In learning that I exist amongst a growing group of men who react to rejection with violence, it adds a new layer of perspective to shutting down strangers at a bar.
Since the deadly terror attack in Toronto in April, I’ve become familiar with the deeply disturbing world of incels. These “involuntary celibates” are young men that self-identify as unattractive and genetically inferior, and therefore unable to have romantic or sexual relationships with women. Some even call themselves “subhuman.” Many have mental or physical disabilities, but many others have simply been unable to land a partner. Incels have formed an internet subculture, taking over online forums like reddit, 4chan, and their own message boards.
The forums breed anger and frustration against women and conventionally attractive men, who they refer to as “Stacys” and “Chads.” Incels are looking for absolute male supremacy through violent misogyny. Message boards are full of comments like wanting to behead women who wear short shorts but don’t want to be groped by strangers, calling feminists the new KKK, and hating society for women’s equality.
It hasn’t occurred to them that this outlook is likely contributing to their sexual failures.
So how does this effect the #MeToo movement? Sexual assault and harassment survivors are finding a strong voice to change the societal circumstances that have victimized them. People are standing up to the cultural norms that have enabled sexual misconduct since the beginning of time. But incels threaten the premise of that movement, as they believe women owe them sex.
Incel Terror Attacks
Elliot Rodger, the Isla Vista gunman who killed six people then himself at UC Santa Barbara in 2014, was motivated by his virginity. Before opening fire, Rodger wrote to other incels, “Start envisioning a world where WOMEN FEAR YOU.”
Last month, Alek Minassian posted to Facebook before driving a van into a group of people in Toronto, killing 10 pedestrians. He wrote, “The Incel Rebellion has already begun! We will overthrow all the Chads and Stacys! All hail Supreme Gentleman Elliot Rodger!”
The latest school shooting to plague the United States also had incel connections. Several outlets are reporting the Santa Fe high school shooter specifically targeted a young woman who rejected his sexual advances.
Rodger’s actions serve as an example for many in the aggravated incel community. These men want to inspire fear, to compensate for their sense of powerlessness. This group is adding to our already escalated threat of public shootings or cars plowing down the sidewalk.
As a woman, I have always been afraid of who could be following me as I walk down the street. But in learning that I exist amongst a growing group of men who react to rejection with violence, it adds a new layer of perspective to shutting down strangers at a bar.
Social Media’s Role
It’s upsetting that such a dysfunctional mindset has been given the opportunity to prosper. Online message boards give incel groups, and groups like ISIS, a place to be salient in their anger. Many become radicalized by the community, even if they started as lonely guys looking for support. They push each other to grow their rage further, encouraging one another with upvotes and likes.
To the same end, social media propelled the #MeToo movement to astonishing heights, giving survivors a platform to spread their cause like wildfire. Millions of people have banded together to draw awareness to misogynistic thinking, using the same platforms as those misogynists.
So how do we reconcile this? I have no doubts that #MeToo will push back harder, and the proposed incel rebellion will fail. That’s the whole point of #MeToo: overcoming toxic masculinity and the idea that women owe men their bodies. Survivors find strength in sharing their stories and exposing those who have hurt them — just as this article sets out to do. There is significant strength in numbers, hence why #MeToo is far more successful than the incel movement. Far more people are in support of equality than those who are against it. If you are a survivor of sexual assault or harassment, please share your story here to help show that our movement isn’t going anywhere.
Reddit took down one of the major incel subreddits last year, but they still exist on other channels. Luckily online mods are trying to regulate incel organizations, keeping the ideas from spreading. Even more luckily, more and more people are using the power of #MeToo to take down powerful men. Incels follow a frightening ideology, but a self-destructive group is apt to self-destruct.