In America’s changing cultural landscape, a new movement has been born, the origins and motivations of which we are only beginning to understand. The ‘incel’ movement has not received its fair share of coverage in the mainstream media. This is perhaps because the generation responsible for reporting the news do not totally understand what exactly it is.
Short for ‘involuntarily celibates’, incels are a part of a decentralised, online community consisting almost entirely of men who are united by their sexual frustration. They interact almost entirely online using platforms such as 4chan and Reddit. They are essentially the alt-right’s answer to a lonely-hearts club.
Incels believe that society is tiered by attractiveness and sexual potency. At the top of this are what they call the “Stacys” and the “Chads” — young, toned, confident individuals who are physically desirable to the opposing or, indeed, same sex. They do not identify with such a group. Incels believe they have been dealt a bad hand in the genetic lottery and are thereby incapable of being seen as attractive by Western beauty standards.
This ideology is the basis of a torrent of online misogyny. Within these communities, women are portrayed as conniving, manipulative, and promiscuous people, who have hoodwinked society into thinking otherwise. Incels are just one strand of a broader epidemic of men’s rights activism. For the most part, these individuals are keyboard warriors. They exist only as untraceable usernames and rarely engage in any form of physical protest that threatens their anonymity.
As abhorrent as this faceless online activity is, however, it does not physically harm us. The dangers of the ideologies promoted by this movement, on the other hand, are scarily real. Three mass murders in the past four years have been committed by those who self-identify as incels. The most recent of these, April’s Toronto van attack, saw the movement receive international news coverage for the first time.
Online posts by the attackers in the lead up to these tragedies make it clear these individuals see themselves as part of a wider revolutionary movement. What is perhaps scarier is the way the community martyrs them and praises their crimes. The line between trolling and actually supporting these actions is worryingly blurred. We can dismiss these groups, and laugh them off as sexless, spotty shitposters living in their mum’s basements, but I can’t think of many other adolescent groups that have fostered mentalities responsible for the death of 25 people.
The views promoted by the incel movement are without question a product of a skewed and bitter outlook on life. Their platforms serve only as echo chambers that reinforce the vulnerabilities of their members, and the preconceptions they have of women and non-binary people. However, the reality is there is no easy way to stop these movements. Closing the subreddits they operate on limits their online presence, though will inevitably drive the movement into the deep web and probably alienate and radicalise its members further.
Our best hope is to further educate an entire generation against misogyny in all its forms. Various former incels have come forward explaining why they left the community and encouraged others to do the same. Our best chances lie with exposing them as being nothing more than platforms of hatred, though sadly it is inevitable that impressionable young men will turn to unhealthy outlets for support.