r/Braincels, earlier today.
No one cared about Incels when they were just writing shit on the internet. We all care about Incels now because a man called Alek Minassian committed an atrocity in Toronto, someone looked at his internet history (which is basically the first thing journalists and writers do while normal people are still in shock) and found a Facebook shoutout referencing Elliot Rodger.
The net effect of this is to make us feel incredible anger towards a group of people that claims it only exists because ‘normal’ society has already excluded them.
For reference, Incel is a term reportedly coined by an individual called Alana “as a name for an online support forum for singles, basically a lonely hearts club”.
The job of the media in 2018 is to disseminate stories and protagonists into distinct categories to enable us (the people) to understand them quickly and more importantly, react strongly. Having understood their otherness, we can climb aboard the bandwagon and launch pelters, safe in the knowledge that we’re not going to be caught in the crossfire.
They’ve done their job and now Incel (or involuntarily celibate) is now a euphemism for entitled prick.
Let’s not minimise the writing shit on the internet part. People identifying as Incel produce some revolting (if ungrammatical) content. But if you peer into any part of the internet for long enough you’ll spot the swirling, fomenting mass gobbing vitriol into the water in the hope of polluting the whole thing, and the Incel reservoirs look like the Great Pacific Garbage Patch from the air.
We can acknowledge that without conflating it. Otherwise you end up with the Alek Minassian identifies as an Incel and therefore all Incels are potential terrorists equation, which won’t end well either.
To take it seriously is a potentially catastrophic misjudgement too, though. Most of these idiots are essentially writing fanfiction; what they might do if they weren’t the person they are but the object of their hatred instead. But they probably wouldn’t do it then because they’d be too busy having all the sex with all the women all the time. If they weren’t the type of people who just talk about stuff on the internet, which they mostly are.
EL James did well out of it, I suppose.
Reading the many op-ed’s that appeared in the wake of Minassian’s attack, you might be inclined to accept the association of ‘Incel’ and violence without question. But does that help minimise the possibility of future attacks or does identifying them as a group with intentions to set up government endorsed rape sheds actually empower those who want to cause pain and make a name for themselves? Is this the way to minimise the possibility of further attacks? Or does all the conversation around them merely add fuel to their self-justification?
In my view, misogyny is the progeny of a much bigger, more powerful foe. The concept of toxic masculinity as a factor has been mentioned and dismissed by commentators on this topic, but should we be so quick to do so? Are we to assume that only women suffer as a result of the widely accepted social construct that real men are physically imposing, unemotional warriors and real women are size zero inept cretins with big hair and teeth?
In 2018, thanks in no small part to campaigners like Laura Richards, we’re beginning to acknowledge the trauma that bullying and emotional abuse can have on an individual. Is it ‘whataboutery’ to acknowledge that putting people, male or female, under huge amounts of emotional stress can occasionally result in them exploding? Should we assume all the men claiming to have been mistreated by women are lying? How does that help?
As a feminist (a Guilty one, but a feminist nonetheless) I believe that toxic masculinity is oppressive to everyone who lives in its fart cloud, irrespective of gender. Imposed ideals exclude all of us because none of us is perfect and even if, to all intents and purposes you appear perfect, you spend most of your time maintaining it so what’s the point?
Any person at any time could drive a van into a crowd of people and feel entirely justified in doing so. That doesn’t make them justified. It doesn’t make their ’cause’ worthy. It’s just desperately sad for those whose lives are affected by it.
I want to be safe. I want to be equal. I want to be happy. I want the same for everyone, regardless of gender or sexuality. Many people may choose to disagree with the way I express it, and that’s fine. I just don’t feel like the way to move towards anything better as a collective is to attribute terrible behaviour to monsters.
It’s paradoxical, given that these are people who have fallen for the ‘boy meets girl, boy marries girl, both live happily ever after’ myth harder than any thirteen year old girl ever did. These aren’t monsters and super heroes. They’re desperately sad.
The truth is, we’re more comfortable blaming atrocities on monsters because it’s less time consuming than being prepared to listen with a sympathetic ear, make our default setting kindness and not anger when we find something challenging and try to change as a result of what people are telling us. Yeah, I know. You’re busy. I’m busy. But we could at least give it a go.
Well. Unless you were in the BFI screening of The Good, The Bad & The Ugly earlier this week and cheered when the woman with Asperger was chucked out for laughing. You’re beyond help.