A hazmat worker scrubbing the sidewalk following the slaying of 10 people in Canada from a member of the incel community. (Image via LA Times)
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A hazmat worker scrubbing the sidewalk following the slaying of 10 people in Canada from a member of the incel community. (Image via LA Times)

Incels are making headlines with shocking acts of terror, but where does the incel philosophy stem from?

On April 23, 2018, a 25-year-old Toronto native by the name of Alex Minassian drove his rental van into a crowd of pedestrians, killing 10 and injuring 16.

Searching for a motive for the terrorist act, investigators discovered a Facebook post from the previous day that read: “The Incel Rebellion has already begun! We will overthrow all the Chads and Stacys! All hail the Supreme Gentleman Elliot Rodger!”

Essay Writing on terrorism - Q4Inte...
Essay Writing on terrorism - Q4Interview

This since-deleted post made incel a buzzword in mainstream culture. But what does this all mean? Who are the nefarious “incels” behind this rebellion anyway?

Incel is actually an abbreviation for the phrase “involuntary celibate” and describes a group of young men who feel they have been genetically cursed and this has doomed them to a life devoid of romantic love and sexual experiences. These stifled and frustrated men meet in online forums, such as, to air out their frustrations about the opposite sex, and then some of the posts are terrifyingly misogynistic.

Incels have a coded language largely unknown to the masses. The masses (or people who have sexual and romantic relationships) are referred to as “normies.” The “Chads and Stacys” mentioned in Minnassian’s post refer to sexually attractive men and women incels feel have outcast them from society.

Like other online groups encompassing the manosphere, incels have a version of “the red pill.” The red-pill is a term derived from “The Matrix” that many right-wing 4chan and Reddit users have re-branded to refer to understanding “the truth,” and the truth for these men is unbelievably misogynist and racist.

Inside ‘Incel’ Ideology (The Investigators with Diana Swain)

Incels have gone even further and continually refer to something called the “black pill” which means basically accepting the fact that looks are the only thing that matter to women and incels are hopeless to change their situation. Incels believe that women hold a higher “sexual market value” than men overall, and because of this women cannot be involuntarily celibate.

This anger is perhaps why many incels resort to grossly sexist behavior online and fantasize about ushering in an era in which women would be nothing more than sex slaves obligated to take orders from them. Women are dehumanized on these forums and often referred to as “roasties” (which is a slut-shaming term pertaining to women who’ve had sex), or “femoids.”

This dehumanizing treatment of the opposite sex incels have cultivated in their circles has a lot to do with why they seem to be having trouble with the opposite sex in the first place. Their defeatist attitude and overt sexism are certainly unattractive traits.

Incels have also taken to glorifying virgin mass shooter, Elliot Roger, as a sort of messianic figure in the world of inceldom, making the movement all the more terroristic in nature. There is more to this than simply frustrated virgins airing their grievances online, however.

Where does this thinking stem from? Earlier I mentioned the existence of an underground online hub called “the manosphere.” The manosphere largely exists on 4chan, Reddit, YouTube and other MRA forums, and consists of red-pilled men, pick-up artists in training, MGTOW (men going their own way), men’s rights activists and black-pilled incels.

The manosphere truly only exists online through forums and various social media sites, which leads me to my next point: patriarchal male entitlement and social paradigms within nerd culture are what eventually led to the creation of the manosphere.

Understanding Incel: The dark subculture explained

The nice guy nerd paradigm has existed in popular culture for decades and is characterized by tropes that paint the nerdy male character as benevolent and lovable despite continually stalking a female character. Steve Urkle is the quintessential symbol of this trope.

The message is that people should be sympathetic to nerdy men, despite problematic behavior that sometimes delves into criminal activity, such as stalking or harassment, because these men are “nice” and women are obligated in some way to men who are nice to them.

This justifying of problematic behavior, and sometimes vilification of women who eschew advances from nerdy nice guys, further solidifies the message that women owe their bodies to men.

The ease at which people are able to isolate themselves via modern technology contributes to further prevalence of antisocial behavior in the modern age, of course, but the major culprit here is the manner in which these nerds alienate themselves from the humanity of women and instead view them as mere objects for their affection and pleasure.

Although these nerdy men might not have traditionally masculine interests (i.e. sports, fitness or home repair), they have special interests like video games or computers, which are also deemed to be masculine, and therefore, don’t believe they can relate to most women.

Their belief that they cannot relate to most women at an emotional level causes these men to objectify women, which leads me to the phenomenon of inceldom. Perhaps the carnal sin of incel men, and the primary reason for their struggle regarding obtaining romantic love, is their intense focus on appearance. It is the basis of their argument in favor of the black-pill and ironically the crux of their problem.

Incel men do not believe they are capable of relating to women based on shared interests, so instead of seeking out relationships with other women interested in “World of Warcraft” or anime, they continually chase after women they find attractive but haven’t attempted to relate to on any level.

This, of course, leads to disappointment. When the incel man attempts to relate to women who are less conventionally attractive, it is painfully obvious he is judging the women on their appearance and, unsurprisingly, women don’t respond positively to second class treatment.

Instead of taking responsibility for his own objectification of women and disregard for their humanity, the incel blames societal pressure to be attractive for his romantic failures, and stereotypically resorts to his digital safety net to air out these grievances in online echo chambers dedicated to the hatred of women.

Based on all I’ve said, it seems natural that the modern anti-feminist movement spawned from Gamer Gate and the attack on Anita Sarkeesian. These loner types were already predisposed to a misogynist attitude from years of negative social conditioning stemming from the cultural myth that women don’t like nerdy things and thereby can’t relate to nerdy men.

Of course, the preoccupation on physical appearance in society is something that should be focused on in the modern era. Incels do have a point about how being objectively unattractive can disrupt the quality of one’s life.

Studies have even shown that attractive people are more likely to be perceived as smarter and to be offered higher starting salaries than their less good looking peers. But it is important to remember women are also affected by this systemic bias.

Incels’ dehumanization of women is ultimately the basis for their bleak worldview and misogyny. This idea was spawned in the media by writers who perpetuated myths based on dated gender constructs, such as girls don’t play “Dungeons & Dragons.” Underneath this message lies a trope that excuses men for their objectification of women; an idea based on patriarchal norms.

What culminates from these assumptions about the masculine inability to control urges is an excused arena for male frustration which erupted within these various online forums that make up the manosphere. People need to pay attention to these movements; especially in the midst of terror. But these ideas were born within popular culture.

This is why it is important to teach feminism in schools. People must teach our young boys not only about consent, but also about how to relate to women as people. Clearly, this concept hasn’t resonated with many men to this day, and the existence of incels and the manosphere is indicative of that.

Writer Profile

Tabitha Prisinzano

Columbia College of Missouri
English Literature

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