Men who hurt women, or talk about wanting to hurt women, are more likely to hurt people. Because women are, you know, people. This does not seem like an extreme or controversial statement to make. Yet the connection between hurting women and a propensity for violence (I mean, it’s redundant) continues to be discussed in tentative tones, as something we should maybe think about, rather than a super bright red flag.
A man cold-cocks the guy in the cube next to him, and it’s clearly assault. A man cold-cocks his wife, and welllll, there’s two sides to every story, and marriage gets messy, and maybe she’s lying, because women, amiright, or maybe she provoked him — a whole litany of excuses place violence toward women in some not-quite-as-serious category.
Even as news emerges again and again that the thing perpetrators of mass murder have in common is not race, or religion, or ethnicity, but a history of violence against women. Even after the latest attack by a man apparently motivated by hatred of women, a van attack in Toronto last week that left 10 dead.
For the first time ever in six years as a columnist and 18 as a journalist, I feel like I have to inform readers if you’ve ever been the victim of sexual assault, you might like to stop reading here, because some of these guys are really messed-up.
Alleged killer Alek Minassian posted to social media shortly before the attack, identifying as an “incel” (that’s short for “involuntary celibate,” a construction that doesn’t even make sense) and expressing admiration for fellow incel Elliot Rodger, who killed six people four years ago in Santa Barbara. Rodger left behind a manifesto detailing his anger that male supremacy has waned, and that women had refused to provide him with the sex to which he felt he was entitled.
Incels sit at one extreme end of “the manosphere,” a chunk of the internet occupied by men ranging from basically normal guys who feel divorce and custody laws unfairly favor women to “Red Pill” men who aspire to be “alpha” males and who believe government, video games and apparently everything are controlled by a secret cabal of feminists.
These red-pill men — a reference drawn from the movie “The Matrix” — embrace a lot of pseudoscience babble about intrinsic differences between men and women (whom they believe are inferior both emotionally and intellectually to men) and encourage men to become more dominant in interactions with women. Incels blame women for their lack of sexual success; they believe, as the Southern Poverty Law Center notes, that sex is a basic human right for men, and that it’s up to women to provide it, regardless of their willingness to do so.
These groups are largely connected by a belief in male supremacy, and that the world has changed from a place where men were literally and figuratively on top, entitled to women, sex and the resources they believe attract women and sex, to a world in which conniving feminists seek to emasculate men and overturn male supremacy. And really, it’s white male supremacy they’re pining for; that bygone era in which white men were firmly in charge, and there’s some solid evidence that sexism is an effective alt-right recruiting tool.
Earlier this year, the Southern Poverty Law Center added male supremacy to the hate ideologies it tracks, “because of the way these groups consistently denigrate and dehumanize women, often including advocating physical and sexual violence against them.”