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Incels ‘cash out’: gendered violence and the economies of hate

A post written by Jazzlin Carr, based on an ANTH424 assignment.

“He doesn’t seem like that bad of a guy. He just seems hurt, like he just wants a friend or support. I always thought incels were really bad people, but he seems like a good version of them.”

I looked over at my very liberal, ultra-feminist, Jacinda Ardern-loving partner in disbelief. We had just finished watching a YouTube video from the channel Jubilee entitled “I’m An Incel. Ask Me Anything.”.[1] The short clip features a self-proclaimed incel responding to questions from the public. While his identity is hidden from those asking the questions, he is shown to the camera.

A screenshot of the Youtube video “I’m an Incel, Ask Me Anything” posted by Jubilee. In this particular frame, a woman appears to be pointedly interrogating an incel named Derrick, whose demeanour and open palms facing up depict a certain passivity and openness. Source:

An incel, otherwise known as an “involuntary celibate”, is a self-imposed label used by mostly young males who define themselves by their inability to secure romantic or sexual partners despite having the desire for them, often attributing this to their anxious or shy behaviours, women’s high standards, or their unattractiveness or below-average characteristics. [2] They are most often found in online forums, where discussions are often characterized by self-loathing, resentment of more attractive males (known as “Chads”), and misogyny.

This definition, however, is fluid depending on who you ask. As one incel claims in his blog, anyone can be an incel “as long as they show signs of […] struggling with attaining romantic relationships”. [3] Others, myself included, would characterize the self-radicalizing nature of incel communities as a key part of the definition. Take a scroll through one of the few incel chatrooms that have not been blacklisted from internet servers and you’ll be hard-pressed to find a single discussion that does not dehumanize women, promote racist ideologies, encourage violence, or celebrate incels who have murdered women out of spite. [4]

You may not have assumed such a thing if your only portrayal of incels is from the Jubilee video I noted above. The incel featured, named Derrick, coolly responds to a variety of questions. He reacts to leading questions with calmness and ensures the interviewers that he is there “to give more of a positive light on [the incel] community”. He discusses his mindset, believing that “promiscuity leads to increased standards in more primitive aspects such as looks and that typically makes it harder for some people to find relationships” and generalizes this to cities such as “[Los Angeles] or London, or in Auckland, New Zealand”. He notes that it was “constant years of rejection” that led him to more “radical beliefs” which he equates to “old beliefs”. It is also noteworthy that he was very quick to say that he condemns the actions of mass murders identifying as incels. Instead, he thinks “the reason why they committed those actions was […] desperation, or […] mental problems.”. When watching the video again, I can understand where my partner’s empathy to Derrick comes from. His demure presence, calm responses, and position as a “traditionalist” who has been hurt time after time again presents a convincing case towards justifying the incel perspective as a matter of difference of opinions, or a wounded community seeking internal support.

But what is the actual impact of this point of view, on the lives and bodies of women? I turn to the writing of British-Australian scholar, Sara Ahmed, to explore this:

“It is the failure of hate to be located in a given object or figure, which allows it to generate the effects that it does” (2004, p49). 

In her book The Cultural Politics of Emotion, author Sara Ahmed discusses the organization of hate, and considers its circulation as both a defence mechanism for those who see another body as a threat to something they love, as well as its impacts on the figures who have been aligned by the narrative of hate as the “common enemy”. [5]

Her analysis seemed fitting for this topic and applying it to the performance of incels has me wonder if it may clarify why Derrick’s narrative could almost seem, dare I say, justified.

In a chapter on hate, Ahmed’s overarching theme is that hate operates as a sort of economy. Essentially, hate is fluid and moves between bodies and signs, and is not fixed on one subject. If an incel posts a rant on a chatroom about his displeasure with a woman who rejected him that day, the specific woman involved is simply a “nodal point in the economy”. The hate has another origin and destination, one which is more broadly connected to the perceived threat towards something the incel desires. In this instance, it may be their desire for a relationship and feeling loved. From this perspective, the hate’s origin was not in the encounter with the individual woman, but rather in years of rejection. The destination of that hate is not towards her, but rather, to a common body of women which the incel deems as a threat to ‘traditional’ relationships that they wish to participate in, but feel they are blocked from. In this example, we see how an incels hate is economic.

