The recent Toronto van attack seems to have been motivated by the Incel movement (short for “involuntary celibate”), though investigations are still ongoing and no definitive conclusions have been reached. What is known is that the attacker spoke highly of Elliot Roger (who killed six people in 2014), encouraged an Incel rebellion, and used Incel-based terms like “Chad” and “Stacy” (respectively, men and women who are successful in relationships with the opposite sex). Incels believe themselves oppressed by a sexual culture which privileges women, and advocate for a right to sex. At its worst, the Incel movement has spoken longingly of days when women could be taken as spoils of war and used however men wanted.
The attack was heartbreaking and will doubtless cause agony for the loved ones of those who were lost. But just as frustrating is that the Incel movement seems to be falling victim to an all-too-common misunderstanding of philosophy. Because they have a legitimate grievance (their frustration with sexual culture today), they believe themselves oppressed. And their solution is to return to a time when the problem didn’t exist. What they ignore is that the philosophies which study how politics manifests itself in everyday practices don’t say that any imposition on one’s will is a form of oppression; you need to be able to connect those practices to data showing a systematic injustice. Similarly, the goal of these philosophies was never to go back to a time before the problem existed—since other problems existed then—but to start a conversation about how everyone can be best cared for. Simply returning to a culture that is best for you but creates larger burdens for others might solve a problem in the short term but is unlikely to create a healthy society. Though it saddening to have to do this yet again in response to a tragedy, here are some papers with suggestions for overcoming the problems of misogyny.
- Louise Du Toit, “In the Name of What? Defusing the Rights-Culture Debate by Revisiting the Universals of Both Rights and Culture,” South African Journal of Political Studies, April 2013.
- Paul Nathanson and Katherine Young, “Misogyny versus Misandry: From ‘Comparative Suffering’ to Inter-Sexual Dialogue,” New Male Studies, 2014.
- Kate Manne, “Humanism: A Critique,” Social Theory & Practice, April 2016.
- Sian Tomkinson and Tauel Harper, “The position of women in video game culture: Perez and Day’s Twitter Incident,” Continuum: Journal of Media & Cultural Studies, August 2015.
- Emma Jane, “’Your a Ugly, Whorish, Slut’,” Feminist Media Studies, 2014.
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