This piece of writing is part of a larger piece written with two other authors for GNET. To read the full article, please go here.


The role and activities of extremist mothers online is a present, yet under-explored topic in extremism studies. This status quo is steadily being challenged in recent years by researchers such as MattheisLeidig, and Kisyova, Veilleux-Lepage, and Newby, who have increased our understanding of how far-right female influencers empower hateful content and digital communities. However, an in-depth examination of extremist women influencers – let alone those who are mothers – across different ideological communities online remains lacking. In particular, whilst there have been studies and accounts of various online harms perpetuated within certain ‘mommy blogs’ and other mother-centric digital communities, its intersections with extremist influencers still remains to be seen. To encourage greater interest in studying extremist motherhood as a central point of analysis, this Insight provides a brief overview of how extremist mothers perform and rally their parenthood in relation to their respective extremist ideologies. In so doing, we seek to analyse how motherhood is understood and weaponised by extremist mothers themselves.

Extremist Influencer Moms: The Digital Spread of Hate

Parenting can be isolating, and the search for community can take many forms. As mothers seek camaraderie and community with other mothers online, they may confront a significant amount of extremist content. Where non-extremist mothers find this content – and where extremist mothers may seek to engage with them – varies. Generally, women tend to prefer Facebook, Pinterest, TikTok, and Instagram over sites like Twitter, Reddit, or Tumblr. The terms ‘influencer’ and ‘content creator’ are often used synonymously to describe someone who creates content for social media or web platforms for their audience, wielding a large amount of influence over them. Influencer marketing is the practice of monetising this work, rather than just posting for personal enjoyment. Through this, some use social media for financial gain, with 77% of those being women. Though most visible on mainstream platforms, activities are also present on ‘alt-tech’ spaces like Gab, Telegram, TechHaven, Hoop, and Element.

On both alternative and mainstream tech platforms, influencer marketing creates both desirable financial incentives and online communities for interested mothers. Sometimes called ‘momfluencers’ or ‘mommy bloggers,’ these users draw upon their identity as mothers to sell products (self-created or promotional) and engage with followers – a culture that extremist mothers enthusiastically exploit. And, since extremist content that peddles inflammatory, aggressive, and controversial ideas receives more engagement by algorithmic design, the influencer route has become a desirable avenue for extremist mothers to pull hateful content from the fringes.

It is important to note that not all content produced by extremist mothers is overtly extremist. As a means to avoid deplatforming on mainstream platforms, extremists utilise various content moderation evasion techniques or elect to cloak their extremism with the language of faith, family values, and seemingly banal aesthetics. Successful and sustained evasion of content moderation, then, allows opportunities for radicalisation and extreme community-making. In this, extremist influencer mothers are not passive participants in extremism, but active participants in violence, providers of new ideologies, and masterful facilitators and distributors of extremist rhetoric.

Complementarianism & Motherhood in Religious Extremist Circles

For many religious extremists, mothers are understood in divine and sanctified terms. Motherhood is not seen as a reproductive choice, but a woman’s divinely ordained role and duty to ensure the community’s survival. Here, complementarianism – a theology that argues men and women should uphold distinct but complementary social roles – is often used to bolster this worldview. Followers of this belief create myths, iconography, and activities that embrace childbearing and rearing as women’s main (if not only) contribution to the community. Drawing on this, religious extremists compensate for women’s exclusion from activities associated with masculine power, e.g. preaching or participating in combat, with promises of belonging and empowerment through childbearing. In turn, motherhood often becomes an all-encompassing and consuming identity for women within religious extremist communities. The way that these mothers express and wield this identity, however, differs across communities and platforms.