What Are ‘Incels’? The Anti-Woman Online Community Behind the Toronto Van Attack
On April 23, 25-year-old Alek Minassian rammed a rented car into a crowd in Toronto, killing 10 people and injuring 14 more. Soon after reports of the fatal attack broke, Facebook confirmed that a post linked to Minassian’s account, in which he bragged about being part of something called an “Incel Rebellion,” was authentic. In other words, Minassian was involved with an online community that hates women and appears to have set out to hurt them.
In the aftermath of the attack, broader attention is at last being paid to the violence of misogynists who tend to congregate online. And while the term “incel” is new to many people, it has been around in misogynistic corners of the internet for some time. Here’s what you need to know about “incels,” and why they are dangerous.
what does ‘incel’ mean?
“Incel” is a word derived from the term “involuntary celibate.” Many recent press reports about so-called incels have said that “incel” is a movement or an ideology, but neither of these descriptions is accurate. In reality, the word “incel” is merely the self-given nickname of a particular cohort of misogynists who congregate on message boards like Reddit and 4chan and on dedicated websites like incels.me. And as Minassian’s deadly attack demonstrates, misogynists that spend a lot of time online in no way contain their hatred to the internet. Further, their hate can turn violent.
So-called incels claim that women do not want to have sex with them, and that the lack of sex they’re offered is the reason for their hatred of women. In reality, they are just misogynists who feel entitled to sex with women. The Southern Poverty Law Center, a non-profit that tracks hate groups, describes “incels” as “part of the online male supremacist ecosystem.” The SPLC added two “male supremacist” groups to its list of hate groups it is monitoring earlier this year.
“Male supremacists” see women as inferior to men, and frequently call for violence against women, according to the SPLC.
What does their slang mean?
Like other bigots who spend a lot of times on Reddit and 4chan message boards, “incels” have their own slang that they use to express their bigotry among themselves. Anyone with the stomach to look around “incel” message boards will see the words “Chads” and “Stacys” regularly. A “Chad” refers to an attractive man that “incels” assume are having a lot of sex. “Stacy” is their term for attractive women who “incels” assume will only have sex with the “Chads.” The name “Becky” is used to refer to women who are not a “Stacy,” i.e. a woman the “incels” don’t deem overly attractive or feminine. (Yes, it’s really that gross.)
“Incels” post incessantly about how “Chads” are the only type of man women will sleep with, and disparage women for not being sexually interested in “incels,” who are necessarily not “Chads.” Men who identify as incels claim that women can have sex whenever they want and as much as they want, and choose only to have sex with “Chads.”
Minassian used these words in a Facebook post he made the day of his attack. The post read: “The Incel Rebellion has already begun! We will overthrow all the Chads and Stacys! All hail the Supreme Gentleman Elliot Rodger!” Elliot Rodger is the misogynist who killed six people and injured another 14 in Isla Vista, California in May 2014. Rodger declared a “war on women” the day of his own attack, and claimed that women had “deprived” him of sex.
Of course, all this business about “Chads” and “Stacys” and assumptions about how much sex women are having (or want to have) is not rooted in the reality of women’s sex lives. It’s all simply the narrative so-called incels cling to in order to rationalize and justify their hatred of women. These men can’t accept the fact that nobody owes them sex, and use the lack of sex they’re having as a cover to advocate for and carry out violence.
Where did the term ‘incel’ come from?
Misogyny has long plagued our society, but the SPLC has an explanation as to where “incels,” in particular, came from. In the world of message-board misogynists, “pick up artistry,” (PUA) the term for manipulating and coercing women into having sex, has been very popular for years. “PUA” is championed by infamous misogynists including the blogger-turned far-right troll Roosh V, who has openly advocated for rape.
Some men who bought into the violent and degrading ideology pushed by “pick-up artists,” but found themselves not getting the sex they feel entitled to, embraced the term “incel” to describe themselves. But not everyone who identifies as “incel” has necessarily once identified as a “PUA.”
Misogynists in the deep dark corners of the internet go by many names. Some call themselves “men’s rights activists,” others follow Roosh and call themselves “pick-up artists,” and Minassian and many others go by “incel.” Regardless of the name and the point of focus different men may take up, they all still think of women as less human than men, and some of them are a physical threat.
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(Images via Cole Burston/Getty)