They are not “incels”—they are violent misogynists

After Toronto we must call out these men for what they really are

April 26, 2018
Flowers and messages are placed at a memorial for victims of the mass killing on Yonge Street at Finch Avenue on April 24, 2018 in Toronto, Canada. Photo: Matt small/CrowdSpark/PA Images
Flowers and messages are placed at a memorial for victims of the mass killing on Yonge Street at Finch Avenue on April 24, 2018 in Toronto, Canada. Photo: Matt small/CrowdSpark/PA Images

On Monday, Alek Minassian allegedly drove a van into a pedestrian area in North Toronto—killing ten people and injuring 15 more. He has now been charged with ten counts of pre-meditated murder.

It’s since been revealed that Minassian apparently posted praise for the misogynistic mass shooter Elliot Rodger minutes before the attack. In 2014, Rodger killed six people and himself having written a woman-hating manifesto that was published on the so-called “manosphere.”

In his post, Minassian also referred to the now-banned “incel” Reddit group, writing: “The Incel Rebellion has already begun!”.

For those not well-versed in misogynistic sub-cultures online, “incel” is short for “involuntary celibate.” It is an all-male community made up of those who believe they can’t enter sexual relationships, and overwhelmingly blame women for the fact. I took a look at some Reddit Incel-related forums to discover how they speak about women and learn more about their views. I found they typically view women as subhuman, while also thinking women have all the power in relationships and are the “gatekeepers of sex.”

Incels advocate for a world where women are subordinate to men and exist only to serve their various needs. Many want to treat women as “maids” whose role is to be “sex dolls” (the language they use is generally far more graphic than the examples provided here). Some forums discuss how Islamic State’s treatment of sex slaves is what women deserve. Others advocate female genital mutilation and promote child “marriage.” There is often a highly racist element to their rhetoric, which fits into their relationship with the alt-right.

In the wake of the Toronto attack, it’s time the rest of us refused to call these men by their chosen name. Why? Because to do so re-enforces the idea that women are to blame for their violent beliefs and actions.

Referring to these men as “involuntary celibates” in accordance with their own internet lore has dangerous implications. It suggests that if women gave these men what they wanted, i.e. had sex with them, then they would have no need to hate us. They would have no need to threaten and intimidate us online. They would have no need to kill us.

The incel movement is based on violent male entitlement. They cannot accept that women have a right to our own bodily autonomy. Many incels express disgust at women who have consensual sex. Sex to incels should be a one-way street—something men do to women and which women have no choice about.

When we talk of these men as incels, we are validating their belief system that states they are being hurt by women, and women should therefore be more compliant to men’s demands. We are agreeing with their vile view that a woman’s “no” is punishing and degrading to men and that she has no right to consent. What’s more, by calling them incels we are veering dangerously close to victim blaming. After all, shouldn’t women just put up and shut up if we don’t want to provoke male anger? Would these men have to go out and kill, if women just felt sorry for them and agreed to date them? Incels blame women in this way—we should not fall into the same trap.

By agreeing to call men like Elliot Rodger and the thousands of anonymous Reddit and Twitter users who spread hate and violence across the internet incels, we are agreeing to the terms they have set for relations between men and women.

We are validating their belief that if women had sex with them, they would not have to abuse, threaten, punish or kill us.

We are condoning their view of themselves as victims, not perpetrators.

And we are perpetuating their belief that violence is a logical and justifiable response to a woman’s “no."

No one has the right to sex with another person. So let’s call these violent, hate-filled, threatening men what they are.