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Misery And Misogyny: The Danger Of Incels

In a toxic corner of the Internet, there's a congregation of men bonding over a hatred of women and their anger that -- shockingly -- no one will sleep with them.

When Alek Minassian killed ten people after ploughing a van into pedestrians on a crowded Toronto footpath in April, the term "incel" gained a new wave of recognition.

“The Incel Rebellion has already begun! We will overthrow all the Chads and Stacys! All hail the Supreme Gentleman Elliot Rodger!” Minassian posted to Facebook minutes before the attack.

Short for “involuntary celibate”, the incels Minassian referenced are a misogynistic subculture of men who populate dark online forums, bound together by their shared hatred of the women who won't sleep with them.

At their most extreme, incels advocate rape and violence against women as punishment for denying them their right to sex, somehow managing to lust after women while simultaneously raging at them.

Elliot Rodger, the "Supreme Gentleman" Minassian acknowledged in his message, was a fellow self-described incel who had killed six people in a stabbing and shooting spree in Isla Vista, California four years earlier.

Elliot Rodger became the face of the Incel movement when he uploaded a YouTube video explaining the motivation behind his deadly rampage. Image: AAP

About a day before his own rampage, 22-year-old Rodger posted a "retribution" video to YouTube and distributed a 141-page manifesto detailing his deep-rooted hatred of women -- whom he blamed for his celibacy -- and his subsequent vow to punish them for his loneliness.

“Tomorrow is the day of retribution for the last 8 years of my life, ever since I’ve hit puberty, I’ve been forced to endure and existence of loneliness, rejection, and unfulfilled desires," he remarked in the video.

“I don’t know why you girls are not attracted to me, but I will punish you all for it."

In Rodger and Minassian, a group of like-minded men found their patron saints.

The Rise Of Incel

Coined more than two decades ago, the label incel was actually created by a woman.

Known in the media only as Alana, the Toronto woman originally intended the term to accompany Alana's Involuntary Celibacy Project -- a simple, all-text website she envisioned would create  an inclusive community of lonely people like herself, who were unable to find sexual partners.

But what exists today-- a hostile and deeply misogynistic community that inhabits the dark corners of the Internet, identifiable by eerie slang and a violent rhetoric -- is a jarring contrast to Alana's original intention.

“It feels like being the scientist who figured out nuclear fission and then discovers it’s being used as a weapon for war," Alana said of her creation.

A typical identifier of incel hate speech are the terms 'Stacys' and 'Chads', as used by Minassian in his Facebook message. 'Stacys' are the attractive and unattainable women who only date 'Chads' -- the muscular, socially equipped men who presumably have very active sex lives.

Since their inception, the terms have been ubiquitous on the Internet forums frequented by Incels, with Reddit arguably the most popular site. The violent rhetoric finally led to the banning of a large incel-focused subreddit community with about 40,000 users.

Despite the ban, the presence of Incels is still prominent online through sites that picked up where Reddit left off, including Incels.me.

The term 'sub5' refers to a rating of attractiveness out of 10. Image: Incels.me
User 'Fullofhate' really encapsulating the Incel outlook on modern day feminism. Image: Incels.me

Of the site's almost 49,000 conversation threads, topics include bringing an end to female voting, a poll as to whether members would or would not stop an unconscious girl from being raped at a party, and a discussion about the ability of serial rapists and murderers including Ted Bundy and Joseph Fritzl to attract women on account of their violent crimes.

"If you're willing to kill a few people, hell, you might get a girlfriend," a comment by user Mahlo reads.

"If you thought femoids weren't absolutely disgusting proto-humans before, you probably do now."

A commonly used Incel descriptor, the term "femoid" combines "female" and "humanoid" to suggest that women are not fully human.

When not obsessing over the physicality of 'Chads' and 'Stacys', the group obsesses over their own unattractiveness, convinced that their loss in the genetic lottery has rendered them incapable of finding female companionship.

The phrase "black pill" describes the process of acknowledging the Incel worldview.  An allusion to the 1999 sci-fi classic The Matrix, the idea is that those who have taken the "black pill"-- as opposed to the film's red or blue options-- have realised that not only is feminism detrimental to society and men are suffering as a result, but that there are no personal solutions to the perceived systemic problem of female dominance.

This outlook is what leads incels to succumb to their own self-loathing and develop a hatred of women, onto whom they can direct their blame.

The Danger Of The 'Manosphere'

Misogyny is nothing new, however 20 years ago these online forums didn't exist. Men now have easy access to a dangerous congregation of equally unstable men who fuel both their self-loathing and subsequent hatred of women.

This loose network of blogs, forums and websites dedicated to "men's issues" is often referred to as the "manosphere", and is home to a collection of groups encouraging discussion on several male supremacy ideologies.

Among them are ReturnOfKings.com, whose founder Roosh V. advocated for the legalization of rape on private proverty, AVoiceForMen.com which aims to prove that the world is in fact gynocentric -- that is, men have it the toughest, not women -- and The Men Going Their Own Way (MGTOW) movement, which boasts such an intense aversion to feminism that subscribers are essentially bowing out of interaction with the opposite sex all together.

While not all men who subscribe to the ideology become Alek Minassians or  Elliot Rodgers, incels are poster-boys for the power of online communities to radicalize young and frustrated men as a result of their common personal grievances, and should not be dismissed as simply lonely, whinging keyboard warriors.

If at the true crux of their anger was an inability to access sex -- as New York Times columnist Ross Douthat suggested when he put forward the idea that sex be "more justly distributed" as if a resource like property or money --  incels would likely value sex workers.

Southern Poverty Law Center, an organisation dedicated to fighting hate and bigotry in the US, acknowledged the threat on Incels when in 2016 it formally added male supremacist groups to their hate tracking system.

"The hatred these men feel stems — crucially — not from their belief that they’re entitled to sex, but from their belief that women are required to give it to them," the organisation said.

"When women don’t, incels weaponize their hate."