A version of this article was originally published on The Third Wave
WARNING:This article describes violent acts, and links to discussions with hateful violent language.
In April this year, a man drove a van across busy pedestrian streets in Toronto, killing 10 and injuring more. It was the deadliest mass homicide in the city’s history.
The murderer identified himself with the growing “incel” movement – a term with origins in sexual frustration (the word “incel” is a portmanteau of the misnomer “involuntary celibate”) that has now been appropriated by a nebulous group of disgruntled men who believe that society is rigged against them, dooming them to a life without the sex they’re entitled to.
Mostly confined to online forums, the number of people defining themselves as incels is hard to pin down – although a recent surge in searches for “incel” and the media attention following the Toronto attack suggests that its popularity is on the rise.
The online gathering-places for the modern incel are littered with calls for misogynistic violence, rape, and coercion. When incels aren’t praising the violent actions of mass murderers, or urging others to act in a similar fashion – they’re spreading brutal misogynistic propaganda promoting rape, domestic abuse, and pedophilia.
The reasons behind the surge in incel ideologies are many and complex: harmful patriarchal gender conventions; the normalization of aggression in young boys; the struggle some men encounter in connecting with their emotions. There are dozens of models to explain the attractiveness of incel philosophies to the modern man. But no matter what psychological and societal reasons for incelhood, the movement is inarguably associated with violence.
Male-perpetrated violence is, unsurprisingly, soaked throughout culture and history. It’s not just a phenomenon confined to the bloody sands of ancient battlefields or the slave trade of America and Europe’s shameful legacies. It’s reflected in modern domestic violence statistics, showing that male-perpetrated domestic violence accounts for 91% of all domestic abuse prosecutions, and that 87% of all domestic homicides are perpetrated by men.
There is clearly a very current, prevalent, systemic issue with male-perpetrated violence in society. The incel movement is just another way in which this problem is being highlighted. And we need to do something about it.