Section: 2.2 Misogyny and violent extremism

Misogyny, violence and violent extremist ideologies

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Misogyny is evident in other violent extremist ideologies. Researchers have observed that a core element of the extreme far-right’s mission is restoring male pride by reasserting male dominance over women.1 The extreme far-right has numerous conflicting viewpoints, but broadly aims to establish identity and status for aggrieved white men, is hostile toward feminism, and holds that men and women should be ordered in strict hierarchies.

Central to this worldview’s development is the manosphere, an online hive for men “red pilled” (awoken) to their supposed emasculation by feminists.1 Across the manosphere and the far-right, there is a consensus that white men are persecuted by feminism and identity politics. Subscribers believe this persecution has left them downtrodden, feminised, and adrift in modern society. Thus, this “crisis of masculinity” is core to this intersection between far-right ideology and the manosphere.1

White-identity violent extremism

There have been numerous incidents of far-right extremism, including the March 15 terrorist attacks on two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand in 2019. A common argument within the extreme far-right is that feminism and sexual revolution have led women to neglect their biological desire for children and their duties to their families. Instead, women now seek ‘self-aggrandisement’ through careers and cheap gratification through casual sex.1

Leading with “it’s the birthrates” repeated three times, the manifesto left by the perpetrator of the 2019 attacks echoes such sentiments.2 The phrase refers to the misogynistic notion that women serve only a reproductive purpose in society. This concept is central to many extreme far-right conspiracies and ideas, most notably the Great Replacement, to which the Christchurch shooter subscribed.

Other examples of this intersection include the murder of Heather Heyer during the 2017 neo-Nazi marches in Charlottesville.2 The perpetrator’s main slogan was about birthrates. The perpetrator of the 2015 Charleston church shooting also shared an obsession with protecting white women from men of other races.2

What is the Great Replacement?

In brief, the Great Replacement is a conspiracy theory that claims there is a deliberate attempt underway worldwide to make white people extinct and replace them with non-Western immigrants, people of colour and Muslims.1 The conspiracy invokes declining birthrates as an important device for achieving this supposed goal and it often blames the ‘elite’ and Jews for these demographic changes.

The term ‘Great Replacement’ was popularised by Renaud Camus in his 2011 book Le Grand Remplacement, in which he depicted non-white migrants and Muslims as an existential threat to French culture and civilisation. This conspiracy theory has gained traction in Europe and found support among anti-immigration and white nationalist groups in other Western regions, including the United States, Australia and New Zealand.3456

Under the spotlight

The red pill, the manosphere and far-right extremism

The red pill philosophy is rooted in the belief that it exposes feminism's alleged misandry and indoctrination, which purportedly elevate women to dominance over men. It’s shared across the manosphere, linking different communities and groups with this belief, participating in networked misogyny.7 The corresponding blue pill term in the manosphere refers to everyone else, who are ignorant of red pill beliefs.8

Another dominant ideology in the manosphere is the black pill ideology. Black pill adherents accept the red pill’s perspective of modern society supposedly being dominated by women, but their view diverges by dismissing individual efforts to have relationships and sex and asserting that societal change is the only solution. They believe attractiveness is genetic and women prioritise physical appearance, leading men to predetermined inceldom regardless of personal efforts. Misogynistic incels misinterpret scientific studies and data to validate this view. They advocate either accepting their fate as incels or resorting to violent societal change through mass violence and terrorism.79

‘Swallowing the red pill’ in the manosphere means accepting a worldview where men believe women are better off than men, female oppression is a myth, and women desire traditional gender roles.10 This mindset allows men to manipulate women for their benefit, gaining power and access to sex. The term ‘red pill’ is used not only by incels but also by other groups in the manosphere, as well as the extreme and violent far-right.10

The ideologies within the manosphere and certain extreme far-right movements share a common thread of misogyny blended with white supremacy. Rooted in deep-seated misogyny and often intertwined with racism, these beliefs not only justify but also motivate extreme actions against perceived enemies.

