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Why We Shouldn't Be Surprised That Richard Spencer Allegedly Beat His Wife

Misogyny isn't a bug in white supremacist thought—it's a feature.
White nationalist Richard Spencer and his supporters clash with Virginia State Police in Emancipation Park after the "Unite the Right" rally was declared an unlawful gathering August 12th, 2017, in Charlottesville, Virginia.

White nationalist Richard Spencer and his supporters clash with Virginia State Police in Emancipation Park after the "Unite the Right" rally was declared an unlawful gathering August 12th, 2017, in Charlottesville, Virginia.

White supremacist Richard Spencer's wife has accused him of physical and emotional abuse through their eight-year marriage, according to divorce filings in a Montana court. On October 23rd, BuzzFeed News published filings from the Flathead County District Court in which Spencer's estranged wife, Nina Koupriianova, alleges he threw her down a staircase, left a loaded gun in the reach of their toddler, tried to punch her in the face while she was nine months pregnant, and degraded and belittled her verbally. Koupriianova also claims Spencer was a fan of telling her, "The only language women understand is violence."

Other white supremacists—some in Spencer's circles, some not—have also been accused of domestic violence. In March, Matthew Heimbach, an advocate for white separatism and supremacy, was arrested for attacking his wife and stepfather-in-law in an Indiana trailer. But it's no surprise Spencer and his compatriots have been accused of attacking their wives. White supremacy and misogyny go hand-in-hand.

Spencer rose to fame for being a clean-cut, palatable spokesman for neo-Nazism and white nationalism—he wears expensive clothing, keeps his hair perfectly coiffed in a "Hitler Youth-esque" cut, and uses academic language to advocate for his views in interviews, on Twitter, and through his organizations, the National Policy Institute and Radix Journal. But his charming veneer doesn't mean he's not an abuser (or a neo-Nazi, for that matter).

The alt-right, a euphemism for the tech-savvy, racist movement that largely supports President Donald Trump, has long been known for its misogyny, especially online. The "manosphere"—an online contingent of incels (self-described involuntary celibates), PUAs (pick-up artists), frequenters of Reddit "men's rights" forum r/TheRedPill, and other reactionary anti-feminist communities—is full of young, white men who feel cheated out of their rightful place on top of the social hierarchy by feminists, people of color, and calls for social equity. These men find a sense of belonging in white supremacist organizations that tell them to fight back against their supposed emasculation.

In a white supremacist's world, social categories are pre-ordained by biology, with white men at the top. Women are seen as genetically and physically inferior. Andrew Anglin, who runs neo-Nazi website the Daily Stormer, said, "The fact is, when you give women rights, they destroy absolutely everything around them, no matter what other variable is involved." This is not an isolated view: "Maybe the reason I'm sexist is because women are dumb," Proud Boys founder Gavin McInnes said on his show. "No, I'm just kidding, ladies. But you do tend to not thrive in certain areas—like writing."

Still, many white supremacists claim their ideology is grounded in concern for (white) women. It's true that many of their recruiting materials and policies center around preventing rape and sexual violence. But this fear of rape isn't rooted in respect for women's bodily autonomy: It's deeply tied to racist fears of being "outbred" and part of a long history of seeing people of color as savage, virile, and unable to control their "animalistic" lusts. That's why people from Trump to Swedish-Norwegian white nationalist Peter Imanuelsen constantly claim that immigrants—usually Central Americans or Muslim Arabs—rape women at higher rates than white men. Data shows this isn't true (and that most women know their attackers).

These racist "danger narratives" for white women aren't just paternalistic. They demonstrate an understanding of women as property, essential for "furthering the race," but not fully realized partners in communities or relationships. Matt Forney, a frequent contributor to Return of Kings (a misogynistic website run by pick-up artist Daryush Valizadeh), wrote: "The vagina is the perfect representation of the nature of females. An empty vessel, a hole, a void with no identity of its own. Without a man to fill her with his essence, she is as useless as a crabapple rotting on the sidewalk." In this framing, a white woman is the ultimate sexual prize, desired by men of all races. But she's also naive, weak, and prone to seduction, a major issue for white supremacists who fear "race mixing" and "mongrelization." These women are in need of protection by the strength of virtuous white men.

But the women who are supposedly beneficiaries of this protection—so-called "tradwives," who serve as homemakers and "traditional wives" for white supremacist men—aren't safe from violence. Their modesty and mid-century housewife aesthetics keep them safe from the objectification and risk of violence that sexual liberation has brought upon women, they claim. But the vitriol even the most demure far-right women receive online shows otherwise (Lana Lokteff, Tara McCarthy, and Ayla Stewart, three YouTube personalities advocating white separatism and traditional living, are good examples). And, of course, Koupriianova married an "alpha male," supported her husband, and produced white children—but, according to her divorce records, it didn't stop Spencer from abusing her.