Proto-Incel Biology:

John Chrysostom on Women’s Hair in 1 Corinthians 11

There are a few similarities between the modern group known as incels and ancient Christian monks.

  • They’re all men except for a few odd cases (i.e. the cross dressing nuns like Matrona of Perge and femcels)
  • They’re celibate (involuntarily so in the case of incels)
  • Cel(l)s are important to both of them
  • They’re often antisemitic
  • Skepticism about women, and especially women’s power, pervades their writings, for example:  
John Chrysostom (d.407) , Homily 9 on 1 Timothy trans. Schaff:Anonymous Incels on the Internet[1]
If it be asked, what has this to do with women of the present day? It shows that the male sex enjoyed the higher honor. Man was first formed; and elsewhere he shows their superiority. Neither was the man created for the woman, but the woman for the man. [1 Corinthians 11:9] Why then does he say this? He wishes the man to have the preeminence in every way; both for the reason given above, he means, let him have precedence, and on account of what occurred afterwards. For the woman taught the man once, and made him guilty of disobedience, and wrought our ruin. Therefore because she made a bad use of her power over the man, or rather her equality with him, God made her subject to her husband.[2](1) The fault is with men? But women are doing what nature intended. lolwut? Women destroyed ever civilization that has ever existed, just like they are destroying the West. Are you wearing blinders? Female nature is on display and you are blaming men. Who votes for all this destructive crap? Is it the men? (2) All because they don’t understand how women are holding back mankind for developing. They don’t know why monogamy prevents women from destroying male projects by giving attention to some men and not others. How that makes the unchosen men feel, and how it degrades progress, how it creates conflict, how it causes inequality in society, poverty, hunger, and homelessness.

Now, the subject of gender in the ancient Christian world is a complex and fascinating topic. John Chrysostom, the author I chose for this post, is himself extremely complicated and both his rhetoric and actions do not conform with modern expectations.[3] Chrysostom was a powerful, influential, and contentious monk who served as Archbishop of Constantinople. He preached thousands of homilies, many of which survive to this day. In this post, we will be looking together at his Homily 26 on 1 Corinthians.

Women’s Anatomy

But another feature that both groups of men share is an understanding of women’s anatomy that does not conform to modern scientific models. The Church Fathers do have a valid excuse – modern science hadn’t been invented yet, and they were working with an Aristotelian framework. In their world, women were just deformed men and in reproduction, the man gives the stuff of the soul. It was the best they could do at the time.

Modern incels don’t really have an excuse. Yes, among Americans, there is a general lack of awareness of women’s biology – one 2022 study found that only 9% of participants could label the 7 major features of women’s genitalia correctly on a medical diagram. This would not be surprising to anyone who has even glanced at r/badwomensanatomy.

But incels have created an imaginary anatomy that conforms to what they imagine women’s bodies should be rather than the real thing. For incels, biology is a doctrine, not a science. And they demonize women who are not what they imagine women should be.


But one peculiar obsession that captured both many Greek Fathers and still captures incels is women’s hair, and the insistence that there is something biologically different about it than men’s hair. For the record, there is no evidence that there is any physiological difference between male and female hair, and those genes are not carried on sex chromosomes (as even people trying to sell hair products will admit). In fact, a recent article claiming that there is some detectable, microscopic difference was retracted due to fabricated data![4]

A lot of Incel talk is about body hair:

But there is also a strong stigma against women with short hair:

Women are supposed to have long hair because of biology – it’s how God made her.

As this Incel/PUA “Male Monarchs” Wiki puts it, “Female hair length is a feminine characteristic that correlates to beauty, fertility, and health.”[5] It’s something natural, but it is also about men’s authority. Consider:

There is a mix between long hair, nature/biology, shame, women’s power, and the proper place of a woman. These same four features present themselves John Chrysostom’s Homily 26 on 1 Corinthians, when he tries to untangle Paul’s commands about veiling in 1 Corinthians 11.

Reading 1 Corinthians 11:2-16

1 Corinthians 11:2-16 is a notoriously tricky passage to read. I hope, at some point, to dedicate more time to the passage itself in a later post. It is a passage that is wrapped up in modern debates about women’s ordination, women’s right to preach, and women’s rights. In the ancient world, it was a locus of debate about whether or to what extent women were made in the image of God and found itself embroiled in trinitarian controversies.  But for our purposes today, Paul’s challenge is an invitation to understand what these church fathers think about women’s hair. Paul writes:

13 Judge for yourselves: Is it proper for a woman to pray to God with her head unveiled? 14 Does not nature itself teach you that, if a man wears long hair, it is dishonoring to him, 15 but if a woman has long hair, it is her glory? For her hair is given to her for a covering. 16 But if anyone is disposed to be contentious—we have no such custom, nor do the churches of God.

