Men Who Hate Women: From Incels to Pickup Artists: The Truth about Extreme Misogyny and How it Affects Us All, by Laura Bates
On April 23, 2018, self-described incel Alek Minassian deliberately drove a rented van into a crowd of pedestrians on a busy Toronto street, killing 10 and injuring 16 others, mostly women.
Earlier this month, the "involuntary celibate" was found guilty on all counts for the murderous act, with Ontario Superior Court Justice Anne Molloy explicitly rejecting the defense team's argument that his autism made him not criminally responsible for his actions.
Other self-described incels have had no trouble defending the mass murderer, with one commenter on The Black Pill Club, and incel hangout online, remarking that Minassian's act was "a middle finger to this hostile society." Another commenter's only complaint was that Minassian hadn't killed enough people to warrant worship.
Is it too much to call what Minassian did "terrorism?" Laura Bates thinks not. The founder of the Everyday Sexism Project and author of a number of other books about misogyny spent a year immersed in what's called the "manosphere," a vast online world in which incels rub elbows with an assortment of other misogynists — from "pickup artists" with little respect for the concept of consent, to the male separatists who call themselves Men Going Their Own Way (but who can't seem to stop talking about women). The book she has extracted from this experience, Men Who Hate Women, which hit U.S. shelves this month but published earlier in the UK, is an often harrowing read; an uncompromising guide to the misogynistic backlash of the past decade or so.
Part of the reason we as a society cannot seem to acknowledge incel mass murders as the terrorist acts they are, Bates notes in her new book, is that:
"...misogyny and violence against women are so widespread and so normalized, it is difficult for us to consider these things 'extreme' or 'radical,' because they are simply not out of the ordinary. We do not leap to tackle a terrorist threat to women, because the reality of women being terrorized, violated and murdered by men is already part of the wallpaper."
Because of this fundamental failure of understanding, the government and non-governmental organizations that define "terror" for us don't even bother to track the murder sprees of men like Minassian and Elliot Rodger, the California man whose murderous rampage in 2014 brought the first widespread media coverage of the incel movement — and earned him the adoration of incels around the world.
Bates is deft in sorting through the angry, hostile, and self-pitying rhetoric of the incels, who manage, as she notes, to be both victims of and purveyors of hate. But she's also expert in taking apart the self-serving nonsense of the seemingly more respectable Men's Rights movement, which not only does "vanishingly little to tackle the many very real issues affecting men today" but actually makes them worse by reinforcing the most toxic and backwards elements of toxic masculinity — all the while promoting the nonsense notion that men, not women, are the truly oppressed gender in the world today.
The number of men involved in the manosphere is difficult to measure, perhaps in the tens or even hundreds of thousands — enough that, as Bates puts it, "they are men we all pass on the street." This would be bad enough if these men were only talking to one another. But they aren't, as Bates writes; the manosphere is leaking. One expert Bates speaks to is convinced that roughly 70 percent of young men today have been exposed to manosphere ideologies in some form or another. YouTube has proved itself as one of the more effective conduits of this kind of hate; popular Men Going Their Own Way channels like Sandman and Turd-Flinging Monkey boast view counts in the tens of millions. Whether they encounter these ideas in their rawest form on incel forums — or if they run across them "repackaged and brushed up for a mass audience" — young men are being taught to hate and fear women.
The weakest part of Bates' book is, unfortunately, the section devoted to solutions. But that's not altogether her fault. As she notes, "[o]ne of the most powerful antidotes to the manosphere is to take real, concerted action against the threats it poses to men" — in particular, "challeng[ing] the stringent, hyper-masculine stereotypes it blindly clings to, even as they stunt and suffocate its most devoted followers." But there are few out there willing or able to do this important work — at least at this moment in history. Perhaps Bates' book can help to inspire more men to try.
David Futrelle blogs about misogyny at WeHuntedTheMammoth.com. His writings have appeared in The New York Times, the Washington Post, Vice, and many other publications.