It is this inability of hate to be fixated that allows it to grow and fester in these groups. The vagueness of the enemy allows for particular narratives to be applied to any individual who may appear to be a part of that group.  In the case of the incels, any woman could therefore fit the narrative as being a threat to traditional relationships.

But how does this economy of hate affect the bodies of the group considered a “threat”?

“There can, in fact, be no hatred until there has been long-continued frustration and disappointment” (Glenn Allport, in The Nature of Prejudice, quoted by Ahmed 2004, p50). 

Derricks relatively innocuous comments contribute to the investment of hate towards women by furthering a narrative that their desire for more liberal roles and modern lifestyles is raising their expectations of men to the extreme, so that more traditional or less attractive men can no longer find relationships or love. For one, it is rhetoric that seals female bodies as objects of hate. This kickstarts a chain of effects that promote and support violence. It contributes to real physiological symptoms for those who must live in these bodies in a number of broader ways too. This is evident in the below photo, selected by Stuff for its news article on the event in 2015, which depicts the consequences of incel behavior on women who are not direct victims of its violence, who instead may suffer from fear, post-traumatic stress disorder, nightmares and anxiety

Two women comfort each other following the Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Oregon. This attack killed 10 and injured eight others. The attacker was an incel, who expressed sexual frustration and blamed women’s standards for his virginity at age 26. Credit: Steve Dipaola/Reuters. Source:

If hate is an economy, it also performs as a form of capital. The effect of an incel’s hate does not reside solely in the individual object of their displeasure, but rather accumulates over time. I would take Ahmed’s imagery of hate as an economy a step further, and argue that is when these investments pile up and a member of the threatened community tries to “cash out” on this accumulated capital of hate that violence is used as a defence against the hated bodies. The collection of testimonies of rejection, frustration, and disappointment found on these incel chat rooms becomes so overwhelming that an incel feels justified in reacting with violence, in the same way as a person who has accumulated savings may feel enticed to splurge with the surplus.

The investment of hate on these chatrooms is made evident in the justification of violence on  women when researching any of the major incel-led terror attacks of the past couple decades. After a one self-described incel posted a 137-page manifesto to a chatroom in 2014, he would thereafter kill six people and wound fourteen more in Isla Vista, California. The reaction from the online incel community was one of praise; his face quickly photoshopped onto Christian icons, and his name being associated as the “primary incel ‘saint’”, a reflection of how they believed he was the saviour of incel values. [6] In 2015, an incel in Oregon shot and killed nine classmates and a professor, and injured eight others, in what he described in his manifesto as the reaction of his frustrations to being a virgin at 26. The reaction from the incel community was one of support and empathy, with one user commenting a poem, reading “society failed him/it’s not his fault/don’t blame him/he was the hero we deserved.”. [7]

A screenshot taken from an incel forum in August 2020. The commentator notes how the van attack in Toronto was “lifefuel” for them. They go on to note preferred methods of killing in “ER” attacks, a popular incel abbreviation for violent attacks. “ER” is a reference to the initials of the “Saint” of the incel community, the Isla Vista killer. Source:

In 2018, an incel in Toronto, Ontario used a rented van to kill ten victims and injure an additional sixteen, as a form of revenge for perceived sexual rejection from women. Most clearly evidencing the use of hate as capital for the incel community, one commentator on a chatroom posted “This shit right here is lifefuel for me”. [1]

A photo (taken 24 April 2018) of the impromptu memorial created by local residents after the Toronto Van Attack, where a man drove along the sidewalk for 2 kilometers, purposefully hitting as many pedestrians as it could. The perpetrator posted on his Facebook account shortly before the attack, with a statement referencing a man considered to be the “Saint” of incels. Credit: Quentin9906. Source: Wikimedia Commons.

