When Donald Trump tweeted out an invitation to his followers to join a mass protest on Jan. 6 in Washington, D.C.—“Be there, will be wild!”— many took it as a direct order. However, ahead of the demonstration, timed to take place at the Capitol to stop the Senate from certifying the election results, internal tensions threaten to undermine some far-right groups’ plans.
In particular, trouble—in the form of a brewing gender war—has struck the notorious Proud Boys on the social network app Telegram, heightening tensions in the chauvinist gang that has become synonymous with political violence in the U.S.
On Dec. 21, a former MMA fighter named Tara LaRosa—who has marched with the Proud Boys and the far right around the country, including recently in D.C.—established a transphobic Telegram channel called Proud Girls USA. That same day, the ProudBoysUSA channel snubbed her, declaring that “Proud Girls” was a “ridiculous” idea. “Don’t ride our coattails,” they groused. “Want to support us? Get married, have babies, and take care of your family.”
The next day, LaRosa fired back with a selfie of herself alongside Proud Boys head Enrique Tarrio and Proud Boys podcaster Joe Biggs, crowning herself the “Noble Den Mother” of the females-only chapter of the designated hate group. “She will lead us to wreck antifa like even the PBs have not. She could probably beat up any Proud Boy in the world,” her post said.
She then upped the ante with a post slamming “all you little crybaby Pecker Boys” and boasting, “I am tougher than 99% of you alleged men.”
According to LaRosa, the Proud Girls received the support of the presidents of Proud Boys chapters in New York City, South Carolina, and Idaho. However, LaRosa acknowledges that this support has come at a cost, with detractors branding the NYC chapter president a federal agent as a result. As well, LaRosa claims she is being threatened with “leaks” over her new position. Amid the chaos, Tarrio has remained relatively silent, leading some to speculate that the entire enterprise is a joke—something that LaRosa adamantly denies.
LaRosa’s hate group is not the first all-female outfit to attach itself to the Proud Boys. In 2016, a Facebook group called the Proud Boys’ Girls sprang up with 3,200 followers. The female group was noted in an internal FBI report that called the Proud Boys an “extremist group with ties to white nationalism.” Although the Proud Boys’ Girls Facebook account closed in 2018, a Telegram channel by that name opened last May.
The Proud Boys’ Girls’ first Telegram post—a photo of white nationalist Kyle Chapman glorifying a political brawl—originally came from an account called the “Proud Goys,” which Chapman would later tout as a more anti-Semitic version of the Proud Boys. Another post featured the white-nationalist Groyper movement, and after over a year of inactivity, the account forwarded a message insisting, “Trump didn’t disavow the Proud Boys.”
Some Proud Boys gave the Proud Boys Girls a hostile welcome. A Telegram channel called “Oklahoma Proud Boys” posted a meme stating, “This is a men’s club,” and adding the comment, “If you’re not in a relationship with a Proud Boy, at worst, you’re a groupie.” Other misogynistic memes degraded the attempted women’s chapter and attacked Biggs, a Proud Boy often seen in the spotlight, as “the proudest Proud Boy Groupie of 2020.”
While these sentiments might be viewed as a form of trolling delivered not with sincerity but as an effort to shock for publicity, the co-author of Alt-Right Gangs: A Hazy Shade of White, Matthew Valasik, told The Daily Beast that they remain true to the Proud Boys’ misogynistic ideology.
While fascist and far-right groups—like the Nazi Party and the Klan—have often had women’s auxiliaries, “there’s kind of the idea of traditional values and stereotypes that they try to adhere to,” Valasik said. “There’s a lot of nostalgia for a prior time where men were the ones that had the status.” This view of the traditional role of men as “bread-winners” posits feminists, multiculturalism, and immigrants as “jumping the line” and destroying white male power.
Hence the memes imploring women to support Proud Boys only as wives and mothers, along with comments like, “If you are a Proud Boy and you are involved in supporting Proud Girls you are fake and gay.”
These homophobic and misogynistic memes have echoed through other channels like “Official Wisconsin Proud Boys” and a fascism-promoting account called “Proud Boys: Uncensored,” which antifascists have IDed as being operated by Todd M. Clark, the head of the New Hampshire chapter of the Proud Boys. These channels also attacked Biggs for his apparent support of the women’s chapter, stating, “This man does not speak for us… He is a guy with a podcast and a fan base and he stands next to Enrique [Tarrio] sometimes; that’s about it.” Other groups posted misogynistic videos of women being injured, along with veiled threats and full-throated repudiations of the notion of “Proud Girls.”
Valasik noted that this sort of internal conflict is not unusual in gangs with loose organizational structure. In the context of earlier white pride skinhead gangs, “when there are more women there is more equality among members, but at the same time it kind of pushes against the traditional role that these groups wanted women to play.”
Indeed, supporting the Proud Girls might place Tarrio’s leadership in a more tenuous position, as he has already been challenged by the group’s former paramilitary “Fraternal Order of Alt-Knights” leader Chapman for weakness. For the Proud Girls, however, it is those who oppose female equality that compose the “Beta wing of the Proud Boys.” As LaRosa exclaimed, “Proud GIRLS are EQUAL in EVERY way!” Indeed, it appears LaRosa—who is positioning herself as a street fighter against the left—feels that her authority as Chairwoman of the Proud Girls rivals that of Tarrio’s. By LaRosa’s account, she and Tarrio hatched a detailed plan in which the Proud Girls would wear colors at the front of the upcoming D.C. rally on Jan. 6, and the Proud Boys would appear without colors marching behind them.
However, in a bizarre Telegram post soon afterwards, the Oklahoma City Proud Boys channel announced something entirely contradictory—a meeting between Tarrio, their chapter’s representative, and Chapman, releasing “responsibility of the streets to the Proud Goys for January 6th in DC at the presidents [sic] rally.” The channel further declared, “I will be staying home where it is safe and warm,” and suggested “not going to the state capitol either.” Other similar accounts posted news stories about D.C. police preparing for the event and the Proud Boys’ favorite hotel closing down for the duration of the protest.
It is difficult to tell whether either side is telling the truth or simply trolling one another; the reality probably lies somewhere in between. Gang structures exist in semi-organized fashion to withstand infighting while protecting the status of leaders as it is understood within the context of the organization, so it is possible that the Proud Girls and the Proud Boys will continue to humiliate themselves and each other well into the future.