By now you’ve most likely heard the name Andrew Tate - a former kickboxer who has expressed extremist misogynistic views, including that women should obey men, remain faithful while their partners cheat, and that rape survivors 'bear responsibility' for their own assaults.
Videos of Tate sharing his abhorrent views have been watched over 11 billion times on TikTok and lapped up by an extremely loyal group – known as incels – that also uses misogynistic language to dehumanise women.
The incel (‘involuntary celibate’) movement is a mostly-online community which at its core resents women for not providing them with sex.
This terrifying rise of this misogynistic subculture is being amplified all over the world thanks to the internet – and its rise in popularity in my own country, Sweden, prompted me to investigate the issue further.
According to a comprehensive analysis of user bases of global incel forums, Sweden has one of the highest number of incels in relation to its population, with 240 visits to incel forums per million inhabitants.
For a country that has historically been at the forefront of championing women’s rights and taking strides in equality, this statistic seems to point to a rise in resentment from the incel community.
This misogynistic backlash can also lead to real-world violence. A study from 2020 identified that in Sweden as a woman’s income increases, so does the risk of potential domestic violence.
I decided to go undercover to find out more. These people live and breathe online as a result of society’s condemnation of their extremist views, so I knew that the only way to immerse myself in their world to understand more would be through studying their forums.
I spent three months reading through their posts and comments, and the further I delved into researching this virtual subculture, the darker my findings became.
The worshipping of incels who kill
"I will raise a beer to every victim who turns out to be a woman between 18 and 35”
“Genocide against women would be perfectly warranted, that is my humble opinion”
Incels who successfully carry out brutality against women are considered gods among men, with rafts of stomach-turning praise following violent attacks.
Such praise followed the UK’s first such attack in 2021, when Jake Davison, 22, used a gun to kill five people in Plymouth before turning it on himself – solidifying his martyr status in the incel forums.
Among the victims were a three-year-old girl and Davison’s own mother, a cause for celebration in the forums he had previously frequented.
The cult of self-harm
“I’m almost thirty years old. My best years will soon be behind me, and I have never even been anywhere near a woman – not as a boyfriend, not as a one-night stand. They don’t want me. They make it very obvious too. They might not hate me, but they treat me with contempt, which is worse.”
From examining the content within these forums, the only thing that came close to the level of loathing they felt towards women was that which they felt towards themselves.
I have seen for myself young men posting pictures of themselves in the forums, asking other incels to judge their looks and then being told that they should kill themselves. They believe that it is because they are ‘ugly’ that they can’t have sex and they develop enormous self-hate.
This manifests into a horrifying practice referred to as ‘bone smashing’, in which individuals beat themselves in the face in an attempt to make their jawline more apparent – as they believe a strong jawline is considered the most attractive masculine feature.
The dehumanisation of women
“I don’t regard women as people. All they are, or should be, is slaves for men. Cooking, cleaning and spreading their legs when they’re told.”
“Society hates us and we are men. No one cares about us. We have to turn to violence, to force society to help us.”
Dehumanisation is a key tool within the incel movement, because by viewing women as subhuman they are free to degrade, defile and endanger women at their leisure.
Referring to women as ‘femoids’, the best case scenario is that women are seen as objects, and the worst is that they are viewed as targets.
The danger that comes from incels viewing women as objects, is that they feel as if they have a right to them. When this is discovered to not be the case, they consider ways of taking by force what they believe to be owed to them.
Many in the incel movement have proposed and advocated for the existence of state-run rape camps, as they view both women and sex as things that they have a right to.
After realising the full extent of this issue, I felt compelled to write about it in the hope of raising awareness of this rising threat.
My novel Femicide examines the seemingly separate murders of three women which, over time, all come to be linked to the incel movement. While I chose to base the story in Stockholm, it could just as easily be set anywhere else in the world as we know the harsh reality that this is not an isolated issue.
When extremist views on the fringe of society begin to seep into mainstream culture, they pose a very real threat to years of cultural progress. Misogyny has always existed, but the rise of incel forums have provided millions of men with an outlet and a shield of anonymity to unleash the full wrath of their hate online.
Incels will continue to feel emboldened, and we must not be blind to it.
Femicide by Pascal Engman is published in the UK by Legend Press
If you have a story you want to tell, send it to UNILAD via [email protected]
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