more children and non-white women having fewer children. The wishes of those women are irrelevant.
This desire to control women’s bodies and reproduction cannot be separated from racist fears about immigrants. Racism and misogyny are deeply intertwined and work together to escalate the perceived threat and sense of urgency to take action to protect not only the white race, but white male dominance in the West.
Violent Extremists’ Embrace of the Great Replacement – and Misogyny
Given the inherently misogynistic message of the “Great Replacement,” it is unsurprising that the manifestos of extremists motivated to commit horrific acts of violence in the name of the conspiracy are filled with misogyny as well as racism and antisemitism.
Ten years ago, on July 22, 2011, Anders Breivik committed the most lethal terrorist attack in Norwegian history. He set off explosives at a government building and then opened fire at a Norwegian Labour Party summer camp, killing 77 people and injuring 319 others. Breivik’s manifesto, entitled "2083: A European Declaration of Independence" makes it clear that in addition to Muslims, he views feminists as a significant threat to Europe.
Breivik begins by idealizing the traditionalism of the 1950s and describing how “political correctness” has broken down society and destroyed masculinity. He writes “feminism has greatly weakened Scandinavia, and perhaps Western civilisation as whole.” He argues women have exploited feminism to men’s detriment and rails against the destruction of traditional norms and gender roles: "Ladies should be wives and homemakers, not cops or soldiers, and men should still hold doors open for ladies. Children should not be born out of wedlock. Glorification of homosexuality should be shunned."
Despite his calls to return to an era of chivalry, Breivik dedicates a section of his manifesto to detailing the need to kill women as part of the impending civil war. He explains that most “cultural Marxists and suicidal humanists” and some members of the military and police are “female.” Unsurprisingly, he views them as “physically and mentally inferior,” suggesting it will not be hard to fight them. He warns his followers that they must “embrace and familiarise yourself with the concept of killing women, even very attractive women.”
While it is clear he is deeply Islamophobic, Breivik also views feminists as a dangerous enemy. He quotes far-right blogger Peder Are Nøstvold Jensen, better known by his pseudonym “Fjordman,” writing “feminists were the vanguard of PC, the same ideology that has blinded our Universities to the Islamic threat.”
Breivik and his manifesto have been sensationalized in online white supremacist communities. Posters write, “hail Saint Breivik” and consider him the gold standard of “Great Replacement” motivated attacks.
Another terrorist known for the Christchurch shootings, Brenton Tarrant, cited Breivik as his “primary inspiration” in his manifesto, which begins “It’s the birthrates. It’s the birthrates. It’s the birthrates.” This opening line centers the need to control women’s bodies and reproduction at the heart of his justification for violence. He underscores this, writing: "If there is one thing I want you to remember from these writings, its (sic) that the birthrates must change. Even if we were to deport all Non-Europeans from our lands tomorrow, the European people would still be spiraling into decay and eventual death."
Tarrant posted his manifesto, titled "The Great Replacement," just before he embarked on the Christchurch, New Zealand shootings, during which he killed 51 people and injured 41 others at two mosques. Tarrant’s manifesto combines misogyny and racism to create a complicated view of white women. On the one hand, they are part of the threat to the white race because they refuse to reproduce at higher rates. On the other hand, they are fragile breeders who are being raped by dangerous immigrants. Together, misogyny and racism escalate the perceived threat and justify the murders of so many innocent people.
Unlike Breivik’s manifesto, Tarrant does not explicitly call out feminists as an enemy, but his emphasis on birth rates and what that translates to was not lost on his supporters. On 4chan, one user titled his post “Saint Tarrant, pray for us”, and wrote: "Enlighten us in the knowledge that women are livestock to be shepherded, not equals to be consulted with. Rouse Western European men from the emasculation of the sterile Feminist witch's coven, so that they may drive all invaders from their lands."
Tarrant’s horrific act of violence also inspired Patrick Crusius, who opened fire at a Walmart in El Paso, Texas on August 3, 2019, killing 23 people and injuring 23 others. Prior to his attack, Crusius posted his manifesto on the 8chan board, /pol, which is known for its profound misogyny as well as racism and antisemitism. The opening words of Crusius’ screed underscore his support for Tarrant and how reading The Great Replacement manifesto helped him understand he was witnessing “the Hispanic invasion of Texas.”
Crusius’ racism dominates his manifesto, but like Tarrant and Camus before him, he is also worried about white birth rates being overwhelmed. His fear of replacement is connected to immigration and is further compounded by what he sees as “invaders” who have “close to the highest birth rate of all ethnicities in America.” References to birth rates in the context of white supremacist fears of the “Great Replacement” can be understood as a misogynistic interest in controlling women’s bodies and reproduction.
Female Agency, Choice and The Great Replacement
Posters found in online white supremacist communities blame feminism for the perceived “Great Replacement,” a sentiment popularized in the phrase “feminism is white genocide.” Many white supremacists believe feminism is a conspiracy created by the Jews to conquer the white race, while others believe women and feminists are the true villains. One user wrote: "Feminism is white genocide. They may as well be putting a sterilization agent in the water supply. All these stronk [sic] career women are now paying taxes to support shitskins to shit out six kids whilst they slip out of the gene pool like lemmings off a cliff."
This poster is far from unique. Neo-Nazi and founder of the Daily Stormer, Andrew Anglin, urged his readers to forcibly inseminate their (white) female partners. In June 2020, alongside a chart comparing the white and non-white populations in the U.S. and around the world, he wrote: "Do it by hook or by crook. Refuse to allow her to take birth control and if she gets it anyway then replace the pills with placebos. Learn her menstruation cycle, Google when she’s most fertile, seduce her and tell her you’ll pull out and don’t. Do whatever you have to do."
The extremists who are worried about white demographics and birth rates are also deeply bothered by certain types of interracial relationships. In their manifestos, Breivik calls interracial relationships “the ultimate crime” and Crusius explains that these relationships weaken cultures and may eventually lead to genocide. Tarrant writes that along with differing birth rates, it will lead to “genes being bred out of existence” and specifically calls out pop star Madonna for being pro-miscegenation, as well as listing her as “degenerate, drug addict, childless, whore, anti-Christian".
However, far-right extremists are inconsistent in their condemnation of race mixing. In the U.S., white men are more likely than white women to be in an interracial marriage, but white supremacists primarily direct their hatred at relationships between white women and men of color.
In 2020, white supremacists created a website that targeted white women in relationships with non-white men. The site doxxed the women’s personal information and encouraged harassment and violence against them. While this aversion to seeing white women date non-white men is rooted in racism and patriarchal concern trolling, neo-Nazi Andrew Anglin tied his hatred directly back to the “Great Replacement,” writing “the White European female’s craving for Black dick threatens to collapse civilization itself.”
Misogyny is a powerful undercurrent of the “Great Replacement” narrative, and it deserves greater attention. Virulent racism informs this conspiracy theory, but misogyny also plays an important role in motivating and justifying extremist violence in the name of the “Great Replacement.”