Violence Against Women: Who are incels, how are they a threat to women's safety?

Incels operate on the diabolically misogynistic notion that women are to be blamed for their inability to find sexual partners or for them leading sexless lives


                            Violence Against Women: Who are incels, how are they a threat to women's safety?
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Violence against women is a global issue and one that has been ongoing for centuries. In the 21st century, there is more awareness, yet, every year 66,000 women are violently killed globally, accounting for approximately 17% of all victims of intentional homicides. MEA WorldWide's (MEAWW) Violence Against Women campaign will examine different aspects of the issue and society's role in addressing it.

In 2014, 22-year old Elliot Rodger went on a killing spree in Isla Vista, California while instigating what he deemed as a "War on Women" for "depriving me of sex". He first stabbed two male roommates and a visiting friend, then drove to the Alpha Phi sorority at the US Santa Barbara campus and opened fire outside and in other nearby locations. He killed three more students there, injuring 14 others in the process before turning the gun on himself. All those who died, including Rodger himself, were students at UCSB. Before his fatal actions, however, Rodger left behind a series of YouTube videos as well as a 141-page manifesto on an online platform, where he expressed his deep hatred for women blaming them for his celibacy. 

Rodger was what you would call an 'involuntary celibate' or 'incel', a subset of mostly straight men who have constructed and observed a violent political ideology centering on the injustice of young, beautiful women. They operate on the diabolically misogynistic notion that women are to be blamed for their inability to find sexual partners or them sexless lives. Incels have been around for ages, but it was only in the late '90s that their existence became known when an online community for singles was formed. In 1993, a Canada Carleton University student, Alana, created a website eponymously named 'Alana's Involuntary Celibacy Project' (which is where the term 'incel' originated), where lonely individuals of both sexes could meet, share their experiences and provide support. However, in time, the concept and the essence of the website were supplanted by men and boys complaining about their own involuntary celibacy and debating the source of their frustrations.

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What was supposed to be a broad-minded safe haven and support group had regressed into a platform where praise attributed to mass-killers was not only tolerated but even normalized to a certain extent. The ruckus caused by Rodger wasn't the only incel motivated incident to have taken place. In any case, it was the spark that fueled a slew of other similar instances. The following year after Rodger's attack, in 2015, Christopher Harper-Mercer shot nine people at the Umpqua Community College, Oregon, leaving behind his manifesto which praised Rodger and mourned his own virginity. Alex Minassian killed ten people and injured 16, in Toronto, in April 2018 driven by a similar tactic, as his Facebook post prior to the attack said "The Incel Rebellion has already begun!" and "All hail the Supreme Gentleman Elliot Rodger!" Upon his arrest, Minassian confessed to the police that he had been transformed by other incels online.

Rodger has essentially become a martyr in the incel community. Nevertheless, he did more than just redefine involuntary celibacy. He reworked the ideals that the incel community once thrived on and came to be known for, pushing to the forefront its most indignant and anarchic impulses.

Chads and Stacys

Research into incel-related violence suggests that it has gradually been rising in the past couple of years and has been linked to at least 53 fatalities so far, and several injuries. Since the dawn of the online community, many people have sought it out for support in an age of digital isolation, but others have taken it to extreme heights radicalizing it for advocacy of social and sexual rebellion. These extremist incels goal is revenge through violent aggression against people who they refer to as 'Chads and Stacys', men and women who they perceive as very successful in their sex lives. It is a hierarchy of sorts, where the top position is claimed by the most attractive men or Chads, that incels believe form roughly 20 percent of the population. According to incels, about 80 percent of women are only interested in men of this class. 

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Stacys are the female counterpart and refer to attractive women who will only consent to sex with Chads, Tyrones (the incel term for a Black Chad), Chadpreet (South Asian Chad), Chang (East Asian Chad) or Chaddam (Arab Chad). The 20 percent of women comprising the bottom tier of the hierarchy will consent to sex with a vast majority of men who fall in the middle of the attractiveness scale, also known as 'betas', 'cucks', or 'normies'. At the very bottom are the incles, or men considered so unappealing and unattractive that they fail at getting a woman in bed. Every incel forum is charged with expressive rage and hatred, commonly but not entirely directed women, or 'femoids' as they like to call them. Incels subscribe to a notion that is akin to White supremacy. By their own judgment, they deem themselves as 'subhuman' mostly unattractive and socially awkward. 

