Toronto attack: What exactly is an 'incel'?

Alek Minassian, a 25-year-old Richmond Hill, Ont., man is shown in this image from his LinkedIn page. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Handout)

On Monday afternoon, one of Toronto’s busiest streets became the scene of a mass murder when a rented white Ryder van plowed into pedestrians, killing 10 people and injuring fifteen.

Police have identified their suspect as Alek Minassian, a 25-year-old man from Richmond Hill, Ont. Minassian was apprehended on scene after a stand-off with police. Police are calling the act deliberate, however Toronto Police Chief Mark Saunders declined to discuss a motive during a news conference that was held Monday night.

In the tragedy’s aftermath, Toronto police officials have confirmed Minassian posted a cryptic message to Facebook minutes before the attack. The post has caused many to speculate that the motive for  his behaviour was due to an intense hatred of women, and was part of an “incel rebellion.”  While Toronto Police Det. Graham Gibson stated during the press conference that the victims were “predominantly female,” police have yet to confirm the connection. 

The troubling post read, “The Incel Rebellion has already begun. We will overthrow all the Chads and Stacys. All hail the Supreme Gentleman Elliot Rodger!”  

Facebook has confirmed that the post was published to an account that belonged to the suspect, and have since removed his profile from their platform.

ALSO SEE: Van attack in Toronto leaves at least 10 dead

The man called “the Supreme Gentleman” is Elliot Rodger, a 22-year-old man who in 2014 killed six people and injured 14 in a stabbing, shooting and driving rampage near the University of California Santa Barbara campus in Isla Vista, Calif.

Before committing his gruesome acts, Rodger uploaded videos to YouTube explaining his actions as seeking vengeance on the women who rejected him. Rodgers also published his manifesto online saying his actions will represent his “War on Women,” where he will “punish all females for the crime of depriving me of sex for my entire youth, and gave that pleasure to other men.” Rodger’s committed suicide before police could detain him.

The recent revelation introduces terms that are inherent to the dark subculture of incels that exposes the violent side of male entitlement.

First responders on scene of the Toronto attack that killed 10 people and injured 15. (The Canadian Press)

What is an incel?

Minassian’s alleged Facebook post refers to the term “incel,” which means “involuntary celibate.”

The term is popular in numerous Reddit communities referred to as “support groups” for people who lack romantic relationships and sex. In 2017, Reddit banned incel groups, citing these groups in direct opposition to their site policy. At the time, the group was comprised of more than 40,000 members, who created threads with titles like “All women are sluts” and “Reasons why women are the embodiment of evil.”

According to experts, incels are often categorized by an intense self-hatred which they believe is due to not receiving sex from women. The men in this category debase women to shallow beings, who only value male appearance. There is a complex relationship with sexuality in incel culture — on the one hand, sexually active men are revered. These men, referred to as “Chads” are considered “good looking” and desirable, and are envied by incels.

ALSO SEE: Toronto van attack suspect charged with 10 counts of first-degree murder

Although incels desire sexual attention, they shame any sexually active female — which they referred to as a “Stacy.” Stacys are unattainable, and therefore the culprit and source of pain. Incels often refer to women as “femoids” or “female humanoid,” a term that is used to dehumanize women from thinking, feeling beings. Femoids are often attributed to robot-like status, who only crave sex from Chads.  

Why is incel culture so dangerous?

Incels lack the ability to make the connection between their treatment of women through incel jargon and their inability to maintain romantic relationships. Instead, incels position themselves as the victim, and attempt to exert control over their feelings of inadequacy by attacking women through derogatory language and body shaming. The rejection perceived by incels as an injustice can often lead to depression, isolation and intense anger.

Incel subculture falls under the umbrella of the manosphere, a multi-platform network of websites that focus on issues related to the men’s rights movement — including incel subculture and toxic feelings towards women.

Members of the incel community are typically also active within alt-right groups and frequently visit alt-right pages such as The Red Pill and Men Going Their Own Way. These groups offer a space for men to share their feelings promoting women’s inferiority towards men.

ALSO SEE: Toronto police seek clues about what sparked deadly van attack

Incels highlight the very real consequences of a narrow definition of heterosexual masculinity that emphasizes Alpha Male behaviour. Power, material wealth and a misunderstanding of women create a hostile and tumultuous environment for men who find it difficult to achieve this “ideal.”

Incel ideology also demonstrates the levels of misogyny that contribute to female oppression while protecting and normalize rape culture. Violence against women occurs daily, and is not just at the hands of a male who identifies as involuntary celibate. This subculture highlights an extreme version of hated of women that many experience to some degree on a daily basis -slut shaming, body shaming, female objectification sexual assault, sexual harassment all possess a monochrome of misogyny and a refusal to treat women as human beings.

At this time, little is known about Minassian, and the Facebook post in question has yet to be verified. Minassian’s ties to incel culture remain speculation, however, exposing this growing online movement is, nevertheless, extremely important.

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