In 1989, a man armed with a hunting rifle and a knife entered a Montreal university and systematically killed 28 people, specifically targeting women, before killing himself. “I have decided to send the feminists, who have always ruined my life, to their Maker … I have decided to put an end to those viragos,” he wrote in his suicide note. One female student shouted during the massacre that she was not a feminist and did not hate men. He murdered her anyway.
Twenty-five years later, a self-proclaimed “kissless virgin” named Elliot Rodger, who was active in the online “incel” community and felt rejected by women, drove to a sorority house in Santa Barbara and opened fire, leaving behind a YouTube video where he proclaimed, “I don’t know why you girls have never been attracted to me, but I will punish you all for it. It’s an injustice, a crime. I’m a perfect guy.”
On April 23rd, a man named Alek Minassian, who posted on Facebook that the “the Incel Rebellion has already begun!” and “All hail the Supreme Gentleman Elliot Rodger,” drove a van into crowds of pedestrians, killing 10 people.
In the stories of angry Men’s Rights Activists and incels — men who are “involuntarily celibate,” and denied their “right” to sex — the women of the world are in control, teasing and taunting and withholding, even as men maintain incredible majorities in virtually every hall of power. A recent New York Times article illustrated just how ludicrous the imbalance of men to women is in management positions in virtually every industry, where women are outnumbered not just by men, but specifically by men with common names like John.
The world is not enough for many of the angriest, most bitter Johns, particularly the ones who felt that they were promised, on the basis of their gender, more of the world than the majority they have inherited. And as women push back against harassment, rape, and the basic dehumanization that accompanies being female, many of their most insulated and privileged opponents have coalesced into an online network. Loosely termed the manosphere, the movement has transformed the unquestionable cultural dominance of men into an identity based on a delusion of oppression, and on whining inconsolably about the identity politics they claim are ruining their lives.
Some of them kill us. Even more of them say they want to. Both in the most pedestrian of ways, through the casual and regular practice of domestic violence, or simply by assaulting or murdering any woman who does not immediately acquiesce to their sexual demands. More recently, the festering online wound of the incel community has begun to express itself in the form of mass murder. Online platforms have long been more concerned with free speech than the literal lives of women, and the vicious, lethal misogyny of incels has flourished in these spaces accordingly. Misogyny is water, and we are all swimming.
In the aftermath of the Rodgers massacre, Erin Gloria Ryan, a writer from Jezebel, did a deep dive into the incel community, which can best be described as harrowing. People posting in incel-identified spaces say many, many things, including demanding the “rape count” of other men as a form of competition, and asking for solidarity in their dreams of committing mass murder because they have not gotten off as much as they had hoped.
“Media doesnt aknolwedge [sic] the majroity [sic] of males’ [sic] discontentment with current sexual distopia [sic] its all about HATING WOMEN,” writes one man.
”It sort of boggles my mind,” writes Ryan, “that most women go through life simply hoping to have control over their own bodies, and that these fuckers feel entitled to not only themselves, but to other people. To an audience. To a platform. They exist, therefore we must all pay attention to them, like screaming infants.”
This most recent demonstration of the lethality of male sexual frustration, via Minassian’s mass killing, is linked inextricably to the internet, where the most pernicious ideas about male supremacy have flourished thanks to the superseding concern of doing whatever you want over basic human decency. Although Reddit finally, finally banned the r/incels subreddit in November for its open advocation of rape and other violence toward women, internet platforms at large have been fertile ground for men who openly hate women and wish to convene with other men who feel the same way. They have migrated easily and without restriction to other websites and subreddits, including Braincels, where these ideas persist and are deified. Minassian was subsequently declared a “new saint” on a prominent incel forum, with one poster saying, “spread that name, speak of his sacrifice for our cause, worship him for he gave his life for our future.”
It was claimed, at least in The New York Times, that Minassian had “displayed extreme social awkwardness. But they said that he had seemed harmless.” What a world, where an openly “troubled young man who harbored resentments towards women” could be conceived of as a harmless participant, at best.
It is, again, difficult to be alive in an online world that regularly declares that men’s right to vent their frustrations about literally wanting to kill women because they feel rejected, or are not getting laid, is a bedrock principle of liberty. We are complicit in these massacres insofar as we have facilitated them; enabling the mass murder of women under the flag of “free speech” is perhaps the most irresponsible and stupid thing that the men at the helm of the internet could do. And yet. (It is worth noting that all of these massacres also claimed male victims. The patriarchy, as is often the case, is happy to destroy men as easily as it does women. It is also worth noting that women, too, experience rejection and sexual frustration, and do not have a movement based around raping and murdering people who have turned them down.)
After Rodger’s mass killing, one of the people who had interacted with him online wrote, far too late, “Could someone tip off the police just in case?”
“Don’t,” replied another man. “Whatever happens. We didn’t do anything so just let it happen if it does.”
But they did do something — by doing nothing. By saying nothing. This is the common practice of most major internet platforms and the reality of what it means to be online for women, and it is killing us.