The leadership roles of women in contemporary white supremacist organizations
Burch, Michele Christine
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The purpose of this study was to examine the leadership roles of women in contemporary white supremacist organizations, with a focus on women in the Ku Klux Klan. The research questions guiding this study were: 1) What are the common leadership practices of women who participate in white supremacist organizations? 2) How do the women who participate in white supremacist organizations use their position as leaders to promote social change? 3) How does the phenomenon of white supremacy and patriarchy affect women’s leadership roles? A qualitative study was conducted, collecting data using interviews, documents, and field notes. Purposive sampling was the technique used to identify twelve women. Data analysis was completed using the constant comparative method as the specific tool used to uncover emerging commonalities and themes among the twelve research participants. Analysis of the data revealed the following themes: 1) Women who participate in white supremacist organizations share the common practice of social homemaking, organizing and event planning, and recruiting; 2) Women who participate in white supremacist organizations use their position as leaders to promote social change through community reform and educational reform; and 3) Women who participate in white supremacist organizations have been able to negotiate power for themselves and develop a leadership role. Three major conclusions were drawn from the findings of this study. The first conclusion is that if it weren’t for the women, contemporary white supremacist organizations would have a much different profile, since it is the women who are often responsible for recruitment and retention. The second conclusion is that women who participate in white supremacist organizations have chosen a tactic, assuming the title of and presenting themselves as leaders. While these women might have positional power, they do not have authority. The third conclusion is that if an organization, cause, or social movement is patriarchal in structure, women who work as organizers, volunteers, and activists are still doing the same thing, still performing the same functions in their gendered roles.