...and I wished for the ignorance that I had enjoyed before.
Today, on the internet, I discovered something that made my skin itch and shortly thereafter actually made me nauseous.
I discovered that there is a "thing", that one could perhaps describe as a sub subculture, the demon child of the subculture that is MRA, which is identified by the term "Incel"
Here is a definition from Wiktionary:
Noun incel (countable and uncountable, plural incels)
- (neologism) A person who inadequately or never has sex despite wishing to.
- (informal, uncountable) involuntary celibacy.
And here is a link to a more detailed description from the wonderful Urban Dictionary.
Now, here's the thing...
In both of the long periods of being single that I experienced in adult life, I did make the odd joke, here and there that I was "celibate at everyone else's decision", and there were times when I was frustrated that I did not seem to be able to get anywhere with women. The thing is, I really was joking, and I was just sexually frustrated. I only talked about this stuff with very close friends and I NEVER thought that women owed me sex, or that any of the God awful shit I've seen today that these men believe was true.
I knew, if I was honest, that I was an emotional disaster, that I was not ready for a relationship and that I was probably not attracting interest from women because the level of "needy and broken" coming off me in waves was palpable.
I only turned my fortunes around when I got over whatever emotional pain I had been experiencing and stopped looking for sex / love / companionship at all costs, all the time, with the wrong people in the wrong settings.
I had NO IDEA that there were men out there who actually believe that they are owed sex and that the fact they are not getting any is some kind of conspiracy against them, or proof that women are all shallow, or that other men who are having sex, but are deemed ugly by these bottom-feeders, must have tricked their partners in some way.
Honestly the (actually quite small amount of) research that I have done today has left me wondering if there is any hope for some of the change that I think many of us want to see in the World with regard to gender politics, specifically with the eradication of misogyny and sexism.
How did these men get like this? Are any of them saveable? How do we stop more young men falling down this awful rabbit hole of Mens' Rights Activism and other, deeper cess pits of ignorance such as the Incel echo chamber?
I mean, clearly, I am teaching my kids about things like consent and equality right now. We don't have enforced hugs / kisses / intimacy - if either of the kids don't want to hug me or my wife or granny or "visiting friend", then that's no problem, and we do encourage them to be sure that they want to do other stuff as well, when appropriate1. They are just two kids. How do we, as concerned individuals, reach out to other young people and make sure that this poison does not take over their lives?
I don't have any answers, yet. Clearly I am looking for ideas. There does seem to be a growing correlation between this kind of horror amongst young men and the rise of the Alt-Right and the less crypto-racist (i.e. more openly racist) White Supremacist movements, so there is a train of thought that says "let's kill two birds with one stone and get them off this other poison to stop the revolving door between MRA and the Alt-Right", so this might be another plan of attack.
More than anything, though, like the rest of our role as allies, men need to call people on their shit if this stuff comes out. I know that when I was venting, in the past, a few people (who may have been more aware of this terrifying area than I) did gently mention to me that I might be starting to sound like a bit of a douchebag, and I listened and took on board their advice and criticisms. I suppose I have sailed pretty close to the wind of the "nice guy" trope in my twenties and looking back there was some stuff there that I am not proud of... Still I really, honestly, did not think like these people - seriously don't go reading their ravings on Reddit etc. unless you have a very strong stomach - and now that I know they exist I am having an "all new" phase of indignant and guilt-ridden horror with the way my gender seems intent on fucking up the World.
I don't want to apologise for them; they do not represent what I believe a man is or should be, despite the fact that they are male. I am not going to flagellate myself, as a man, for their existence, or for the poison that they are spewing into the World, but good gracious I do feel a duty to do something / anything to redress the balance and hopefully turn the tide.
I really did think that MRAs were as bad as it got in terms of "communities" of sexist, misogynist men - boy was I wrong.
Please do give me ideas, thoughts, or your angry, defensive hatred if you are one of these bozos; so that I know to avoid you and warn everyone I know about you too.
My kids are young and not yet fitted for having complete agency in all matters, ok? As they get older they will be offered the opportunity to take more responsibility for themselves and make more and more of their own decisions, but some things, right now, need to be decided by us, their parents. ↩