Within the extreme far-right movement, the term ‘red pill’ encompasses more than just awakening to feminism's perceived manipulation. Being ‘red-pilled’ signifies an awareness of a broader conspiracy. This includes beliefs that feminists, Marxists, socialists, and liberals are collectively working to dismantle Western civilisation and culture. This ideology also aligns with notions of white genocide, the Great Replacement and a perceived ongoing ‘race war'.111213

To illustrate how these different notions align, Dixit analysed the manifestos of three terrorists – Elliot Rodger, Dylann Roof, and Patrick Crusius – who are often cited as archetypes representing different facets of the ideology surrounding the Great Replacement conspiracy.13 Rodger, associated with the online ‘manosphere’, viewed women and perceived attractive men as threats to himself and to the United States. In contrast, Roof targeted Black people, drawing upon false historical narratives to justify his violence. Crusius, on the other hand, employed eco-fascist justifications and expressed admiration for the Christchurch terrorist, who killed 51 people in New Zealand in 2019.

While Roof and Crusius shared some justifications for their actions, Roof's justification was rooted in domestic US politics, while Crusius was influenced by global events. For Rodger and others in the ‘manosphere’, women were blamed for the perceived ‘Great Replacement’. In contrast, Roof and Crusius attributed the replacement to Black and Jewish people, as well as immigrants.

Dixit asserts that the concept of replacement plays a central role in the narratives of violence found in these manifestos.13 Although Rodger's killings predated the publication of The Great Replacement, they still echo themes of perceived threats to whiteness. Similar themes can be observed in the manifestos of Crusius and Roof. The notion of replacement revolves around whiteness and positions white people as the ‘true’ Americans facing the risk of being replaced. This perspective aligns with a narrative of white victimhood, a belief that the replacement of white people is already underway.

According to Dixit, far-right extremists view immigration and cultural change not as natural processes but as acts of ‘genocide by substitution’ perpetrated by Black and brown people.13 However, the specific groups perceived as orchestrating this substitution vary among different violent actors. Each individual identifies a different target group based on their conception of who is ‘replacing’ the existing fabric of US society. This diversity of targets illustrates a series of archetypes through which various marginalised groups are depicted within the broader framework of replacement. This portrayal not only facilitates the justification of violence by far-right violent extremists but also complicates efforts to prevent and counter these ideologies and narratives.

A common feature among all these far-right extremists is their use of self-narratives or personal transformation ‘red-pilling’ stories to rationalise their turn to violence. Through these discursive practices, they shift blame away from themselves and onto racialised and gendered ‘others’, portraying themselves and white society as under threat. This tactic allows them to evade responsibility for their actions while perpetuating narratives of victimhood and persecution.

The intersection of the red pill and black pill ideologies within the manosphere and their extension into far-right extremism illustrate a concerning trend towards radicalisation, driven by narratives of disenfranchisement, misogyny, and racism.

In conclusion, for both the manosphere and the extreme far-right, adopting the red pill marks the initiation into a radicalisation process into an extreme worldview. While the manosphere predominantly views women as objects of sexual competition, the far-right portrays women more as victims, primarily of immigrants (of colour). However, both groups converge on the idea that the mainstream is manipulated by liberal elites, feminists, and socialists, who seek to oppress and victimise men (in the case of incels) or white people (in the case of the far-right). This shared perception underscores the ideological alignment between the two groups, despite their differences in focus and emphasis.11

What is ‘white genocide’?

The ‘white genocide’ or ‘white extinction’ conspiracy theory, propagated by white supremacists, alleges a calculated effort to eliminate white populations through various means such as mass immigration, enforced cultural assimilation, and even genocide.1415 Advocates of this theory argue that actions encouraging interracial relationships, significant immigration from non-white countries, racial integration, the promotion of LGBTQI+ identities, pornography and factors leading to lower white birth rates like abortion are deliberately designed to undermine white identity. This identity is defined less by skin colour and more by cultural heritage, with Christian and Euro-American traditions seen as central to whiteness. Proponents contend that society is being systematically restructured to prioritise diversity over white identity, utilising strategies like immigration and racial integration to achieve this.

