“By the time Matthias was in 7th grade, he felt he’d better belong to some group, lest he be alone and vulnerable. A man needs a posse. It was the skinheads who captured his imagination. They had great parties, and everyone seemed afraid of them. ‘They really represented what it meant to be a strong man,’ he said."
What draws young men into violent extremist groups? What are the ideologies that inspire them to join? And what are the emotional bonds that are forged that make it difficult to leave, even when they want to?
Based on in-depth interviews with ex-white nationalists and neo-Nazis in the United States, as well as ex-skinhead and neo-Nazis in Germany and Sweden, renowned sociologist Michael Kimmel examines the multiple roles that gender—particularly masculinity—has on these young recruits. Kimmel unveils how white extremist groups wield masculinity to recruit and retain members—and prevent members from exiting the movement. These young men feel a sense of righteous indignation, seeing themselves as victims in a world suddenly dominated by political correctness. Their birthright has been upended, they say—and violent extremist groups leverage masculinity to manipulate the men’s despair into white supremacist and neo-Nazi hatred , all to “take their manhood back.”
With a multi-angled analysis of the structural, political, and economic forces that marginalize them, these young white men’s stories shed light on their feelings—yet clearly make no excuses for their actions. Healing From Hate reminds us of their efforts to exit the movement and reintegrate themselves into society, and is a call to action to help others to turn around and to do the same.
Michael Kimmel is the SUNY Distinguished Professor of Sociology and Gender Studies at Stony Brook University and the author of Manhood in America, Angry White Men, The Politics of Manhood, The Gendered Society, and Guyland.