What does John Chrysostom do with this? Well, we see in his Homily 26 on 1 Corinthians (trans. Chambers, available in full here). Chrysostom writes:

(on 11:6) For it is one and the same thing, says Paul, as if she were shaven [as if her head were bare]. But if any say, And how is it one, if this woman have the covering of nature, but the other who is shaven have not even this? we answer, that as far as her will goes, she threw that off likewise by having the head bare. And if it be not bare of tresses, that is nature’s doing, not her own. So that as she who is shaven has her head bare, so this woman in like manner. For this cause He left it to nature to provide her with a covering, that even of it she might learn this lesson and veil herself.

  • Basically, Chrysostom argues that Paul equates wearing a head covering and having long hair, and that women’s hair grows long by nature to teach her the importance of veiling. Earlier in the homily, he argues that nature in this case is God, the creator. This however raising the question:

(on 11:15) And if it be given her for a covering, say you, wherefore need she add another covering? That not nature only, but also her own will may have part in her acknowledgment of subjection. For that you ought to be covered nature herself by anticipation enacted a law. Add now, I pray, your own part also, that you may not seem to subvert the very laws of nature; a proof of most insolent rashness, to buffet not only with us, but with nature also.

  • So…women have this natural covering given to them by God, their hair. But growing out her hair, as was intended by nature, is not enough – women also need to cover their head with another cover, Chrysostom thinks, to specifically acknowledge their subjugation. He continues:

(on 11:15) And again, Paul rebuking the unclean among the Romans thus aggravates the accusation, saying, that their usage was not only against the law of God, but even against nature. For they changed the natural use into that which is against nature [Romans 1:26].

  • Women, when they have short hair, violate nature itself, not only the law of God.

In Conclusion:

There are many key differences between what John Chrysostom and the incels think. For one, the purpose of long hair in the John Chrysostom is for modesty – not to make women more attractive. But there is a strong evocation of shame in John Chrysostom’s work, following the original passage which is also present in incel discourse. Women who cut their hair do so to their shame. Long hair is something natural to women. Short hair, for both incels and for Chrysostom, is a sign of women usurping male power. There is a connection, both in Chrysostom and these incels, between women’s hair length, shame, and subjugation.


[2] Translated by Philip Schaff. From Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, First Series, Vol. 13. Edited by Philip Schaff. (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1889.) Revised and edited for New Advent by Kevin Knight. <>.

[3] In some cases, monasticism was expected to dissolve the difference in gender, usually resulting in the destruction of the feminine. In John Wortley’s edition/translation of the Saying of the Desert Fathers for example,we see: N.154/4.75 A monk who encountered some nuns on the road withdrew from the road. Their leader said to him: “If you were a perfect monk you would not have noticed that we are women.” On John Chrysostom, See for example: Mayer, Wendy. “John Chrysostom and Women Revisited.” In Men and Women in the Early Christian Centuries, edited by Ian J. Elmer, 211–25. Strathfield, NSW: St Pauls, 2014.; Papadimitriou, Lamprini. “‘A Gender Transcendence’ The Woman in John Chrysostom’s Epistles to Women.” In Interdisciplinarity of Religious Studies: Interaction of Culture, History, Religion, edited by Tarik Ziyad Gulcu, 29–41. Warsaw: IRF Press, 2017.; Wet, Chris de. “The Formation Of Masculinity In John Chrysostom’s Medicaltheological Discourse.” Radboud University, 2019.

[4] “Retraction: Comparative Study of Male and Female Human Hair: A Microscopic Analysis.” Journal of Advanced Pharmaceutical Technology & Research 14, no. 3 (2023): 282. Sources that insist on a biological difference are frequently using data from hair loss/aging, which is related to hormones – see for example







2 responses to “Proto-Incel Biology:”

  1. TG Avatar

    When I married my wife she had short hair…

  2. David Lee Avatar
    David Lee

    These people sure do care a lot about women’s hair for being the sort of “manly men” they claim to be

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