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'Incel' movement inspired by violent misogyny, but help is available: report
Published Friday, May 29, 2020 10:05AM MDT Last Updated Friday, May 29, 2020 10:22AM MDT
EDMONTON -- Edmonton-based researchers are offering up a way to identify and understand members of the involuntarily celibate — or “incel” — movement.
The group released a new report, titled “Incels: Background for Practitioners,” explaining the group’s history, terminology and propensity for violence, and offering tips to draw people away from the extremist ideology.
The incel movement, as described by the Organization for the Prevention of Violence, is group “inspired by violent misogyny.”
The report found that men who identify as incels believe their physical appearance coupled with womens' liberation has prevented them from forming physical relationships with the opposite sex. In turn, they develop “an ideology that encompasses anti-feminism, misogyny, nihilism and self-abasement,” researchers write.
A HISTORY OF VIOLENCE
The report points to at least 13 reported attacks in North America since 2009, and four incidents in Canada resulting in death since 2015, linked to people involved in the incel movement.
The attacks include three in Ontario and one in Alberta. Among them is the Toronto van attack that killed 10 and injured 16 on April 23, 2018.
"Violently targeting women and those they view as opponents absolves Incels of their perceived weaknesses. It is ultimately an assertion of dominance and a conclusive rejection of their inferiority. Violence and intimidation places them in a position of power over others," the report's authors write.
While the group has largely been thought to consist of white men, self-polling by a popular incel online forum suggests that while they are almost entirely male, only about half are white.
A majority, 64 per cent, said they were under the age of 25, and three quarters reported either working or studying.
FIRST TERRORISM CHARGE
The report comes less than 10 days after police in Toronto laid Canada’s first incel-related terrorism charges.
On Feb. 24, a 17-year-old boy was charged after multiple stabbings at a massage parlour in north Toronto.
Twenty-four-year-old Ashley Noelle Arzaga was found dead at the scene. Another woman who was later identified as the parlour’s owner was also badly injured.
On May 19, RCMP police upgraded the first-degree murder and attempted murder charges to those of terrorism, after police found evidence the accused was “inspired by the Ideologically Motivated Violent Extremist (IMVE) movement commonly known as incel."
Some experts believe the first terrorism charge related to the incel movement could change how we view similar cases.
BECKYS, STACYS, CHADS AND BETAS
Like many online groups, the incel movement has its own terminology. “Stacys” are said to be physically attractive women who are unattainable by most men, while “Chads” are their masculine counterpoint.
As well, the movement believes the alpha male "Chads" are monopolizing sex with women, leaving fewer opportunities for their “beta” and incel counterparts.
“Beckys” are more average-looking women who still are attracted to Chads, but will settle for a beta when they hit what incels call “the wall” at age 25, when incels believe all women begin to lose their sexual appeal.
While the Organization for the Prevention of Violence acknowledges the overlap between the incel movement and other extremist ideologies, it suggests the distinguishing characteristic is a criticism of society's preference for traditional masculine stereotypes — of which they consider themselves lacking and as the source of their rejection.
HELP FOR INCELS
As the report found evidence these individuals target places where women congregate, such as yoga studios, women’s fitness classes and erotic massage parlours, the researchers suggest it may be worth considering security improvements at these facilities if attacks escalate.
But the Organization for the Prevention of Violence report is designed first for social work and mental health practitioners whose patients are associated with the incel movement and who “appear more likely than the general population to self-report anxiety, depression and other mood disorders.”
About 75 per cent of participants in more self-conducted polling by the online incel forum reported experiencing "long-lasting anxiety, stress or emotional distress," unhapiness and pessimism about the future. Nearly 68 per cent said they had "seriously considered suicide."
The report also offers several tips for supporting clients who may have been influenced by its ideology, such as supporting them without validating their belief system, working to understand their feelings of inadequacy and supporting clients in offline, self-improvement activities.
While the violent fringe is recognized as a threat, the report notes “it is important to acknowledge the majority of incels are not violent and may be at a higher risk of self-harm than the general population.”