The original quote from my partner, that opened this blog, shows how important it is to grasp the economy of hate. Even though my partner did not agree with Derrick’s views, the empathy he felt for him could be a slippery slope into justifying the mindset of an incel, thus giving their alignment of female bodies as a threat imagined ground.

The accumulation and investment of this hate is what contributes to not only the everyday pain and victimization of women but leads to the in-group justification of violent expressions of hate, performed in terror attacks such as those mentioned above. In recognizing the performance of hate as an economy, one can work to actively question its impacts and limit the influence one perspective may have on the incel community.




[1] I’m An Incel. Ask Me Anything. (2019). YouTube. Available at:

[2] Opinion | Men are in trouble. ‘Incels’ are proof. [online] Washington Post. Available at:

[3] SeventhQueen (2020). The Incel Among Us. [online] Incel Blog. Available at:

[4] Inceldom Discussion [Online] Source:

[5] Ahmed, S. (2015). The cultural politics of emotion. New York: Routledge Taylor & Francis Group.

[6] Beauchamp, Z. (2019). Incels: a definition and investigation into a dark internet corner. [online] Vox. Available at:

[7] (n.d.). ‘Beta Males’ Want To Kill Women Because They Can’t Get Laid. [online] Available at:

[8] We Hunted The Mammoth. (2018). Incels hail Toronto van driver who killed 10 as a new Elliot Rodger, talk of future acid attacks and mass rapes [UPDATED]. [online] Available at:

Women Walking Alone: An ethnographic soundscape

A soundscape produced by Laura Gunther, for ANTH210 (Translating Culture)


About the soundscape: 

The soundscape I produced for ANTH210 responded to my research question: ‘What are some of the challenging experiences of being (cisgender) female in Dunedin?’

This is a topic that felt most relevant to me and what was/is applicable to Dunedin culture. In order to encompass this in an audio format, I explored both my personal experiences as a woman, along with those experienced by others through a collection of audio recordings, woven together to produce the sound of a woman walking alone at night.

About the ANTH210 process: 

The process of recording the soundscape audio came with its challenges; sound interruption was one of them. Many of my audio clips had to be re-recorded in order to achieve what I wanted out of my ethnographic research. Furthermore, finding relevant audio recordings came as a struggle. It came as quite a challenge to decide upon sounds produced within Dunedin that would provide me with the environment I had pictured within my mind. While this was eventually resolved, I also feared that my lack of technological experience would interfere with the quality of my soundscape, and I continued to believe this up until its submission. But thankfully, I recall that technological experience is not what defines the quality of a soundscape – rather it is its content and how it all comes together that matters.

My chosen format for the soundscape was intended to immerse the listener into the mind of a fearful woman – as many feel – when travelling alone at night. While this is not felt by all women, I wanted to produce a soundscape that was a harsh reality. Through these chosen sounds, a woman’s experiences, along with fears, is captured – producing an insight as to what a woman may experience – even in a student environment such as Dunedin.

Speaking to Socks: An Anthropologist gets KonMari-ed

Marie Kondo’s 2014 book, which was a #1 New York Times Bestseller, is reaching new fame through a Netflix TV series in 2019.

Three years ago, I (an anthropologist, feminist, mother, and wife) bought a book. The book was The Life Changing Magic of Tidying.  

I read it. I loved it. I sorted my entire house and started folding things for the first time in years. Then I tucked the book into the far corner of a bookshelf and quietly kept folding.

Now suddenly it is cool, and I can come out of the (miraculously tidy) closet as a fan of Marie Kondo.

An image of my husband’s socks and undies drawer, which I ‘Kondo-ed’ last weekend. Am I a bad feminist, or a good wife? No idea, but it sure was satisfying. NB. Marie recommends folding socks and storing upright… ‘balled up’ socks are angsty socks!



On the electric updraft from the Netflix ‘Tidying up with Marie Kondo’ special, there has been a frenzy of decluttering across New Zealand. There are reports of op-shops closing under a flood of donated goods.  Kitchens cupboards across the country have never been so organised. Garages have never seemed so spacious. Folding is at an all-time high. 