Within this conspiracy, Jews are frequently cast as orchestrators or ‘masterminds’, allegedly spearheading this clandestine scheme, while people of colour — including Black people, Hispanics, and Muslims — are often portrayed as complicit in this plot, whether as ‘invaders’, ‘perpetrators of violence’ or through higher birth rates. David Lane, a white separatist neo-Nazi, significantly popularised this narrative around 1995.16 The "white genocide" conspiracy is ideologically linked to the Great Replacement theory, sharing a common foundation in white supremacist thought.1415

What is ‘race war’?

In white supremacist discourse, the concept of a ‘race war’ is deeply entwined with the ideology of white supremacy and its historical roots in the United States.17 It stems from a fear-based narrative that white people are under imminent threat of being overtaken or eradicated by minority groups. The ideology behind the ‘race war’ concept is older than the United States itself, initially fuelled by white colonists' fears of being outnumbered by Native Americans and later by enslaved Africans.18 Such fears have historically been leveraged to commit acts of violence and terror to uphold white dominance, often justifying heinous crimes against African Americans, Native Americans, and other minority communities as protective measures for white society.

Central to this ideology is the notion that any integration or empowerment of minority communities poses a direct threat to the white race, leading to calls for violent action to prevent such outcomes. In contemporary times, this notion continues to inspire acts of violence under the guise of preventing a supposed ‘race war’, thereby sustaining the cycle of extremism and fear that fuels white supremacist movements.1718

The Proud Boys' misogyny

On 12 August 2021, the Anti-Defamation League highlighted how white supremacists and right-wing extremists, including the Proud Boys, exploit online misogyny to present themselves as defenders of ‘conservative’ values, aiming to broaden their appeal.19 Their report, Venerating the Housewife, delves into the Proud Boys' deep-rooted misogynistic beliefs. This American extremist group, now labelled a terrorist organisation in New Zealand,20 champions white nationalist, racist, antisemitic, and misogynistic ideologies. They gained international attention for their involvement in the January 6 United States Capitol attack in 2021.

New Zealand Police's statement of case to designate the Proud Boys as a terrorist entity underscores their appeal to traditional values, particularly their relegation of women to domestic roles.21 The group strictly prohibits female members, only allowing them domestic roles as housewives. The Anti-Defamation League's analysis further reveals that the Proud Boys' misogyny aligns with the overtly sexist views held by white supremacists and other right-wing extremists.19

Under the spotlight

Faith-motivated violent extremism

The intersection between misogyny and extremist violence and ideology continues outside the West. The Global Terrorism Index 2018 attributes over half of the deaths caused by terrorists in 2017 to Daesh, the Taliban, Boko Haram, and Al-Shabaab.22 A common denominator between these groups is the central role of women's subordination in their ideology and tactics.2 For each group, quick and radical shifts in the pushback on women’s rights were early indications of their spreading influence. Likewise, Daesh codified sexual slavery in its territories and used it as a recruitment tool. Boko Haram is known for abducting schoolgirls and using them, alongside women, as suicide bombers. Moreover, all but the Taliban are known to force women to marry their fighters.2

Misogyny and endorsing violence against women are pivotal in driving individuals towards violent extremism.23 Evidence suggests that Daesh strategically uses gender dynamics, particularly through the trafficking of women, as a means to finance their operations, recruit followers, and consolidate their power.2 Daesh has successfully used technology as a key tool.24 They've exploited platforms like Facebook, WhatsApp, Telegram, and Signal to promote and facilitate the trafficking of vulnerable groups, notably Yazidi women and girls. Reports indicate that up to 9,000 individuals were trafficked by Daesh. These online methods not only supported their in-person slave markets but also potentially expanded their reach to buyers outside their immediate territory, including other parts of the Middle East.24

Under the spotlight

The continuum of violence: The links between intimate partner violence and domestic violence to mass violence and radicalisation

Misogyny and support for violence against women play crucial roles in driving some individuals, including women, towards endorsing violent extremism. A 2020 study conducted by UN Women and Monash University in three countries in Asia found that individuals who condoned violence against women were three times more likely to support violent extremism.25 This correlation was consistent for both men and women. According to the study, misogyny can be seen as an early warning system or a predictor indicating a predisposition towards broader acts of violence.25

Over the past decade, a concerning pattern has emerged linking domestic abuse against women to acts of violent extremism. Several lone attackers responsible for major extremist incidents had prior records of domestic violence. For example, the individuals behind the violent extremist attacks in Boston (2013), Florida (2016), Nice (2016), and London (2017) all had documented histories of domestic abuse.26

What is the continuum of violence?

