Words by Jada Phillips
“You can’t be responsible for something that doesn’t listen to you. You can’t be responsible for a dog if it doesn’t obey you, or a child if it doesn’t obey you, or a woman that doesn’t obey you.” – Andrew Tate
In the past year, Andrew Tate took social media by storm. The sharp-tongued cigar-smoking playboy boxer was heralded as the new voice for men in the modern age. Tate has stated women are men’s property, claimed rape victims should “bare responsibility” for their attacks, and likened women to a child or dog.
It has only been 100 years since women were legally declared to be ‘people’. The battle for gender equality has come leaps and bounds since then yet we are on the horizon of a new insidious gender war. Tate’s clearly sexist views are supposedly at odds with current liberal society, however he is far from some obscure extremist trolling on the darkest corners of the internet. On Tik Tok alone, videos with his hashtag got over 13 billion views and he had over
4.7 million followers on Facebook and Instagram.
Masculinity has been described as the socially constructed notions of how men should behave or what roles they should play in society to be considered masculine. The standards for masculinity can change over time, across cultures, vary during different phases of life and can mean different things to different people.
Toxic masculinity is used to describe the most harmful norms and constructions of manhood.
Tate perfectly represents the most toxic masculine characteristics of the gender dichotomy. He represents the stereotypical hyper-masculine man, the ‘alpha male’. Anything but being aggressive, violent, sexually dominant and emotionless is not considered to be “manly”.
As women continue to play larger roles in society and reject traditional gender roles, men’s social, political and economic dominance is under threat. As sociologist John MacInnes notes, there is a “fundamental incompatibility between the core principle of modernity that all human beings are essentially equal (regardless of their sex) and the core tenet of patriarchy that men are naturally superior to women and thus destined to rule over them”.
“Tomorrow is the day of retribution, the day in which I will have my revenge against humanity, against all of you. For the last eight years of my life, ever since I hit puberty, I’ve been forced to endure an existence of loneliness, rejection, and unfulfilled desires all because girls have never been attracted to me. […] I don’t know why you girls aren’t attracted to me, but I will punish you all for it. It’s an injustice, a crime, because … I don’t know what you don’t see in me.” – Elliot Rodger
In the 1990s, Alana was just an ordinary university student living in Toronto when she created the website, ‘Alana’s Involuntary Celibacy Project’. What started as an inclusive community for those sexually marginalised to share their experiences, was co-opted to represent a more despicable underground community. An incel is a largely white, male, heterosexual identity and online sub-culture that define themselves as being unable to have sex due to reasons beyond their control. The incel community exists as a part of the larger manosphere, a network of online men’s communities that blame feminism for society’s problems and call for men to ‘fight back’ against it to ensure their survival.
‘Traditional masculinity’ is in a crisis. Men are having to embark through a futile wasteland in search of a mirage of their belonging, identity and meaning while believing that the liberated woman is their enemy. This endless search has created a breeding ground for misogynistic hysteria. This perceived failure of being a ‘man’ is leading to more dangerous and more violent consequences for society.
In 2014, Elliot Rodger went on a killing spree murdering 6 people in California before taking his life. He wrote a 141 page manifesto detailing his deep hatred of women for his inceldom as his motive for his terrorist attack. The attacks by Rodger is only one of many mass killings perpetrated by incels. In 2018, Alek Minassian drove a van into a crowd in Toronto killing 10 people. On 12 August 2021, a 22-year old Jake Davison got into an argument with his mother before shooting and killing her. Davison continued to walk through his neighbourhood in Plymouth, shooting at random which ultimately resulted in the deaths of 5 people before he committed suicide. Jake Davison was active online on his YouTube channel and on Reddit where he discussed his life as an incel.
To reduce the misogynistic beliefs shared by Tate, incels and those within the manosphere as just critiques of women or feminism is a great disservice to the nuanced discourse happening in society. The critiques from those within the manosphere are a reflection of the current wider socio political turmoil. There have been rapid changes to the social, political and economic landscape in recent decades. Those who have been historically marginalised are finally able to have a seat at the table. The way people view the world, the way people move through it and those who rule it are very different than in the past.
In story writing, there is a key to writing the most compelling villain. In the story, the villain has to see themself as both the victim and hero in their story. One could argue that alpha males and incel misogynists see themselves as such. They are victims of feminists who have tried to to strip away everything that makes them men. They are the heroes for standing up for themselves and trying to make the world return to the traditional – the good days.
Those who exemplify hegemonic power – white, straight, male, able-bodied, christians are being left to grasp for their waning power. Those who have been historically marginalised are the scapegoats for the shifts in power. The counter culture against progress made towards gender equality is similar across all areas of society undergoing rapid change. Violent attacks like the 2019 El Paso shooting or the Christchurch mosque shootings are becoming increasingly frequent as social progress is made and institutionalised oppression is being dismantled.
As Cornell philosophy professor Kate Mann states, “Progress predicts backlash. Patriarchal cultures tend to be self-reinforcing, have a tendency to try and reinstate the status quo when it’s disrupted. You can see in incel behaviour the desire to wreak revenge and lash out from when things are disrupted from their point of view”. There have been unintended complications in the oppressive systems built by the hegemonic. The arduous expectations and performance to uphold systems of oppression only serve a source of suffering to all those involved. It is clear to see when men outnumber women in rates of suicide, victims of violent crime and substance use. The system is turning the perpetrators into victims.