Radical anti-women groups like ‘Incels’ on the rise

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Radical anti-women groups like ‘Incels’ and ‘Men Going Their Own Way’ are thriving on the “manosphere”, according to a new study.

Groups of Pick Up Artists and Men’s Rights Activists are giving way to more extreme online communities like Incels and Men Going Their Own Way, a new study has found.

As part of the study, a computer science team skimmed forums and social networks like Gab and subreddits, scraping information from 138,000 users and 7.5 million posts over the past 14 years.  

The study showed that over time the level of “toxicity” has risen across all “manosphere” forums and subreddits.

It also revealed that from every year since 2015, around eight per cent of MRA or MGTOW (Men Going Their Own Way) members appear to have become more radicalised and joined incel groups online.

According to the study, which is yet to be peer-reviewed, these newer groups on the so-called manosphere are becoming more toxic and misogynistic.

Dr Joshua Roose is an expert in extremism and masculinities at Deakin University.

He told The Feed while MRAs focus on perceived injustices against men, MGTOW also promotes men abandoning women, aside from the reasons of procreation or sex.

“Further along the spectrum you start to hit the Involuntary Celibates (Incels),” Dr Roose said.

“There are two different factions within that; some who reject violence and volumes of men who actively target women on the basis of violence.”

A memorial for the victims of a van attack in Toronto last month. The suspect praised the “incel” movement.
A memorial for the victims of a van attack in Toronto last month. The suspect praised the “incel” movement.
Cole Burston/Getty Images

Dr Roose said we’ve seen about 50 people killed in North America over the last decade in relation to Incel-motivated terrorism.

In 2014, self-described incel Elliot Rodger killed six people and injured fourteen others. Before the killings, he had spoken about a “war on women” and complained of women not being attracted to him.

In March, a 17-year-old who had ties to an online subculture of self-described involuntary celibates killed eight people in Atlanta.

Last month, the Texas Department of Public Safety released a report that found incels “are an emerging domestic terrorism threat as current adherents demonstrate marked acts or threats of violence in furtherance of their social grievance.”

Santa Barbara residents and UC Santa Barbara students come together for a student-led gathering on May 23, 2015in remembrance of those who were killed and injured by Elliot Rodger
Santa Barbara residents and UC Santa Barbara students come together for a student-led gathering on May 23, 2015.

Dr Roose said anti-women extremism needs to be taken seriously as misogyny and violence are now widely understood as a gateway to far-right and religious extremism. 

“The idea is that men are warriors and women belong in the home,” Dr Roose said.

“There’s a powerful core theme that men not only need to reclaim their masculinity, but they also need to fight the cause.”

Research from Dr Roose published this year revealed young men under 35 years of age “were the demographic most likely to disagree with the statement that women deserve equal rights to men.”

For young men, accessing these communities is as easy as jumping on social media networks like Instagram or TikTok, Dr Roose said.

Dr Roose said on the manosphere, there’s often very little difference between “shitposting” (such as posting an edgy meme or joke) and a legitimate violent threat towards women.

“Shitposting is often used to disguise certain thoughts and behaviours as a joke, as nothing to get worked up about,” he told The Feed.

“What they’re often doing, though, is using a language that once we translate it, and look at it historically and in a wider context, is embedded in violence.”

Dr Roose also believes resentment and distrust in institutions during the pandemic has exacerbated the popularity of these radical online communities. 

“There’s a sense of nostalgia for this sense of this past lost,” he said.

“There’s a strong sense of having no control, no power over your future and looking for someone to blame.”

He told The Feed if we don’t get it right and combat this form of extremism, it’s likely we’ll see a significant increase in new and emerging forms of violence.

“It’s critical that we get on top of the threat now because this is going to go on for the next decade or more.”

If you or someone you know is impacted by sexual assault or family violence, call 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732 or visit www.1800RESPECT.org.au. In an emergency, call 000. 

Men who are seeking help for abusive and violent behaviour towards women and families can contact the Men's Referral Service on 1300 766 491.