Anders Breivik's chilling anti-feminism

To Anders Breivik, the 'feminisation' of the European male corresponds to the 'feminisation' of Europe itself

woman memorial utoya island
A woman pays her respects at a temporary memorial on the shore in front of Utøya island. Photograph: Fabrizio Bensch/REUTERS

Following much of the media's initial "fact-free conjecture" about the origins of the atrocity in Norway, we have since had to reckon with Anders Behring Breivik's own account of his motivations put forward in his 1518-page manifesto entitled 2083: A European Declaration of Independence. Overlooked, however, in the focus on Islamism and Islamophobia's culpability for Breivik's pathology is the way his gargantuan manifesto presents multiculturalism as just one form of the "ideology" which "now looms over western European society like a colossus". This ideology, most often known as political correctness, has, Breivik tells us, several other names. One of them is cultural Marxism, and the other is feminism.

Breivik's introduction is entirely given over to a half-baked history of political correctness, "no aspect" of which, he tells us, is "more prominent … than feminist ideology". The PC-project is bent on "transforming a patriarchy into a matriarchy" and "intends to deny the intrinsic worth of native Christian European heterosexual males". But more than that, it has succeeded. The "feminisation of European culture" has been underway since the 1830s, and by now, men have been reduced to an "emasculate[d] … touchy-feely subspecies".

The antipathy to feminism – and women – threaded throughout Breivik's document is more than just incidental. The text is peppered with references to the pernicious effects of the "Sex and the City lifestyle, the propagation of sexual immorality (indexed by women's promiscuity), and the "erotic capital" women use to manipulate men. The degeneration of our civilisation is intimately linked to an epidemic of sexually transmitted disease and "emotionalism". Indeed, the danger of women's "unnatural" demand for equality is such that Breivik closes his introduction by claiming that "the fate of European civilisation depends on European men steadfastly resisting Politically Correct feminism".

A whole web of reasons are given for this conclusion, but two familiar constellations stand out. The first concerns feminism's purported sundering of the nuclear family and responsibility for a demographic collapse that opens Europe to Muslim colonisation. Too distracted by "having it all", western women are failing to breed enough to repel the amassing hordes. But, in their feminine naivety, they fail to realise that their comeuppance is on its way, their freedoms snatched by the invasion of the genuine oppressor. Barely submerged in this narrative – as in much cultural conservatism – is a profound anxiety about who controls women's bodies and reproductive capacities. In his concern to save us from ourselves, Breivik wants to drag us back to the 50s, limiting access to reproductive technology and discouraging women from pursuing education beyond a bachelor's degree. Alternatively, he suggests, we could "outsource breeding", and pursue surrogacy in low-cost countries or the development of artificial wombs.

This sci-fi fantasy of finally abolishing men's dependence on women's generative abilities is revealing. On the one hand, Breivik indicts feminism with causing our alleged "cultural suicide", both by encouraging reproductive treachery and also because women are apparently more supportive of multiculturalism. However, in another sense, Breivik's thought betrays an analogy between his monocultural nationalism and his veneration of a certain type of "warrior" masculinity, an analogy that revolves – as his manifesto's title implies – around the ideal of masculine independence. The "feminisation" of the European male corresponds to the "feminisation" of Europe itself. Our cultural purity is threatened by invasion from outside. Once proud, virile, and impregnable, Europe has been turned – Breivik suggests in Section 2.89 – into a woman, one who has submitted to rape rather than "risk serious injuries while resisting".

Unlike Breivik, we must resist the urge to make easy causal connections. No account of this man's background or beliefs about nationality, religion or gender can serve to explain his actions. His cool enumeration of technicalities about downloading the document, his careful inclusion of a press-pack of photos, the chilling reference to the sacrifices involved in its "marketing operation" – all this serves to exhibit an inhumanity which opens a chasm between ideas and action. Nevertheless, while the behaviour of Breivik must, and can, only be understood as insanity, we would do our understanding a disservice by accepting it as only that.


