Section: 2.0 Misogyny and violent extremism

Misogyny and violent extremism

Key insights

  • Misogyny is a common thread across various hateful and extremist ideologies.
  • Algorithms amplify misogynistic and extremist content and create pathways for vulnerable individuals to be exposed to more extreme ideologies.
  • There is a growing recognition of the threat posed by incel ideology, alongside the emergence of new trends in extremist beliefs.
  • There is a potential link between violence against women, history of domestic abuse, hostile sexism, and support for extremist ideologies.
  • Some extremist and misogynist groups use the same online platforms and networks as those distributing child sexual abuse material, and there can be crossover in these online spaces.

Plenty of evidence links misogyny to violent extremism and hateful extremist ideologies. Research has established a link between violence against women and support for violent extremism.1 In this section, we highlight some of these studies. We start by providing an overview of the violent extremism threat landscape in New Zealand.

The evolving threat landscape in New Zealand

A 2021 report by Hedayah and the Centre for Analysis of the Radical Right examined 12 far-right groups in New Zealand and identified 25 key narratives that permeate the far-right in New Zealand.2 These narratives encompass a range of ideas including ethno-nationalism, white supremacism, antisemitism, Islamophobia, anti-establishment, misogyny and chauvinism. These narrative trends are in line with other radical right contexts globally. However, the report also highlighted two distinctive features in New Zealand: a particular focus on anti-Māori narratives and on environmental themes. These themes are connected to far-right ideas about resource scarcity and concerns about non-white overpopulation. The report noted a prevalence of sexist, misogynistic, transphobic, anti-establishment and anti-immigrant viewpoints in almost all the 25 key narratives observed in New Zealand.

New Zealand Security Intelligence Service reports

The New Zealand Security Intelligence Service (NZSIS) serves as the primary organisation for human intelligence in New Zealand. Among its responsibilities, NZSIS collects, analyses, and reports intelligence pertinent to New Zealand's security. This includes assessing both current and emerging threats to the country.

According to the NZSIS 2020 Annual Report, the information they received during the 2019/20 period showed that around 60% of the leads were connected to politically-motivated violent extremism (PMVE), while the remaining 40% were linked to faith-motivated violent extremism (FMVE).3

Among the leads that required further investigation in the politically-motivated category, a significant portion was associated with white identity extremism (WIE).

In the aftermath of the March 15 terrorist attacks, NZSIS received a substantial amount of lead information related to various WIE-related threats. These leads encompassed individuals and groups that subscribed to violent white nationalist or white supremacist ideologies, as well as those who adhered to neo-Nazi, anti-government, and incel beliefs.3

Harmful online activity, including individuals engaging with extremist content and expressing violent ideas, was a recurring aspect of numerous leads. In fact, approximately one third of all leads were connected to online threats or the endorsement of violent extremism in the years 2020/21.4 The majority of leads in 2021 continued to be focused on either identity-based or faith-based violent extremism.4

Moving into 2021/22,5 an increase was observed in people adopting anti-authority or conspiracy-driven extremist ideologies, falling under the category of politically-motivated violent extremism. This included opposition to COVID-19 measures, public health actions, and the New Zealand government at large. During this period, NZSIS equally investigated faith-motivated, politically-motivated, and identity-motivated violent extremism (IMVE) cases.

These ideologies continued to influence New Zealand’s violent extremist environment in the years 2022/23.6 However, a new trend started to emerge in this period, characterised by individuals who hold mixed, unstable and unclear ideologies. The NZSIS noted that online spaces continued to have inflammatory language and violent abuse, mostly targeting a variety of people who already belonged to marginalised communities.6

Interestingly, violent extremists in this period seemed less bound by specific ideologies, instead coalescing around broader notions such as global conspiracies and anti-authority sentiments, as opposed to aligning with distinct groups or ideologies. This shift is likely influenced by the pervasive online landscape, which propagates diverse extremist narratives. There are also individuals drawn to violent extremist ideologies due to an attraction to violence itself, rather than a genuine commitment to any particular cause. An increasing number of young New Zealanders are consuming violent extremist content mostly online, some of whom have gone on to express support for violent extremism.5

New Zealand Department of Internal Affairs (DIA) reports

In 2021, the Department of Internal Affairs (DIA) released its inaugural report on digital violent extremism in New Zealand. DIA’s mandate is to mitigate the spread and impact of terrorist and violent extremist content (TVEC) online. Their efforts are concentrated on identifying and addressing illegal content associated with violent extremist ideologies. The scope of their investigations spans a range of content, some of which may or may not be ideologically driven.

The bulk of the content examined in 20217 was related to identity-motivated extremism, particularly white identity extremism, encompassing white supremacy. This category’s prominence is largely due to content related to the March 15 terrorist attacks, which falls under white identity-motivated extremism. During this year, DIA investigated two instances of content linked to misogyny and anti-rainbow ideology, which were categorised under ‘cannot be determined’.

In 2022, DIA started categorising content containing misogyny and anti-rainbow ideology under ‘identity-motivated violent extremism’. 2% of the content investigated that year was characterised as misogynistic or anti-rainbow.8 Content associated with identity-based violent extremism continued to constitute the majority of the content investigated, followed by politically-motivated associated content, which included conspiracy-related materials.

In their 2023 transparency report,9 DIA didn’t note receiving any misogynistic publications. However, the bulk of content they investigated was mostly identity-motivated violent extremist content (453 URLs), with white identity violent extremist content accounting for 93% of investigated links. Other subcategories under IMVE included anti-Muslim (4%), anti-LGBTQIA+ (1%), antisemitic (1%), and male supremacist (0%). The second largest category was ‘no ideology’ (120 URLs), which included content referred to DIA that met the threshold of objectionable but was not related to violent extremism, such as suicide/self-harm (22%), violence (19%), and war (17%). The identified URLs were posted on both mainstream and fringe platforms.

It's worth noting that while the percentage of content specifically identified as misogynistic may be low, it doesn't necessarily mean that misogynistic elements were not present in publications categorised differently. Rather, it suggests that the predominant themes or focus of those publications were more aligned with, for example, white identity violent extremism, and thus classified as such.

Find more information about how violent extremist ideologies are categorised in New Zealand and in other countries on the Government Responses page.