Saturday, 28 April 2018

Radfems and Incels: Dueling Pathologies

The tragic van attack carried out by Alek Minassian that left ten dead in Toronto Canada has brought discussion of the "incel" subculture to the international fore.

In case you don't know, incel stands for involuntarily celibate, an online subculture of almost exclusively young men who bemoan their ongoing romantic and sexual failure. Minassian was one of these, as was his idol, Eliot Rodger, who carried out a similar attack that killed six and injured fourteen in 2014.

Then as now, the media narrative surrounding these tragic occurrences has emphasized a sense of entitlement to sex rooted in misogyny of which the incel subculture is but the thin end of the wedge. We are told that this pathology of sexual entitlement permeates all of western culture due to its being patriarchal, heteronormative and so forth.

As always, it's far from that simple, and feminist sermonizing isn't going to help. In fact, it's going to make things worse.

In cases like this, there's really two dueling pathologies to consider.

1 - The pathologies of the incels themselves. These vary, but when it reaches murderous expression, it's safe to say they're pretty extreme. Near as I can tell, the standard narrative of male entitlement to sex rooted in patriarchal misogyny is a gross oversimplification. Yes, that's there, but is far from the whole story. My experience with this, both in incel like people I've known in the past and my own dabbling in such a mindset in my later teen years is that it's driven by resentment over a feeling of having been short changed in overall attractiveness. Incels are obsessed by their own unattractiveness and project this obsession onto a despite for those who are not similarly saddled. As such, it is, at heart, a kind of crab-bucket mentality that is not so different from regressive leftism.

"Hope Cope Rope" - Incel Pathology isn't
as bad as you've been told. It's worse.
Incel rage tends to target women more than men since it's generally easier for women to be attractive to men than it is for men to be attractive to women. Anti-female resentment is imported in this way and very quickly permeates the community until it becomes extremely pervasive and toxic. Women, and even less resentful men, are driven out, incel forums become echo chambers and pathological belief systems feed off themselves. I would have thought this characterization of incels to be standard Vice or Vox propaganda had I not myself seen this process at work personally.

So misogyny and sexual resentment is indeed a big part of it. But that's not fundamentally what incel rage is about. In fact, I've seen "feminist" variations of this, where the anger is directed at the patriarchy for constructing sexual dynamics in a way that privilege rich and powerful alpha males. In this sense, both incel rage and feminist rage have a common root in a sense of entitlement to an egalitarian social and natural order. This is a nuanced thing for us to consider, for as leftists ourselves, alt-leftists naturally tend to value equality and when we see unequal outcomes, we look for social (and thus inauthentic) as opposed to natural (and therefore authentic) explanations for it. Parceling out the two is a portion of the alt-left's ideological task.

The thing is, the incel perception is not always wholly inaccurate, at least on a foundational level. Attractiveness is not equally distributed among members of either sex, the desire for romantic and sexual companionship is very real as is the pain of ongoing rejection and frustration in attempts at meeting those desires. So I think there's a place for empathy for men (or women) who find themselves in this predicament, while simultaneously rejecting the pathological jealousy that can and often does arise from it.

2 - The pathologies of the feminist responses to incel rage, and to beta male rage more generally. This includes Eliot Rodger and Marc Lepine. It is understandable for women to be especially horrified by these incidents - women were primarily if not exclusively targeted. That horror ends up being metabolized via broader feminist theories of widespread patriarchy and misogyny. But this is more than a mere explanation for the horrific events. Feminist theory is ultimately a justification for privileging female experience over male experience. For creating a gynocentric culture.

Like many mass movements, current year feminism has a quasi-religious air about it. True believers love to hear the prayers and incantations for their own sake, and will seize upon any justification for doing so publicly. So not surprisingly, we've been inundated in no small amount of hand-on-hip finger wagging from feminist pundits about entitlement, male privilege, objectification, rape culture and the like. I suspect that this kind of patronizing, condescending mother-to-child scolding tone and obliviousness will fan rather than quench the fires of misogyny, both in incel communities and elsewhere. It is human nature to dig in our heels in the face of assertions of moral superiority, especially when they come from outside the group being targeted by such assertions. It's a safe bet that there's not an incel out there who hasn't heard the feminist line on this (or every) issue - they do have an internet connection, after all. If it was going to help, it would have by now.

Feminists seem to like to pretend that sexual desire has no place in human interactions (except when they're the ones doing it) and that heterosexual male desire for female sexual companionship is nothing more than objectification entirely the result of a sense of superiority and entitlement that would evaporate entirely if these men just got over themselves and respected women as true equals to men. This mentality will only exacerbate the problem of incel culture. The hard reality is that the angst associated with failure to secure a sexual partner isn't going anywhere, no matter how it's protested or denounced in the media. Incels obviously aren't dealing with this angst at all well, but ideological sloganeering from the tumblr crowd isn't going to help either.

Slavoj Zizek is fond of recalling Jaques Lacan's notion that the jealousy of a husband who suspects that his wife is cheating on him is pathological, even if it is factually founded - she really is cheating on him. Why? The true question is “not is his jealousy well-grounded?”, but “why does he need jealousy to maintain his self-identity?” Something very similar is at work here, in both the incel and feminist camps. Both are rooted in a pathological sense of victimhood and sense of entitlement that they are owed deference by the rest of society due to real or perceived inequality of results. This is the very definition of regressive leftism.

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