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  • Kogvos

    27 July 2011 4:17PM

    Breivik's takes care in his 'Manifesto' to stress his heterosexuality, but the macho 'warrior' persona he identifies with isn't exactly supported by the camp photos appended to the document, his love of Eurovision (honestly - its all in the 'manifesto'), and numerous other character traits, not least his misogny.

  • JoeN

    27 July 2011 4:20PM

    "feminisation of European culture" has been underway since the 1830s

    You have to admire the sheer chutzpah of a conservatism so insane that the Victorian period is a bridge too far...

  • Contributor
    teaandchocolate

    27 July 2011 4:22PM

    The antipathy to feminism – and women – threaded throughout Breivik's document is more than just incidental.

    It just proves what we have always known: extreme right-wingers, Christians or not, are overtly anti equality. They are as bad as the fundamental islamists. In fact after this appalling event, they are exactly the same.

    They are both to be feared in equal measure.

  • Pinback

    27 July 2011 4:24PM

    This comment was removed by a moderator because it didn't abide by our community standards. Replies may also be deleted. For more detail see our FAQs.

  • IvyLeague

    27 July 2011 4:24PM

    Breivik closes his introduction by claiming that "the fate of European civilisation depends on European men steadfastly resisting Politically Correct feminism".

    I wonder, what would Politically Incorrect feminism look like?

  • Ernekid

    27 July 2011 4:25PM

    I guess that this inhuman mad man hated both men and women equally when he indiscriminately gunned down children. It really doesnt matter what this monster thought.

  • alexito

    27 July 2011 4:25PM

    So, because a vain right-wing weirdo murders scores of people, we're expected to entertain and comment on his unoriginal drivel?
    Count me out.

  • duroi

    27 July 2011 4:26PM

    Good grief, is he "anti-feminist"?
    His murder of innocent civilians pales beside this much more egregious crime

  • kunra

    27 July 2011 4:29PM

    Breivik and his EDL chums should be sent to Guantanamo to be 'interrogated' ... they are now prisoners in the 'War on Terror'. Breivik has admitted there are other cells out there ready for further attacks ... a little water boarding should be authorized to found out where these other cells are.

  • Damntheral

    27 July 2011 4:29PM

    I read that bit in a digest of his manifesto and wondered if he was channeling Sir William Gull (i.e. Jack the Ripper) in From Hell. Alan Moore credited him with a similar motivation of wanting to stop a patriarchy turning into a matriarchy.

  • Brownly

    27 July 2011 4:30PM

    Breivik cold-bloodedly murdered dozens of people, why do you care that he is anti-feminist? It's no more important a point than his anti-Islamism or any of his other opinions.

    He'll be judged on his actions, not his views - as it should be.

  • Contributor
    DWearing

    27 July 2011 4:35PM

    Excellent piece. It is quite wrong to dismiss Breivik as nothing more than mad, as Simon Jenkins did. He is certainly that. But his madness, and his evil actions, manifested themselves in a specific way. That is, with a chillingly clear and coherently articulated rationale that echoed many familiar prejudices of the hard-right. It simply cannot be denied that this was an act of political violence.

    Its worth noting that much of Breivik's misogyny is intimately bound up with his racism, the fear of the racial other expressing itself once again as in part a sexual fear.

  • Deckhand

    27 July 2011 4:36PM

    This comment was removed by a moderator because it didn't abide by our community standards. Replies may also be deleted. For more detail see our FAQs.

  • Contributor
    PhilippaB

    27 July 2011 4:38PM

    IvyLeague

    I wonder, what would Politically Incorrect feminism look like?


    Me calling the mass-murdering bastard a 'twat', perhaps?

  • Deckhand

    27 July 2011 4:39PM

    Breivik and his EDL chums should be sent to Guantanamo to be 'interrogated' ... they are now prisoners in the 'War on Terror'. Breivik has admitted there are other cells out there ready for further attacks ... a little water boarding should be authorized to found out where these other cells are.

    And you honestly think the US disapproves of the assassination of anti-American European Socialists?