Having run out of drawers to tidy myself, I thought it was time to put on my anthropology hat for a moment and ask: Does this craze mean anything? What is it about a small cheerful Japanese woman who speaks to socks, that is also resonating so deeply in the USA, and NZ, at this moment?

Decluttering the context: gender, class, and the ‘spirit’ of things

Let’s be clear, there is a gendered component to this trend: and I’ll admit the amount of thought I give to stratagizing about the organisation and maintenance of my home gives me mixed feelings as a feminist. The burden of both physical and mental labour to do with the house is typically female. There is also a classed component: the ability to buy, the types of things we buy, and how we view material possessions in relation to both identity and security, in socioeconomic categories and inequalities. Not to mention where and how we are housed. It’s fair to view the success of KonMarie as a largely middle-class female phenomena.

It is interesting too though, how a method that in many ways relates to Asian apartment-style living became so successfully exportable to the USA, NZ, and many other western nations. The geographic component seems no obstacle, but is there a something deeper: a cultural component? And how does it translate?

It seems to me that Marie’s method draws on distinctly Japanese (or at very least, non-European) ways of seeing the world. Particularly what could be broadly called ‘animism’, which is a belief in the aliveness, the ‘essence’ of both sentient and non-sentient things. Animism allows that animals, trees, rocks, mountains, rivers… and yes, socks… all have a ‘spirit’.

This approach to paves the way for a holism that sees our material life as entangled with our own physical, spiritual, and social wellbeing and success.

“What I’d like you to remember as you go through this process is that you’re not alone, the house itself and all your belongings are there to support you and go with you”  – Marie to recently-widowed Margie (from ‘Sparking Joy after a loss: episode * in ‘Tidying Up with Marie Kondo’ (Netflix 2019).

So I’m interested to ask now more than ever: in the traditionally dualist or materialist ‘West’, what is drawing us to (or driving us to?) this more animist way of understanding material life?

Joy! (and the dogs of dread on its heels)

Marie Kondo’s central mantra is to surround yourself with only things that ‘spark joy’. Doesn’t that sound delightful? But I think it’s uptake makes most sense when we recognise that material things in many people’s homes, in their amount if not their nature, sparks not joy but shame, anger, dread and exhaustion.

A relatively small pile compared to some of the mountains features in the Netflix show. Image source:

Indeed the ‘pile it all up’ part of Marie’s method is designed to confront, and motivate. It certainly highlights the troubling excesses of capitalist consumer society (though that is hopefully news to no-one). This is where the Netflix show grabs me. Watching the mothers, the widows, the retirees – their struggle, their suffocation. Then eventually, their relief.

Honestly I am myself light-years from being a minimalist, before OR after Marie Kondo upends my home. In fact it  is the persistence and constancy of clutter in my life brings, it’s crushing weight, that most draws me to KonMari.

One of iteration of memes emerging around Marie Kondo. Source:

I believe that the way ‘we’ (middle-class folk in developed countries) experience this material crisis of clutter in our homes is in its own way, as an existential crisis. I think that the frustration and paralysis about stuff, and what to do with it, goes far beyond being a practical concern. Rather it embodies deep uncertainties about moral ways of living and being; of relating between both present and absent family members; of reconciling past, present, and imagined futures, in our homes and our lives. It is in this context that KonMari method appears as such a shining salvation… a gently charted path (with a cheerful guide) through a minefield of shame, uncertainty, and kitchen appliances.

Certainly when I think about it, it’s not the meaningless-ness of the stuff in my home that bothers me, it’s its meaningfulness. In fact it makes me question the taken-for-granted connection between materialism and individualism. So much of the stuff that entangles us is not because of any innate qualities of the things themselves. It’s not only stuff we bought, but stuff we were given. Stuff we inherited, or hope to pass on. Things that represent who we were, or who we want to be. Things we like to show off, things we want to forget are even there. It’s about social relationships, and identities, memories and hopes and connections. It’s not really material at all. Or individual.  