The 'Blackpill' ideology

Since its inception over two decades ago, the incel community has spanned numbers of tens of thousands who have been influenced by a distinctly sexist and pseudoscientific ideology called 'the blackpill'. There is also the 'manosphere', a loose cluster of websites united by their belief in various male-dominated ideologies that have been crucial in reshaping incel ideologies. These comprise 'men's rights' activists or pickup artists or PUAs, men who counsel other men about sleeping with women by way of insults and manipulation of their psychology. The ideology has seen a rigorous development since the Isla Vista attack. Incels believe that a man's success with sex is mostly determined by some inflexible biological traits like his jawline, cheekbones or the shape of his eye sockets. 

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The blackpill ideology theorizes the fundamental rejection of women's sexual emancipation, viewing and citing them to be shallow and cruel creatures who only go for the most attractive men when given a choice. The blackpill can easily incite violence if it is taken to its logical extreme. The acts of everyday violence can range from harassment to violent assault, stalking, or simply making the women in their lives miserable. It is also significant to note that incels are not just a subset or a subculture, disconnected from the outside. In the most explicable sense, they are a darker representation of a set of social values about women, rather common in that broader Western mindset.

Threat to women

The socialization of women right from their childhood entails that they blame themselves when they feel undesirable. The age-old societal gender norms have made them believe that they are unacceptable unless they spend time, money and effort into being pretty and appealing to the opposite sex. Traditionally, femininity teaches women that a basic moral requirement as a female is to be good partners to men. Basically, a woman is a man's support system as well as the eye candy that hangs off his arm in necessary situations and it is her job to prove to him and the world that she is good. Early incels operated with the motive to bolster a healthy community where they maintained a mixed-gender user base, banned misogynistic content and shared insights into overcoming shyness and introverted tendencies in the real world. But the growing blackpill ideology has foreshadowed that concept and the current incel community operates in contrasting effect. 

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As women grow to become more economically and culturally independent that empowers them to make choices about their partners, men have generated ideas about self-improvement that are often perplexing with violence and rage. The rise of mainstream feminism has filled women with a sense of certainty and most American women now grow up understanding that they can choose who they want as their sexual partner. Incel culture is not exactly a mental concern but runs much deeper. The violence stemming out from this culture is just a part of a larger culture that allows and celebrates sexual violence against women. 

Besides the mass killings, the more shocking instances associated with incels are that of sexual assault. There exists a small group of incels, according to Vox, comprising some hundred or so members who take the extreme to a whole new level. They work self-consciously to convince fellow incels that raping women is totally justified as a response to sexual advances being rejected. These extremists are mostly bundled around a network of sites run by Nathan Larson, a Virginia-based advocate for rape. While he does not identify as an incel, he claims to have raped his ex-wife and is reputed for his presence in the incel community. The Larson network promotes the 'rapepill' among incels, defining it as “the understanding that for civilization to survive, femoids need to be treated as subhuman objects whose purpose is to obey, and bear the children of, supreme gentlemen such as ourselves.” One of Larson's websites called 'Raping Girls is Fun' consists of some 500 or so members, where users share stories about how they assaulted women and tips on how to commit rape effectively.  

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But banning these online communities, just getting rid of the incel forums or trying to regulate how they disseminate their hateful ideas won't make them go away. In addition, incels are not the originators of sexual violence against women. The misogynistic views connect incels to alt-right and anti-women groups like 'Pick-Up Artists', which believe feminine values have come to dominate society and men have to fight back against it to protect their very existence. Understanding the threat that incels pose is rather complicated because that requires streamlining and critiquing the misogynistic ideas that propagate their behavior. Misogyny needs to be understood as a danger to our public and private security. 

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