  • myfellowprisoners

    27 July 2011 4:39PM

    I also note (with amusement as well as a creeping sense of horror) that the Daily Mail online stories covering this massacre had their BTL comments taken offline since Saturday, only having switched them back on today (presumably having had to hire 1000 extra moderators).

    I wonder why? Any takers?

  • Goggy

    27 July 2011 4:40PM

    He is nothing but a bully, hiding behind a lengthy, self-indulgent manifesto.

    What did he really do on Friday? Did he take his fight to the system? Run for government? Lobby and garner support?

    No, he murdered children.

    A pathetic bully of the worst order.

  • DocMolotov

    27 July 2011 4:41PM

    I'm still waiting for a Melanie Philips article that explains how this guy's hatreds and fears show that the west is in terminal decline and swiftly becoming a haven for paranoid, vicious and dangerous loners who are in the thrall of degenerate newspaper columnists..

  • Deckhand

    27 July 2011 4:41PM

    I wonder why? Any takers?

    Probably because the site was down, just like regularly happens to CIF.....now tinfoil hat back on please

  • grumpyoldman

    27 July 2011 4:43PM

    Peason1
    27 July 2011 4:19PM

    Why are you discussing the finer points of this deranged maniac's 'manifesto'?

    Because he's not deranged, although it would spare the far right a few inconvenient truths, and a few blushes if he were, and I've no doubt that's how they will try to spin this.

    He's clearly working within a dysfunctional belief system.

    But if that were to represent a clear symptom of madness, then, for example, much of the Republican party in the US would have to be regarded as mad, given that more than 50% of them believe that the earth is less than 10000 years old.

    Let's call a spade a spade. He's a classic fascist terrorist, just as suicide bombers are jihadist terrorists.

    It's ironic that he resembles nothing so much as what he purports to hate.

  • Contributor
    PhilippaB

    27 July 2011 4:43PM

    DWearing - further to that, while it is very natural to look at what he did and say 'he's mad', apart from what his lawyer has come out with, has he actually been assessed by experts yet?

    Because while I can't for the life of me come up with any explanation for his actions other than 'hatefilled and crazy', has whether or not he is actually insane (in terms of sentencing / criminal responsibility) been established yet?

  • MarinaS

    27 July 2011 4:44PM

    @Brownly

    Breivik cold-bloodedly murdered dozens of people, why do you care that he is anti-feminist?

    I'm not even sure I understand your objection; are you asking why do we care what goes on in the mind of someone who is capable of such horrific acts? Why would we not care seems like the real question. How do you hope to understand him, and hopefully prevent others following in his footsteps, without "caring" what his politics were?

    It's no more important a point than his anti-Islamism or any of his other opinions.

    Who said it was? "Less important than" and "not important at all" are not the same thing you know.

  • Bartel

    27 July 2011 4:44PM

    Hmmm, you can be anti-feminist without being a misogynist, you know. Personally, I prefer equalitarianism, parity and equal rights to any particular ideology.

  • servalan83

    27 July 2011 4:46PM

    myfellowprisoners is absolutely right. The most chilling thing about this 'madman''s manifesto is how neatly it fits with the rantings of what we on CiF know as the Tory/NI troll. (Deckhand is doing a good job of demonstrating this above).

    I am guessing that the reason a lot of people 'don't care what Breivik's motivations were' is because his views are so uncomfortably close to those of the 'normal' Right. He just took it all that step further and became a 'Marxist hunter'. It's quite clear that if he'd been black, brown, or called himself a 'Christian hunter' his motivations would be of rather more interest to the Right.

  • AlllTouttt

    27 July 2011 4:46PM

    Why are you discussing the finer points of this deranged maniac's 'manifesto'?

    Because there are many anti-feminism guys out there??

    See *Deckhand* for one...

  • Bartel

    27 July 2011 4:47PM

    I wonder, what would Politically Incorrect feminism look like?
    Your average Bindel or Bidisha article: plenty of politics, none of it correct.

