Extreme Britain

Gender, Masculinity and Radicalisation

December 2023 9781787389465 280pp
Available as an eBook Available from Oxford Scholarship Online
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Misogyny and ‘toxic masculinity’ are increasingly implicated in radicalisation. From the men’s incel (‘involuntary celibate’) movement online, to jihadist groups like Islamic State, to radical right ‘Free Speech’ protests —radicalisation spans ideologies. Though an often-used term, the process of radicalisation is not well understood, and the role of gender and masculinities has often been ignored. This book uses primary research among two of Britain’s key extremist movements: the banned Islamist group al-Muhajiroun, and those networked to it; and the anti-Islam radical right, including the English Defence League and Britain First, to reveal radicalisation as a masculinity project.

Through interviews with leaders including Anjem Choudary, Jayda Fransen and Tommy Robinson, as well as their followers, Extreme Britain explores the emergence of extreme misogyny and masculinities. Pearson situates extreme identities in wider social norms, showing how masculinities are mobilised into action. The book cautions against oversimplifying extreme masculinity as ‘toxic’. It demonstrates how both men and women ‘do’ extreme masculinities and the costs and benefits to them both of activism.

Understanding the men and women involved in extreme movements will better equip us to counter them. This fascinating study offers invaluable insight into some of their lives and motivations.


‘‍In this fascinating study, Pearson… presents nearly a decade’s worth of research into Britain’s radical right.’ — Security Women

‘A page-turning, exemplary recent history of the roles of masculinities in different extremisms found in Britain. Elegantly blending engaging first-hand accounts with accessible conceptualisations, this sets a standard with which all future work on gender and extremism will be compared.’ — Paul Gill, Professor of Security and Crime Science, University College London, and author of Lone-Actor Terrorists 

‘Extreme Britain combines powerful research, smart analysis and timely intervention to show that radicalisation is always and necessarily gendered—producing a must-read text for anyone who is interested in understanding contemporary extremism, in Britain and globally.’ — Laura Sjoberg, British Academy Global Professor of Politics and International Relations, Royal Holloway University of London, and author of Gendering Global Conflict

‘The first in-depth comparative account of how masculinities shape participation in extremist movements in the UK. Empirically rich, compelling and beautifully written, it should be widely read.’ — David Duriesmith, Lecturer in Gender and Politics, University of Sheffield, and author of Masculinity and New War

‘A compelling and very readable study of how gender informs and shapes extremism in contemporary Britain. With its in-depth focus on the specific local, national and international discourses of extremism, it fills an important gap in the literature. A necessary and extremely well-executed book.’ — Leonie B. Jackson, Assistant Professor of International Relations, Northumbria University, and author of The Monstrous and the Vulnerable: Framing British Jihadi Brides

‘In Extreme Britain, Pearson fills the long-lamented gap in terrorism studies on masculinities, misogyny and extremism. This is an exceptionally researched, sensitively written candid examination of the relationship between the far-right in its various forms, masculinities and extremist engagement.’ — Caron Gentry, Faculty Pro Vice-Chancellor for Arts, Design and Social Sciences, Northumbria University, and author of Disordered Violence: How Gender, Race and Heteronormativity Structure Terrorism


Elizabeth Pearson PhD, formerly a BBC radio journalist, is Lecturer in Criminology with the Conflict, Violence and Terrorism Research Centre at Royal Holloway, University of London, and an associate fellow with the Royal United Services Institute and the International Centre for Counter-Terrorism. She co-authored Countering Violent Extremism: Making Gender Matter.

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