The killing of 10 people in Toronto on Monday has brought attention to the “incel” community, an extremist misogynistic group of men who are “involuntary celibate” (or “incel,” for short). Canadian authorities have said that prior to the attack, Alek Minassian, the 25-year-old who allegedly drove a rental van into a crowd, posted messages on his Facebook referencing the ideology of the involuntary celibate community and calling for an “incel rebellion.”
Why do incels hate women?
Incels are cisgender and heterosexual men who have trouble finding sexual partners. They congregate on Internet forums like 4chan — which allows users to post to message boards anonymously — where they vent their frustrations about women who do not accept their sexual advances, and the men that women seem to prefer. The community has its own terminology to describe the people who frustrate them. Good-looking men who attract women easily are called “Chads.” “Stacys” are women who reject incels in favor of “Chads.” Incels also call women “femoids,” a derogatory term.
The group is exclusively male, or at least in far as Internet avatars can suggest, because incels believe that women can’t be involuntary celibates. According to Aditi Natasha Kini, a journalist who wrote about the incel community for Vice late last year, the incel community believes that “women always get sex, regardless of how ugly they are.”
What does the incel community want?
In forums, those who identify as involuntary celibate often vent about their sexual frustrations in crude terms, but many posts go much further. “All women are sluts,” one incel titled his post. “Proof that girls are nothing but trash that use men,” another wrote.
Incels decry women in categorical terms, and some advocate rape and call for mass violence. Elliot Rodger, who killed six people in 2014, is considered a “saint” by these misogynistic extremists because he ranted against women in his manifesto.
Minassian, the alleged Toronto attacker who has been charged with first-degree murder, seems to have harbored many of these extreme views. In a recent Facebook post, Minassian wrote: “Private (Recruit) Minassian Infantry 00010, wishing to speak to Sgt 4chan please. C23249161. The Incel Rebellion has already begun! We will overthrow all the Chads and Stacys! All hail the Supreme Gentleman Elliot Rodger!”
According to news reports, members of the incel community have praised Minassian for the violence he is accused of committing.
What has been done to curtail this extremist group?
Awareness of the incel community has been limited, but in late 2017, the community took a hit when Reddit shut down a 40,000-member involuntary celibate subreddit because of posts using hateful and violent language. Nonetheless, incel community conversations continue on other parts of Reddit and on the infamous troll forum 4chan and its offshoot, 8chan. Because of this, some worry that male supremacist groups have been allowed to thrive for too long due to the decentralized and under-regulated nature of Internet forums.
“Reddit has basically just said ‘we don’t care if there’s bad stuff in these hate forums,’ ” Heidi Beirich of the Southern Poverty Law Center told NBC News. “4chan and 8chan are completely outside the bounds of normality. When millions can be exposed to heinous propaganda, you are setting the table for ultimately hate speech and ultimately hate crimes.”