The KonMari method simply lets us acknowledge that. It asks us to feel that, in fact –   intimately, as we hold each item in our hands. It reminds us that our homes and our possessions have a history: a social quality and an experiential one. Why not call it a ‘spirit’? Why not speak to it when we want to make a change? It might just work, and here is why…

Why it works: Ritual, emotion, and behaviour

Ritual is a powerful tool for dealing with emotion, and it is sprinkled all throughout the KonMari method: Greeting a house. Feeling a casserole dish. Waking up piles of books. Thanking a pair of socks.

Rituals by definition are actions that carry shared meaning. But they don’t just solidify existing meanings – they can also change them. Rituals are often used to transition things (and people) between different categories.  So even a small moment of saying ‘thank you’ to used items can make it easier to mentally move them from the category of ‘possession’ to that of ‘donation’ or ‘trash’, which in turns makes it easier to change our behaviour towards it. To let it go. This works for items we keep as well – rituals of holding, feeling joy, and even folding can and do have the ability to change and how those items will be treated and experienced by their owners.

As an avid second-hand shopper, my wardrobe has always been particularly out of control, but I enjoy my clothes more now not only because I have less and can actually see them in the wardrobe, but because I value them more. They don’t just have functional value, but each one is deliberately chosen, treasured. I find I also think twice before I buy more because I know and value what I have. Also when I do farewell an item I can recognise what it has already given me, rather than feeling guilty.

In this way the KonMarie method is not ‘anti-stuff’ at all. Quite the opposite… it teaches a love, connection, and attachment to material life that seems antithetical to goals of decluttering, but isn’t. It opens a space that paradoxically begins to bring an almost hedonism, to minimalism – but one distinct from the excesses of consumerism.

Image result for marie kondo netflix

Marie Kondo. Image source:!/fileImage/httpImage/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/16x9_780/marie-kondo.jpg

When a drawer closes, a window opens…

A summary of these brief anthropological thoughts would be this: Emerging from a Japanese context, the KonMari method is somehow also a timely response to western existential crises of clutter (that are moral, as well as material). Yes it is practical, but it is more than that.

With a persistent cheer and a handful of quiet rituals, Marie is opening a small window in the stuffy room of western rationality. Her methods let us acknowledge our relationship to places and things at the level of affect and being. To both hold on, and let go, with joy.

And with happier socks.  


Women ‘blue’ and bleeding: Witches in contemporary East Indonesia

**Originally published on the ANTH424: Anthropology of evil blog, 22nd June 2018**

Written and visual accounts of witches have changed dramatically across cultures and time.  Witches were once described by Europeans in the sixteenth century as old and evil, with wrinkled and deformed features, and are now being depicted in contemporary popular culture as feminist figures who have a pale complexion, and are glamorous and beautiful [1][2]. The visual traits of contemporary witches of East Indonesia are quite distinct from what we encounter in these European historical accounts and in popular culture.

Witches, known as dukun in Indonesia have played a fundamental role in the lives of many East Indonesians, and have impacted how they structure their communities[3]. In this post I analyse how their visual traits and characteristics relate to Mary Douglas’s[4] ideas about the relationship between the body and sociality, purity and pollution. Douglas argues that the body is a symbol of society that requires order and classification, and by referring to East Indonesian witches, one can distinguish this.

In some areas of East Indonesia, there are no distinct visual traits that set apart witches within their communities. Konstantinos Retsikas ethnography [3] concerning sorcery in East Java, Indonesia, noted that both the instigator and the sorcerer remain hidden in fear of being killed. People can only rely on rumours and whispered accusations to identify witches within East Java. As a witch, blending in is the safest approach. At the same time, they share the same motives of envy, greed and jealousy that is common in everyone, challenging people’s ability to accurately recognise the witches within their community.