  • SuperMac

    27 July 2011 4:48PM

    You can pick all sorts out of a 1518 page rant.

    The facts are that UK born women are having less than 1.3 children on average. Many of my female friends have found they have secured a career at the expense of any children. It results in a terrible dilemma for many of them.

    Rather than say there is something seroiusly wrong and unnatural about this state of affairs you pick bits from the extreme ravings of a killer as a bludgoen to bash what you wrongly label 'right wing' concerns about this issue with.

  • flaneuse

    27 July 2011 4:49PM

    Breivik's takes care in his 'Manifesto' to stress his heterosexuality, but the macho 'warrior' persona he identifies with isn't exactly supported by the camp photos appended to the document, his love of Eurovision (honestly - its all in the 'manifesto'), and numerous other character traits, not least his misogny.

    Eh, what? Cos misogyny is a gay male trait, not something that het men do?

    Yeah right!

  • SmokinGardener

    27 July 2011 4:50PM

    the behaviour of Breivik must, and can, only be understood as insanity

    Yes, and these sorts of nutter never have anything of any value to say. So pondering over his views on feminism is about as worthwhile as discussing his thoughts on climate change, art or whether he prefers coke to pepsi. Totally meaningless and utterly futile.

  • servalan83

    27 July 2011 4:51PM

    SuperMac, that one gave me a laugh.

    Breivik is a fascist. Fascism is all about misogyny, as even a right wing historian would surely be able to tell you. I haven't read the full rant, but to claim that his anti-feminism is 'incidental' to his murderous fascism is hilarious and just shows the desperation of right-wing commentators to depoliticise his actions.

  • MarinaS

    27 July 2011 4:52PM

    @flaneuse, I think the meaning there was that there are themes of anxious masculinity in his writings; whether or not he is gay (we can't know, and in any case the category might not be really meaningful for someone as disturbed as he is), the extreme resentment towards women and the accidental glimpses into slightly camp style choices point in a similar direction: of someone who is very unquiet about his own core identity, from his sexuality upwards.

  • JoeDeM

    27 July 2011 4:53PM

    This comment was removed by a moderator because it didn't abide by our community standards. Replies may also be deleted. For more detail see our FAQs.

  • servalan83

    27 July 2011 4:53PM

    I disagree, SmokinGardener. Mein Kampf, for example, although a badly written piece of lunatic tosh, is pretty important as a view into the psychology of the 'madman' who controlled large areas of Europe. Any criminal's motivations are important and of interest. If you don't want to know, you don't have to read it, but why stipulate that they should not be discussed? That smacks of the discussion seeming threatening in some way, rather than just 'boring'.

  • Contributor
    DWearing

    27 July 2011 4:53PM

    PhilippaB

    Fair point. I'm not remotely qualified to say whether he qualifies as clinically insane or not. All I can say from a layman's perspective is that, given the cold-blooded, methodical way in which he gunned down terrified, innocent people at point-blank range, he doesn't seem at all well. So I'm using "mad" in the colloquial rather than the technical sense.

  • KelvinYearwood

    27 July 2011 4:54PM

    Deckhand said:

    "And you honestly think the US disapproves of the assassination of anti-American European Socialists?"

    This is a very confused statement. The use of the totalitarian "US" and "anti-American" categories denies many American's sympathies for the berieved and injured of Norway. It also gives the US regime a kind of totalitarian carte-blanche to deflect all criticism as "anti-American."

    But, yes, there are many in the US who would be high-fiving at the thought of young socialists being murdered - many of them respected citizens.

    The article is also confused in its conclusions:

    "while the behaviour of Breivik must, and can, only be understood as insanity, we would do our understanding a disservice by accepting it as only that."

    A contradictory statement which demonstrates an underlying cultural cowardice in seeking cultural answers to even the most seemingly random, seemingly insane acts. One would imagine that Breivik completely invented himself, and that there is nothing in the greater Western culture that would have given his ideas purchase.

    Three leaders of there major powers of the European West attacking "multiculturalism" ring any bells! For example.

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