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As Hatred of Women Increases, So Do Mass Killings

An angry-looking bearded white man yelling
(Photo by Tycho Atsma on Unsplash)

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By Naja Ji Jaga

An Ohio man in February was sentenced to prison for plotting to “slaughter” women. He is yet another in a long line of self-described “incels” who threaten or commit violence against women, but he is the first convicted on federal hate crime charges.

He was planning a mass shooting of women at an Ohio university in 2020 before being arrested in 2021. “I will slaughter out of hatred, jealousy, and revenge,” he wrote in a manifesto. He pleaded guilty to attempting a hate crime in 2022.

Incels, short for “involuntary celibates,” are men who blame and resent women for their lack of romantic involvement, using online forums to express frustration, outrage and even violent thoughts. Like other internet trolls, most incels spend practically all of their time online, exploiting the anonymity of the internet — sometimes to vent into an echo chamber and sometimes to foster discontent and resentment.

But it is a mistake to see those who confine themselves to online spaces as any different from those who act on their hateful ideology, according to Lisa Sugiura, a senior lecturer in criminology and criminal justice at the University of Portsmouth in the U.K.

“Separating ‘extreme’ versions of an ideology from more ‘mundane’ ones creates an artificial dichotomy between the deviant fringe and mainstream ideologies that, in actuality are based on the same assumptions,” she writes in her 2021 book, “The Incel Rebellion: The Rise of the Manosphere and the Virtual War Against Women.”

The manosphere encompasses pro-masculine and anti-feminine online groups, including incels, men’s rights activists and pick-up artists. Over time, the factions of the manosphere have trudged from the fringes of the internet into the mainstream and even ventured offline with real-world consequences.

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Incels tend to glorify those among them who commit mass violence. Many have canonized one man, in particular, in their dark online world.

That man, also a self-described incel, killed seven people, including himself, and injured 14 others in Isla Vista, California, on May 23, 2014. But not until after sharing hateful beliefs in a video he posted online and a manuscript he sent to relatives, acquaintances and his therapist. Among other things, the 22-year-old said he wanted to hurt women for rejecting him.

The U.S. Secret Service’s National Threat Assessment Center highlighted his killing spree as an example of misogynistic extremism in its March 2022 report “Hot Yoga Tallahassee: A Case Study of Misogynistic Extremism.”

Cases of misogynistic terrorism are motivated by an extreme desire to put women down and build men up, though the Isla Vista shooter did also target men because he was jealous of those who had relationships with women.

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“No misogynist killer articulated the terroristic intention behind his selected target more clearly than (he did),” wrote Alex DiBranco in the 2020 article “Male Supremacist Terrorism as a Rising Threat” for the International Centre for Counter-Terrorism at The Hague.

Another self-described incel called the Isla Vista shooter the “Supreme Gentleman” and referenced the “Incel Rebellion” in a Facebook post before driving a van through a crowd of pedestrians in Toronto, killing 10.

This is all in line with Secret Service findings.

The Secret Service analyzed the role of misogyny in targeted violence and found a growing number of terrorist threats motivated by a hatred of women. It released those findings in the “Hot Yoga” case study, which examined the behavior of the man, identified in the report only by initials, who, in 2018, killed two women and injured four others at a yoga studio in Tallahassee, Florida, before killing himself. The case study focused on him because “this attacker’s history highlights the specific threat posed by misogynistic extremism,” the report says.

>>>Read: They Lost Loved Ones to Violent Bigotry. Now, They’re Working to Stop the Hate

While incels focus most of their hatred on women, they are not their only targets. Most incels are young, white, straight men, and they will direct their ire at anyone who does not fit into these labels.

The term incel rose to widespread usage in the mid-2010s, but the underlying ideology has been ingrained into our society for much longer. Still, as technology and social media have become essential facets of our lives, they have given misogynists bigger platforms.

In her book, Sugiura wrote that characterizing some incels as extreme or not “obscures systems of oppression and ‘everyday’ misogyny — particularly online, where such boundaries can be harder to differentiate — that have become socially sanctioned and normalized.”

In concluding the “Hot Yoga” report, the Secret Service said that anyone “who may be in a position to intervene” needs to take heed of “objectively concerning behavior” and take action before it escalates to violence. In addition to hateful ideology, concerning behavior can also stem from “desperation or despair, a need for belonging or connection with others, and a desire for attention or notoriety.” Those able to intervene can include family, friends, educators, co-workers and online peers.

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This resource is supported in whole or in part by funding provided by the State of California, administered by the California State Library in partnership with the California Department of Social Services and the California Commission on Asian and Pacific Islander American Affairs as part of the Stop the Hate program. To report a hate incident or hate crime and get support, go to CA vs Hate.

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