On Jan. 22, The Washington Post reported that 27-year-old Christopher Cleary had been arrested after posting threatening messages on his social media accounts about his plans to initiate a mass shooting. The cause of this urge, he said, was the fact that he was a virgin, and he announced to social media that he would be “killing as many girls as I see.” The phenomenon of violence against women in the name of revenge, specifically due to a lack of female attention toward men may not be new in American society, but it’s going through rebranding in this age of technology.
Most notably was the forum website Reddit that banned a community called ‘incels’ in 2017. This community, whose name refers to the phrase ‘Involuntary Celibate,’ is a collection of 41,000 individuals who united around their inability to find a romantic partner. This chain often was filled with self-disparagement, bereavement and anger toward the women who were not interested in them and the romantic interests of these women. While the bulk of this feed was men voicing their complaints, it also was home to the occasional incel who would hold more extreme views on the situation.
Like Cleary, these men called for violence against women and would even go as far as discussing ways to harm women in the name of rejection, all the while being cheered on by others who supported these views. In a 2018 article about the group, The Huffington Post stated that there have been at least four mass murders by so-called incels in the last 20 years.
The group’s media coverage growth has boomed in the last few years, even being featured in an episode of “Law and Order: Special Victims Unit.” However, this increased attention means that not only is there greater attention being placed on the way these men view women, but it is also exposing naivety surrounding this extreme way of thinking, possibly contributing to the chance of this minority turning into a much bigger threat.
When I was first made aware of this ideology, I was a senior in high school. A boy in my grade posted on one of the boards and made threatening comments about a female in my grade, which the administration never seemed to catch wind of but spread around the students like wildfire. I took 10 minutes out of my day to read some of the comments on the chain, which can still be found on certain subreddits and was unnerved at the sight.
The direct call for disrespect, violence and even rape against women for doing nothing but existing without giving attention to certain men continues to be a problem at the core of American society. If comments like these are not addressed as real and present dangers for women of every community, that transcends race, class or ability, it will continue to decompose the values of the public and emphasize the already present fear that women face on a daily basis.