The ‘continuum of violence’ concept is used to emphasise that violence spans a spectrum from personal acts such as intimate partner violence to broader forms such as mass violence and radicalisation, highlighting the interconnectedness of these forms.

This idea, deeply rooted in social sciences and particularly significant in feminist and intersectional studies, underscores that violence is part of a larger, systemic issue rather than isolated incidents. The concept of the continuum of violence against women was developed by Liz Kelly in her book Surviving Sexual Violence.27

Through her exploration of the sexual/gender-based violence (SGBV) continuum, Kelly highlights the inherent similarities and links between all forms of SGBV, from the more prevalent and socially accepted and normalised behaviours like sexual harassment to less common but criminal acts such as incest.2829

A growing body of research underscores the connection between domestic violence and mass shootings. A comprehensive study in 2020 of three mass shooting databases focused on 89 individuals who committed mass shootings between 2014 and 2017 and included mass shooting familicides.30 The findings were: 31% (or 28 out of 89) of these shooters had a suspected history of domestic violence. Of these 28 individuals, 61% (or 17 individuals) had previous encounters with the criminal justice system due to domestic violence issues. Furthermore, six of these individuals had been convicted of domestic violence, either as a felony or misdemeanour. This research highlights an overlap between domestic violence histories and the perpetrators of mass shootings.

In an examination of 173 mass killings (defined as those in which three or more died) that occurred between 2016 and 2020 in public places in the United States, the US Secret Service’s National Threat Assessment Center found that nearly half of the perpetrators had a history of domestic violence or misogynistic behaviours,31 as in the case of the perpetrator involved in the school shooting in Uvalde, Texas.32

Misogyny and violence against women play a critical role in the pathway to violent extremism. The acceptance and perpetration of gender-based violence can be seen as both a potential precursor to, and a component of, radicalisation processes.

In the United Kingdom, research sponsored by Counter Terrorism Policing (CTP) has highlighted a notable connection between domestic abuse and individuals referred to the Prevent programme, which aims to counter radicalisation.3334 The study examined referrals made in 2019 and found that out of 3,045 individuals, 1,076 (or 35%) had some association with a domestic abuse incident, whether as a victim, offender, witness, or a mix of these roles. Notably, 15.4% of those referred to the Vulnerability to Radicalisation (V2R) programme in the age bracket of 16 to 74 had experienced domestic abuse as victims. This rate is almost triple the national average of 5.7% for the year ending March 2019, as reported by the Office for National Statistics. While both men and women in the study showed similar levels of association with domestic abuse incidents, the nature of their involvement varied. Men were more frequently offenders, while women were predominantly victims.3334

The connection between domestic violence and radicalisation is evident across various ideologies. Misogyny resonates with aggrieved men, making extremist ideologies more appealing as they validate their grievances.

Commentators have said that it’s very difficult to deny the link between private and public violence.35 A 2022 policy paper by Women without Borders36 discusses the often-overlooked connection between violent misogyny and the rise of violent extremism. As the understanding grows that violent misogyny plays a significant role in fuelling extremist ideologies, it prompts us to question why gender-based violence and discrimination have been largely absent from discussions about the root causes of extremism. It suggests that domestic violence can act as a precursor or ‘push factor’ leading individuals, especially men, towards extremist ideologies and actions.

According to Women without Borders, the omission of gender-based violence from the discourse on extremism is concerning, especially given the evidence of its influence.36 This oversight may stem from societal norms that often downplay or normalise violence against women, viewing it as a private or family matter rather than a broader societal issue. Additionally, the traditional focus on political, socio-economic, and religious drivers might have overshadowed the gendered dimensions of extremism.

Further Reading

Studies and reports: Misogyny, violence and violent extremist ideologies


We understand that this research could be confronting or upsetting for some readers. If you or someone you know needs to talk:

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