Originally published in the Winnipeg Free Press on April 26, 2018

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For many of us, the events on Monday in Toronto introduced a new word into our vocabulary: “incel,” or involuntarily celibate. The 25-year-old Toronto area man accused of killing 10 people after a van plowed into a busy sidewalk apparently self-identified as an “incel.”

In a Facebook post, Alek Minassian stated: “The Incel Rebellion has already begun! We will overthrow all the Chads and Stacys! All hail the Supreme Gentleman Elliot Rodger!” Rodger, another incel advocate, was a man who in 2014 killed six people and then himself in California. And once again, questions are being raised about the culpability of social-media sites such as Facebook, Twitter and Reddit for their role in this violence.

Reddit is a media site that allows individuals to chat on all manner of topics. Reddit bills itself as “the front-page of the Internet,” providing people with the opportunity to chat about areas of interest. Reddit claims that in November 2017 it banned the community dedicated to the involuntarily celibate, which was about 40,000 strong, because of a policy change to prohibit content that “encourages, glorifies, incites or calls for violence or physical harm against an individual or group of people.”

However, still thriving and readily accessible are other sub-Reddit groups, including one called TheRedPill with more than 250,000 subscribers, which uses the same language of incels, espousing hatred toward women and in particular feminists, and envy toward men who are successful with them. “Chads” are men attractive enough to have sex. “Stacys” are the female equivalents. They are the target of much derision from incels, painted as the enemy. In the sub-Reddit world of TheRedPill, it’s all about dominating Chads and Stacys with descriptions that are written like porn fantasies.

Then there’s MGTOW, another sub-Reddit group, which stands for “men going their own way,” which calls itself a hospital for the male spirit, but is in reality a depressing series of expletive-laden complaints about women and marriage, calling women “femnoids” and calling out feminists for lying about the pay gap, lying about domestic violence, lying about rape and lying about the #MeToo movement.

Vocal Twitter users took to that social-media site to ask immediately for the government to implement enforced marriage laws and to drop the age of consent. This appears to be a recurring theme among followers of these groups. Their problems would disappear if women were just sexually compliant. Thankfully, there was immediate pushback on Twitter. But the fact that people felt they could voice these opinions with impunity is shocking, to say the very least.

The language used in this one small corner of the internet environment, which I accessed within 30 seconds of trying, is nothing short of frightening. If this were a religious organization, particularly a non-Christian religious organization, it would have been shut long ago and investigated by police as hate speech.

Instead, it operates in full view of Canadians because it talks about only women in a deprecating way.

In short, this is radicalization — but it’s radicalization that is misogynistic, and it’s normalizing toxic masculinity under the guise of free speech, much in the way the Ku Klux Klan normalized racism.

On Dec. 6, 1989, Marc Lepine walked into L’École Polytechnique in Montreal and killed 14 women, wounding another 10 women and four men. He claimed that feminists had ruined his life.

In California, Elliot Rodger killed six people, two of them women, because women wouldn’t have sex with him, and for that he blamed women and feminism.

In 2017, Quebec mosque shooter Alexandre Bissonnette also was interested in Rodger. Less than 24 hours before the mosque shooting in January, he typed “Elliot Rodger” into Google.

When will we start talking about hatred toward women and feminists in the same way we talk about the Islamic State group and other radicalized organizations? And when will social-media sites such as Reddit, Facebook and Twitter take responsibility in how hatred toward women is spread?


Shannon Sampert is an associate professor in the department of political science at the University of Winnipeg and the Director of EvidenceNetwork.ca.

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