On Friday, August 13, 2021, in Plymouth, England, Jake Davison, 22, shot and killed five people before turning the gun on himself. According to CNN, the victims included the shooter’s mother Maxine Davison, 51; Sophie Martyn, a 3-year-old; her father, Lee Martyn; 44, Stephen Washington, 59; and Kate Shepherd, 66. Footage was later found of the shooter, Jake Davison, talking about his frustrations with women as a result of his lack of a sex life, calling women “simple-minded” and saying that the only thing women want from men is money. His comments resembled those of incels, men who claim they are involuntary celibate—in other words, they can’t find a woman willing to go to bed with them.
The term incel originated on a Usenet newsgroup in the late 1990s and became popular through other social media such as Twitter. The term is traced back to a woman named Alana, who used a blog to talk about her involuntary celibacy in college. Participants of such forums are mostly men who blame their lack of sex and healthy interpersonal relationships on women and feminism. Incels use terminology, such as “femoid” and “thot,” to describe women in demeaning ways, attempting to lessen their worth. “Femoid” describes women as not human and “thot” an acronym for "that h*e over there," is used to describe a sexually active woman. Incels believe in male supremacy, and in the idea that women are inherently of lesser value than men.
The incel movement may have started on social media, but recently these women-haters have been taking their grievances offline, like in the Plymouth, England shooting earlier this month. Toxic masculinity, an idea that often supports dominance, aggression, and homophobia in men, emboldens Incels to engage in dangerous behavior that supports their negative feelings towards women. Relaxed gun restrictions are also part of the problem. Just last month, police in Hillsboro, Ohio found out about a man’s plot to kill women “out of hatred, jealousy and revenge.”
Police reached 21-year-old Tres Genco right before he planned to target and kill women and charged him with a hate crime. A hate crime is the targetting of a specific group of people based on race, gender, sexual preference, etc. Classifying incel attacks as hate crimes ensures that the perpetrator receives a harsher sentence, depending on the state where this occurs.
According to The Guardian and research did by Institute for Research on Male Supremacism, around 40-50 people in the United States and Canada as of July 2021 have lost their lives due to violence that has been traced back to incel idealogy. Some countries alongside The United States have been trying to find new ways to ensure that crimes directed towards women receive harsh sentences. Many people in the UK are debating on whether or not incel attacks should be treated as terrorism. The difference between the classification of a hate crime and terrorism is that terrorism’s goal is to influence the government. Alongside this terrorism must be “serious violence” that puts a person’s life or property in danger.
Right now, all over the world, there is a war on women. The threats that the online incel community is posing to women are terrifying and addressing these crimes as hate crimes is one easy way to ensure that women feel safer in a world where incels exist. Lives are being lost and violence is ensuing. What occurred in Plymouth is occurring all over, with a majority of incel shootings occurring in the past ten years. What needs to occur is the conversation surrounding classifying incel attacks as hate crimes. Crimes that target women specifically are hate crimes and should be treated as such. Harsher penalties are needed to ensure safety for women.
Top Photo: Screenshot from Youtube
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Payton Toomey is an editorial intern at BUST and a student at the University of Arizona studying Journalism and Information Sciences and eSociety. She loves writing about mental health, feminism and pop culture. You can follow her on Twitter @PaytonToomey.