How a Misogynistic Identity Took a Murderous Turn
Monday seems so long ago, but it was only yesterday. My day was wholly unremarkable, but it was a good day. And for me, good days are hard to come by. But yesterday was a good day, fantastic even. I woke up, had yummy cereal my child alter, Shoshanna, bought rather impulsively, went to my Chiropractic appointment, got some good news about something I had come forward about, and it was beautifully sunny out!
However, that quickly changed as I started getting calls from scared and screaming family members demanding to know if I was safe, to know where I was, and then Facebook chimed with a Safety Alert.
A 25-year-old college student, and self-identified Incel, rented a cargo van and with malicious intent and started hitting pedestrians on the bustling and populated Yonge street in Toronto, Canada. At the end of the carnage, the terrorist had killed ten people and injured 15 others. His attack lasted 26 minutes and spanned a kilometer (0.6 miles). This morning (Tuesday) he appeared in court on ten counts of 1st-degree murder and 13 counts of attempted murder.
Before I go any further, I want to explain to you want an “Incel” is and the history behind the word. Believe it or not, "Incel,” or involuntarily celibate, was a term coined by a Queer Toronto woman, Alana, in the 90s to give a name to how she was feeling at the time. It morphed into something horrific. During an interview with Elle Magazine in the March 2016 issue, Alana is quoted saying: "I can't uninvent this word, nor restrict it to the nicer people who need it.”
Alana started a community with good and genuine intentions; a home for all Incels; where rigid gender norms and lack of openness around sexuality burdened everyone, especially in the early 90s. There were and are so many ways for people to end up lonely; from awkwardness to mental illness, to over-investment in the illusion of “normal.”
However, since the dawn of time, men did to the Incel movement what they always do: they hijacked it. Men began to identify as being “involuntarily celibate,” not because of awkwardness or mental illness or disability, because of misogyny. Self-described Incels today are almost entirely men who are laser-focused on their inability to have sex and blame women when they can’t get laid. Of the manosphere communities (an informal network of blogs, forums, and websites dedicated to issues relating to men and masculinity), Incels are the most aggressively misogynistic.
Are Incels just Men’s Rights Activists (MRAs)? No, Incels differ in a very specific way from Men's Rights Activists. While both movements are misogynistic at their core, MRAs deploy a human rights framework to argue that men are oppressed. Incels don't talk about rights; they hate everyone.
Let me be very clear: mental illness is a complete cop-out when it comes to gender-based violence. Do some people who engage in gender-based violence experience mental illness? Probably. But if that were the root cause, then we wouldn’t see these acts being committed almost exclusively by men.
I know a lot of young men struggle with their relationship to masculinity, and, in the absence of good role models for healthy masculinity, turn to things like the Incel movement to explain the loneliness and disillusionment they feel. However, my compassion and empathy are very short-lived in these situations. Hating the very population you want to have intimacy with is not an adequate game plan! It’s like asking Trump not to tweet. It won’t happen!
Until we look at gender-based violence through the lens of *toxic masculinity, we’re not going to get anywhere. Blaming it on “mental illness” completely glosses over the fact that we live in a misogynistic culture that glorifies a whole lot of dangerous attitudes toward women.
So, how do we recognize misogyny or Incels?
- Incels are all superfans of Elliot Rodgers, who in 2014, wrote a manifesto describing how women rejected him so he went on a shooting rampage, killing six people and injuring 14.
- Incels are hella racist, and will obsessively focus their anger toward interracial relationships. The element of racial panic is prominent in Elliot Rodger's manifesto.
- Incels have a variety of memes and tropes that they return to consistently, such as "Stacy" (attractive women who have sex) or "Chad" (attractive men who have sex).
- Non-Incels are described as "normies" and they're also ridiculed for having sex.
Again, they hate E V E R Y O N E.
Incels are radicalized on the following sites: /pol/ on 4chan. R/Incels on Reddit was popular before it was shutdown. Then they moved to r/braincels, but it's not as widely used. Also SlutHate, the forum where Elliot Rodger posted (formerly PUAHate). So, parents reading this: add these sites to the parental control.
Incels often play out violent fantasies online. People who report on the community, like David Futrelle, have been trying to warn the public that more Incels will turn those fantasies into reality. Even now they're talking about acid attacks & mass rapes.
The path to radicalization for Incels often starts with the Red Pill/Pick-Up Artist communities. They try to utilize the pseudo-scientific/ dehumanizing seduction techniques, still can't get laid & become infuriated. That's the path Elliot Rodger went down.
In the aftermath of the Toronto terrorist attack men are expressing shock and dismay over the misogynistic radicalization of young men through Incel communities. A lot of men are asking what they can do. Here’s the paramount thing men can do: model healthy masculinity to each other. In other words; bring back bromances. Healthy ones though, not the weird Hollywood caricature kind of bromance. But ones based on genuine intimacy.
By building healthy masculine relationships, maintaining them and educating the young on misogyny, hopefully, we won’t have to live in fear of our safety and the safety of others when we say NO to sex. Yes, I live in hope that one day my NO, and the NOs of everyone will be respected and adhered to without the fear of violence, rape, or retaliation.
PS: Do not have sex with misogynistic dudebros. If they don’t respect you to begin with, they won't respect you afterward. So no “pity fucking.” I promise you, that has never worked. Ever.
*Toxic Masculinity is defined by adherence to traditional male gender roles that restrict the kinds of emotions allowable for boys and men to express, including social expectations that men seek to be dominant (the "alpha male") and limit their emotional range primarily to expressions of anger. - via Wikipedia
BETHANY KILLEN - RESIDENT ADVICE COLUMNIST & SEX THERAPIST
Bethany Killen (she/her), whose time spent finding ways to navigate through her own personal struggles led her to pursue a career in social work.