Although due to this lack of distinct visual traits, Retsikas found that in East Java sorcery accusations always tend to focus on one’s relatives, neighbours, friends and work colleagues. Convivial intimacy is risky and choosing one’s friends wisely is critical. Hence, their unidentifiable traits protect some witches, but also leads to uncertainty and moral panic amongst the people of East Java. The unmarked body of witches impacts the communities ability to keep things pure and in order, affecting how members of East Java respond to one another in times of conflict. Thus, this reflects on Douglas’s idea concerning how the body, whether marked or unmarked, is a key symbol in identifying how a community functions.

A key trait prominent in Kodi female hereditary witches from the coastal villages of Sumba is their association with “blue arts” [5].

In Janet Hoskins ethnography, she recognised the transformation of Kodi women into witches led to the appearance of the shade blue in and around their body. As she mentioned, “Hereditary witches have “blueness in them”, they are “bluish people” (tou morongo) whose very blood is believed to be in some way poisonous to others… Blueness is said to be deep inside the liver (ela ate dalo) of a witch, a kind of poison that can affect others even without her willing it” [5]: 322. This poisonous trait is a reflection of pollution and signifies the darkness within hereditary witches. When they are exposed to this powerful trait that can harm the community and their formal structure, it pushes witches into the margins. “Blue arts” or “blueness” found internally and externally in hereditary witches sets them apart from other Kodi women, making them vulnerable to discrimination by their community, and powerful at the same time. Thus, their polluting body has the potential to disrupt the communities social structure and create fear amongst people.

Menstrual blood is a powerful characteristic associated with witchcraft.

Both Konstantinos Retsikas and Janet Hoskins ethnographic study explore the significance of menstrual blood and how the substance has impacted how some villages in East Indonesia function today. In the Huaulu community, Hoskins found that they have strict menstrual taboos to protect their people. Menstruating women are required to stay in menstruating huts away from the men until their cycle has finished. Menstrual blood is believed to be a dangerous and contaminating substance of witches, and can lead to men becoming extremely ill if they come in contact with it. Hence, Huaulu women accept this menstrual taboo as it is seen as a way of protecting the men within their community, and keeps their village pure and clean.

Huaulu strict taboo and the significance of menstrual blood for many other East Indonesian villages relates to Mary Douglas’s idea about the relationship between the body and sociality, purity and pollution. According to Douglas, “The body is a model which can stand for any bounded system”[4]: 115. The bounded system in Huaulu expresses anxiety about the body and its fluids, while at the same time it administers care and protection for the group. Some argue that specific parts of the body, particularly menstrual blood symbolises “dirt [that] offends against order”[4]: 2.  Although in Huaulu, their community members are effectively engaging with this polluted and “dirty” substance by creating strict taboos around it, leading to the development of relationships and the strengthening of social order. Therefore, the significance of menstrual blood and its association with witches impacts how Indonesians culturally construct their communities.

Although there are no distinct traits that set apart Indonesian witches in some areas, they continue to play a fundamental role for numerous citizens. Their presence within key substances, and power to cause positive change and conflict within one’s life does not go unnoticed. At the same time, their features relate to Mary Douglas’s ideas of the relationship between the body and sociality, purity and pollution in many ways, affecting how people of East Indonesia function in contemporary society.

Written by: Pulegaomalo Muliagatele-Carter


[1] Briggs 2002: p.15 in Mencej, M. (2007) ‘7- Social Witchcraft: Village Witches’. In: Styrian Witches in European Perspective: Ethnographic Fieldwork, London: Palgrave Macmillan, pp. 313-346.

[2] Buckley, C. (2017) ‘Witches in Popular Culture’. [online]. The Open University. Available from: [Accessed 14 June 2018].

[3] Retsikas, K. (2010) ‘The Sorcery of Gender: Sex, Death and Difference in East Java, Indonesia’. South East Asia Research, 18(3), pp. 471-502.

[4] Douglas, M. (1966) Purity and Danger: An Analysis of Concepts of Pollution and Taboo. London: Routledge and K. Paul.

[5] Hoskins, J. (2002) ‘The Menstrual Hut and The Witch’s Lair in Two Eastern Indonesian Societies.’ Ethnology, 41(4), pp. 317-333.