Subordinating Women and Demonizing Immigrants on the Altar of Regressive Politics

Human Rights Quarterly 41 (2019) 777–822

Posted: 27 Sep 2019

Date Written: April 17, 2019


Regressive regimes are on the rise, implementing laws and policies designed to have a chilling effect on their opposition. They focus much of their ire on women and immigrants, creating fear-based narratives to justify militarizing the interior, fortifying the border, reducing civil liberties in the name of national security, and, less overtly, perpetuating patriarchal systems of power. Controlling women and immigrants is central to nativist political agendas. The focus on immigrants and women is purposeful, designed to provide the latitude that the Constitution and international law may grant to political leaders allegedly operating within the arenas of sovereign authority and foreign affairs.While many regressive nativist regimes are also racist, there are strategic reasons why contemporary nativist rhetoric focuses on immigrants in particular rather than on racial or religious minorities more broadly. The reasons have to do with the additional (alleged) legal justifications an undocumented immigrant subject provides regressive regimes. Focusing on migrants moves the locus of the law to borders and, therein, sovereignty; provides a justification for increased militarization in the name of national security and keeping out “invaders”; appeals to vigilantes who prefer to hide their racism behind narratives about defending territory and resources for citizens; allows former immigrants looking to distance themselves from new arrivals to justify their “close-the-door-behind-me” mentality; allows the regular invocation of “patriotism” as a virtue of the highest order; and provides fuel for the inevitable calls by regressive leaders for the derogation of rights and liberties of citizens in the name of national security. Regressive governments increase their own power by suppressing the rights of their opposition, circumventing enshrined constitutional protections of citizens, and subverting the rule of law. The starting point for achieving each is exerting control over non-citizens.

Keywords: misogyny, nativsim, nationalism, abuse of power, women, immigrants, human rights

Suggested Citation

Haynes, Dina Francesca, Subordinating Women and Demonizing Immigrants on the Altar of Regressive Politics (April 17, 2019). Human Rights Quarterly 41 (2019) 777–822, Available at SSRN:

Dina Francesca Haynes (Contact Author)

New England Law | Boston ( email )

154 Stuart St.
Boston, MA 02116

Do you have a job opening that you would like to promote on SSRN?

Paper statistics

Abstract Views
PlumX Metrics