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The Feminine Face of Racialized Violence: White Womanhood, White Women, and the Ku Klux Klan

Mallory L Marsh, University of Nebraska - Lincoln


Chartered in 1923, the Women of the Ku Klux Klan was recognized as a sanctioned branch of the KKK, complete with its own guiding constitution, by-laws, and organizational hierarchy. White women indeed served a fundamental role in both the organization’s endurance and the orchestration of its campaign of terror. However, today the most persistent cultural images of the Ku Klux Klan are imbued with a masculine sense of violence. This popular depiction of racialized violence embodied solely in a masculine form—anonymously shielded in our imaginary under a plain white hood—has expunged women’s efforts from the historical work of racialized violence, constructs a flawed and incomplete account of overt white supremacy, and constricts our ability to grapple with its more insidious feminine form. Thus, grounded in the analytic sensibility of intersectional inquiry, I interrogate the nuanced junctures of power at work with the white women who found home in the Klan, both as symbol and as rhetor, so as to seek to reveal the feminine face of racialized violence—one which I argue is very much still present today. I first situate this project in the lineage of (mis)remembrance. I argue that the pervasiveness of a collective rhetorical malewashing within our understanding of racialized violence has minimized our scholarly capacity to contend with the feminine style always already present within such violence. I then make visible this feminine face of racialized violence throughout each chapter by illuminating some of its most prominent rhetorical features on display in the selected case study of the KKK: white womanhood in peril as narrative hinge within dominant discourses promoting white supremacy; white femininity as bigoted agentic doing capable of underwriting white women’s racial identity and forming their political subjectivity by refusing the humanity of others; white women’s performance of a gendered mode of citizenship securing the racialized borders of national belonging; and white women’s affective work tying white supremacy’s past to present and present to future.

Subject Area

Gender studies

Recommended Citation

Marsh, Mallory L, "The Feminine Face of Racialized Violence: White Womanhood, White Women, and the Ku Klux Klan" (2021). ETD collection for University of Nebraska - Lincoln. AAI28418753.