Section: 2.1 Misogyny and violent extremism

Male supremacy and inceldom

Misogyny often becomes intertwined with extremist ideologies, particularly in online communities such as the manosphere.1 The manosphere’s communities include pick-up artists (PUAs), Men Going Their Own Way (MGTOW), men’s rights activists (MRAs), and incels. Individuals who harbour misogynistic beliefs may also hold extremist views, which can contribute to a higher risk of engaging in violence.

In 2018, the Southern Poverty Law Center identified male supremacy as a hateful extremist ideology.2 In a similar vein, a 2020 report by the US Secret Service’s National Threat Assessment Center identified online misogyny as one of the influences for some of the perpetrators of mass attacks in the US.3 For example, inceldom, which is itself an extremist ideology,4 has motivated many instances of violent extremism in the past decade. Take, for example, the killing of nine people at the Umpqua Community College in Oregon in 2015, the killing of women at a yoga studio in Florida in 2018, the killing of six people on a Californian college campus in 2014, or the killing of 10 people in Toronto, Canada in 2018.5 In each case, perpetrators self-identified as an incel or openly praised other incel killers on their social media.

What is inceldom?

Inceldom refers to the state or condition of experiencing involuntary celibacy, commonly associated with members of an online subculture who self-identify as ‘incels’ (shortened from ‘involuntary celibates’). This condition is characterised by the individual's inability to find a romantic or sexual partner despite having a desire for one. Incels often attribute their lack of romantic success to predetermined genetic factors that, in their belief, dictate physical appearance, which they perceive as the primary determinant of attractiveness to women.

From the mainstream to the margins

Groups that promote misogyny heavily depend on semiotic forms of violence and online communication channels.6 Despite efforts by social media platforms to curb communities that advocate for violence against women, extremist content remains easily accessible. This includes mainstream platforms like YouTube, Discord, and Reddit.7 While these mainstream platforms have been identified as hubs for such content, there's a growing trend of these groups migrating to less-regulated spaces. One factor facilitating this shift is the spread of violent misogyny to specialised sites like 4chan and 8kun (previously known as 8chan). This migration is believed to be a reaction to actions taken by mainstream social media platforms, especially Reddit's bans on incel communities.67

The incel ideology displays key characteristics typical of extremist beliefs, including distinct in-groups and out-groups, along with narratives of crisis and solution.

The intersection with other hateful or extremist ideologies

In the context of incels, misogyny and aggrieved male sexual entitlement help justify violence as revenge. For the far-right, exerting male dominance and subjugating women is central to reclaiming the West and traditional masculinity.8 Moreover, once individuals internalise this notion of victimisation where feminism and women are to blame, they can easily apply that ideological framing to other demographics.5 Hence sexism, racism, homophobia, and other forms of intolerance often go together.

A 2021 study by a group of academic researchers explored misogyny in the manosphere communities on Reddit.9 They analysed 28.8 million posts from six forums and 51 subreddits. The study highlighted the pervasive nature of misogynistic attitudes, beliefs and language within these online communities. While there were differences among the communities, the overall analysis revealed a general increase in violent attitudes toward women across all those examined. These included categories such as sexual violence, physical violence, racism, and homophobia, with varying degrees across different communities.

Incels in the United Kingdom and Canada

The United Kingdom’s Prevent scheme has seen an increase in referrals related to the misogynistic ‘incel’ ideology. As of March 2022, incels made up 1% of all referrals, totalling 77 cases, compared to just three cases the previous year.10 This rise is attributed to the online spread of incel beliefs and heightened awareness following the August 2021 Plymouth shooting.10 Prevent referrals which are related to extreme misogynistic ideologies are recorded under the wider mixed, unstable or unclear category.

In Canada, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) has classified gender-driven violence as a category of ideologically-motivated extremism.11 This type of violence is characterised by hatred towards individuals of a different gender or sexual orientation, which can manifest in violent misogyny. This new classification framework is part of CSIS's effort to more accurately describe the landscape of violent extremist terrorism, recognising the evolving nature of these threats. It’s also a response to incel ideology being linked to numerous killings and injuries in the United States and Canada since 2014.12

This shift in approach was notable in the handling of the court case involving the suspect in the 2020 Toronto massage parlour attack. The accused was charged with terrorism offences under the Canadian Criminal Code due to his alleged ties to the incel movement. This instance marks not only the first time in Canada that a terrorism charge has been laid against an individual associated with ideologically-motivated violent extremism (IMVE), but it is also globally significant as the world’s first terrorism charge brought against someone identified as an incel.12 This case reflects a broader shift in recognising the severity and impact of gender-driven violence as a form of violent extremism.

A common macrostructure and messaging shared among many violent extremist groups is their focus on shared enemies or out-groups.

Incels in New Zealand

Online spaces, like online incel communities, serve as a platform for violent extremists to freely share their extreme beliefs without judgement. These ideologies often feel familiar and resonate with some of the extreme beliefs they already hold. One key aspect shared among all these violent extremist groups is their common macrostructures and messaging, particularly when it comes to their shared enemies or out-groups.

Evidence of people in New Zealand holding incel beliefs dates back to 2019.13 The NZSIS classifies incels as identity-motivated violent extremists and defines them as “individuals who advocate violence against the opposite sex for denying them sexual relationships to which they believe themselves entitled”.14

The lack of a clearly defined incel community in New Zealand seems to lead many individuals towards (white) Identity-Motivated Violent Extremism.

While the Combined Threat Assessment Group (CTAG) considers this misogynistic ideology as less prominent in New Zealand than overseas,15 documents published by NZSIS in 2022 showed that NZSIS investigated the potential risks posed by individuals identifying as incels, including the prospect of an incel-linked violent attack within New Zealand.16 The CTAG assessed that the convergence of incel and white identity extremism subcultures could lead to individuals adopting male supremacist ideologies. The absence of a well-defined incel community in New Zealand appears to steer many of them towards (white) identity-motivated violent extremism.

The CTAG noted that incel individuals often reproduce antisemitic, racist and anti-immigration rhetoric. The incel ideology may motivate violent extremist individuals in New Zealand but is unlikely to be the sole motivation for a terrorist attack. Former head of the NZSIS Rebecca Kitteridge confirmed that a few individuals were investigated for supporting various violent extremist ideologies including the incel ideology, though the investigations were not solely prompted by incel beliefs themselves.17

It’s essential to note that online noise doesn't always reflect the offline reality. Instead, it creates an illusion for potential terrorists and violent extremists that there are many like-minded individuals who share their extreme beliefs. This creates a confirmation bias that reinforces their extremist views, even though the reality is that most people do not hold such beliefs.

Further reading

Studies and reports: Male supremacy and inceldom


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