The Angry White Man in the Van
Another attack in a major city has left us needing to talk about the angry young man in the room, or better, in the hire van. In Toronto, on Monday, a young man drove a van through crowds of pedestrians, killing 10 and injuring 15 more. He wasn’t an Islamist, nor was he an adherent to the alt-right’s menagerie of ideologies, but sexually frustrated.
The common thread between these mass-casualty attacks committed against civilians in otherwise peaceful cities is that exclusively the perpetrators are angry young men seeking to remedy delusional grievances by callously targeting innocent strangers.
When the Toronto attack happened, many assumed that it was another one done in the name of religion. Some of us dreaded that it wasn’t so; others vampirically hoped that their prejudices had again been validated. As it turns out, the perpetrator wasn’t motivated by Islamic extremism, but something more sinister and closer to home – the accused was frustrated with his inability to succeed with women and was lashing out at a world that he perceives doesn’t favour heterosexual white males.
This revelation was garnered from a pre-attack post on his now-deleted Facebook account. The post, which quite simply read, The Incel Rebellion has already begun! We will overthrow all the Chads and Stacys! All hail the Supreme Gentleman Elliot Rodger! was deciphered to allude to an online men’s rights group, the revelation bringing this attack frighteningly into our spheres of influence.
For those still unfamiliar with the terminology, Incel refers to the “involuntarily celibate” movement, populated by young men who are unable, but not unwilling, to form meaningful relationships with women. Chads and Stacys are sexually successful men and all women. Elliot Rodger killed six people and injured 14 more, back in 2014, before turning his weapon on himself. In a video uploaded before the attack, Rodger stated that he wanted to punish women for rejecting him and that he envied sexually active men. Frustrated by his lack of success with women, Alex Minassian this week piloted a vehicle, mounted the curb and drove for more than a kilometre down the sidewalk, killing and maiming indiscriminately.
It’s obvious that there’s an extreme amount of entitlement that leads a man to lethally punish innocents for his own inability to find love, but let’s not focus too much on this case, as its existence on the extreme allows us to believe that it’s an isolated event that can be discarded as such. That guy was obviously crazy to go that far. The most terrifying thing about this attack is how surrounded we are by young men of this ilk, perhaps not driven to commit mass murder, but actively and openly contributing to the rhetoric that allows ideas like this to fester. We need to focus on the culture of entitlement that leads young men to blame women for their own inability to get lucky, and mostly anything else that ails them.
Barely a young woman emerges from adolescence without being labelled a slut by somebody whose interest wasn’t reciprocated. Older women learn how to deal with men who become irritable, abusive and even violent when their advances are rejected or, heaven forbid, further contact is wanted after a sexual encounter. We see sentiments wheeled out every International Women’s Day, When’s Men’s Day? (November 19th, or every day), and when the media deems it newsworthy to talk about the domestic abuse epidemic. It happens to men too. We see seemingly educated, frustrated young men rail against feminists and opine about the unfairness of our sexual selection systems, rallying for women to make more of an effort in approaching them, complaining that the system is set up to make them fail sexually. Men, it sometimes seems online, are hard done by.
That these sexually, or perhaps more emotionally, frustrated males are problematic is nothing new. There isn’t a species on earth that doesn’t suffer from a proliferation of unattached young males. Anarchy reigns when troops of single, frustrated male baboons roam the countryside looking to restore the sexual balance in their favour. For a large part, humans are free from this effect – norms of monogamy attempt to prevent the few men with the most resources taking all the mates and thus depriving those at the bottom of a chance to reproduce. Still, however, men are still accustomed to getting their way and frustrated when the game of love doesn’t favour them like they think it should.
Technology has allowed these unattached young males to band together, albeit online. Like a troop of frustrated, blue-balled baboons, these guys get together on online forums and incite each other to violence. 4Chan, Reddit, etc are bastions for toxic masculinity, in part because of the tech industry’s leaning towards the worse of masculinity, from its inception to its current staffing imbalance and even to the way the forums allow men to be their most abusive without any real repercussions. It was of no surprise that the Toronto attacker was active on various Incel forums over the web, nor is it surprising that on those forums anonymous young men still support his actions.
That guys are frustrated at not finding love is understandable. We are, on a biological level, hardwired to pursue romance and thus find a vessel for our progeny. That they act entitled and lash out when they fail, however, is entitlement at its worse. We need to call these people out when their misogyny rises within our networks. Blaming women for their and the world’s woes, disregarding the importance of feminism, slut shaming – all of these behaviours if left unchecked will contribute to the ideologies that lead men to blame women for their own problems. Let these young men know that they’re wrong, that they’re being unreasonable.
And guys, if you’re not as sexually fortunate as you think you should be, don’t externalise your woes. The fault lies squarely with you, with who you are as a person. It’s the same traits that lead you to lash out and act abusive and violent to those who reject you are the exact same traits that led you to fail in the first place. If you find yourself unlucky in love, change some shit up, starting with your respect for women. That many men still view women as objects to lust over and possess is at the root of all this. Believe it or not, but some women won’t want you because they don’t have to.
For men who aren’t prone to this kind of blame appropriation, you should still talk to any women and ask them what their experiences are like with men, heck, talk to any woman. The amount of lunatics out there is truly staggering and will inform you of the problem we need to confront. As men, we need to acknowledge the issue and confirm that we don’t want to be a part of it. We need to tell our frustrated bros to pull their heads in, to stop externalising their problems, and that if they persist, to have a wank.
Cover via CBC
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Ex-editor of Australia’s Surfing Life, current producer and host of 50 Fiestas, Barcelona resident and drinker of all the wine, every last drop of it.