The phrase “Nice guys finish last” is a common one. I have heard it and variations like “She friendzoned me” and “Girls only date assholes” countless times.
When I hear or read phrases like this, I usually roll my eyes and continue on with my life. But when I first read the term “incel,” I felt the need to reexamine the mindset behind these comments under a new lens.
The incel movement found its way onto my radar when I read that Alek Minassian, a suspect in a van attack in Toronto that killed ten people in April, had been connected to this online community.
The word “incel” is a shortened form of “involuntarily celibate.” The incel community is a group of men who blame women for not having sex with them or showing romantic interest in them. Rather than emerge from the internet as more enlightened individuals, these men are able to feel validated in their warped views of the women who reject them.
The subreddit “TheRedPill” describes itself as a “discussion of sexual strategy in a culture increasingly lacking a positive identity for men.” Upon further investigation, I found a “Guide to Managing Your Bitches.” This guide provides tips for men who want to assert their dominance in relationships with women.
Examples of these tips include, “Remember, women are children: mentally, behaviourally and evolutionarily,” and that not being strict with a woman would lead her to “become as selfish and insufferable as you let her get away with.”
It is said that Minassian and other incels found a mentor and hero of sorts in Elliot Rodger, who killed six people and injured 13 in Santa Barbara in 2014. A video showed up on YouTube before the tragedy occurred, in which a man who identified himself as Rodger threatened to kill people out of sexual frustration and loneliness. He said, “You girls have never been attracted to me. I don’t know why you girls aren’t attracted to me. But I will punish you for it. It’s an injustice, a crime.” The videos Rodger posted and the 141-page manifesto that he wrote have been used as educational and informational aids for fellow incels.
A comment on a message board discussing the Toronto van attack blamed the tragedy on women’s rights. It read, “All violence, random attacks and terrorism are done by men who cannot find [girlfriends], and thus women are DIRECTLY responsible for it. The ONLY way to fix this problem is to take away women’s rights.”
While not all incels will act violently toward people who wronged them, it is hard to ignore the incendiary, demeaning and volatile nature of the comments that fill these subreddits and other forums. Despite the huge emphasis that has been put on incels’ inability to find romantic partners, it is important to understand that this problem will not go away if all incels magically find a woman to have sex with.
Some people, however, believe that this complex problem has an easy, straightforward solution. The opinion that the incel problem would be solved if women simply started giving these men the romantic and sexual attention they crave is both untrue and dangerous. Author Scott Westerfeld tweeted, “If every incel somehow got a girlfriend, the net violence would only go up. Because guys who think like this are violent to their girlfriends. It’s not their singleness that’s dangerous; it’s the way they think about women.”
In 2013, the World Health Organization reported that “globally, 38 percent of women who were murdered were murdered by their intimate partners” and 30 percent of women are subjected to violence by an intimate partner. These statistics make it clear that people who are in relationships with women are not cured of misogyny and are still capable of hurting people.
There is a powerful link between misogyny and men who commit acts of mass violence. Seung-Hui Cho, the Virginia Tech shooter, Adam Lanza, who was responsible for the shooting at Sandy Hook, and Timothy McVeigh, the Oklahoma City bomber all had histories of misogynistic feelings and/or behavior.
It is perfectly normal to feel badly when someone you are romantically interested in rejects you. It is not normal, however, to blame the person or vilify and dehumanize their entire gender and society at large for your “failure.” It is not a criminal act to reject someone who you are not attracted to and people should not use romantic rejection as an excuse to justify their acts of violence.
Annick Tabb is a sophomore double-majoring in political science and English.