Gender-based terrorism: Inside the secrecy and violence of incel culture

Gender-based terrorism: Inside the secrecy and violence of incel culture

Gender-based terrorism: Inside the secrecy and violence of incel culture 

sibeal devilly

17th of December 2021


This article is the first in a series that explores some of the lesser known forms of violence against women and the contexts in which they emerged.


From Toronto to Plymouth to Hanau, a new type of crime is being seen around the world, one that devastates communities and leaves people feeling unsafe. When I sat down to write this article, there were a number of soft approaches I considered taking. It’s something I have seen spoken about on social media from accounts based in Britain, but it feels like the subject hasn’t quite filtered into Irish conversations regarding gender-based violence. A sensitive topic and not one to be taken lightly, it’s hard to know how to broach the world of incels appropriately. In truth, the more I researched for this article, the less I wanted to know – and I think that’s part of the problem. Incels thrive in secrecy. In order to counteract the movement, understanding incels is the first step.

Incel is an abbreviated term for “involuntary celibate”. The term (and movement) began as a support website started by a woman who was struggling in the dating world, but after she found love and left the community, it became co-opted – and the meaning (and purpose) of the community changed. It became a place where men went in search of support and compassion for their loneliness and anger at being involuntarily celibate. These men allow themselves to be defined by their virginities and place the blame on society around them. 

Part of a larger culture, the ‘manosphere’ (a collection of websites dedicated to men’s rights) includes Pick Up Artists and Men’s Rights Activists, less extreme symptoms of the same disease. 


Within incel culture there are certain phrases used, some of these include: 

  • Normies – people who are not members of the incel community 
  • Foid – abbreviated from the term ‘female humanoid’, this refers to women generally; however, incels use it in order to remove the humanity from those they are discussing
  • Chads – men who are conventionally attractive and with whom women have sex 
  • Stacys – women who are conventionally attractive and who have sex (with Chads) 
  • Lookism – the discrimination that incels believe leads to their lack of sexual experience with women, whereby a genetic lottery allows women and attractive men hold the power to decide who gets to have sex and who doesn’t 

It should be noted that many of the theories incels believe, such as “lookism”, are co-opted from real theories in sociology. An example of this is the 80:20 rule (also known as the Pareto rule), which in layman’s turns predicts that 80% of outcomes come from 20% of causes. Thus, incel culture dictates that 80% of women sleep with only the ‘top’ 20% of men, leaving the odds stacked heavily against the non-Chads of the world. 

The incel community, according to Laura Bates, author of Men Who Hate Women is “devoted to violent hatred of women”. This hatred is more than the everyday sexism women already tolerate. It is, as Bates says, violent. These men are not simply looking for compassion and understanding; many of them are looking for what they believe is retribution for the unfair hand they have been dealt. 

Bates, in her book, investigates the forums and Subreddits* on which these conversations take place. Incels are often indoctrinated at a young age, mere teenagers on the internet coming across forums within the “Manosphere”. These young men are left vulnerable to feelings of insufficiency and unworthiness in a society that champions traditional masculinity in males. Many members are lonely and often isolated from those around them in the offline world, seeking understanding online.  

The violent aspect of the incel community leads men from feeling dejected and lonely to reclaiming their sense of self through rage. Through encouragement by fellow members and examples set by other members of the movement before them, this rage becomes directed at “Chads” to some extent, but largely at women – and not just the “Stacys” of the world, but all women – for existing, for emasculating men, for having the audacity to choose who they sleep with. This comes out on incel forums in terrifying tyrannies of rage. Men talking about reclaiming their power through acts of rape or violence against women to induce shame and fear, “teaching women lessons”: Bates finds, is a common topic too.  

This violence doesn’t just exist in online platforms within the manosphere. It is filtering through to the rest of the internet too. For example, I myself had heard the term “Chad” before researching incels. Bates points out that this infiltration is not incels co-opting these words from common language, but rather the use of these terms being seen by so many that they filter into our rhetoric outside the manosphere. And before you think these people exist in the fringe part of the internet, it is worth noting that there are incel groups, pages and forums online with over 200,000 members. This is not a fringe issue. This is not a few angsty teenagers. This is a large movement of men, who believe enacting violence over women is a rational and honourable thing to do. 

A connection has been made between incels and the Alt Right movement. The Alt Right, defined by white supremacist ideology, nourishes the idea that modern society offers little to white men. This ideology coincides with that of the Manosphere, allowing the contents of its dark crevices to trickle into political rhetoric, normalising the concept.  

The connection between the Alt Right movement and the manosphere also operates as a racial issue. Although Bates found a few platforms “friendly” (for lack of a better word) to ethnic minority incels throughout her research for Men Who Hate Women, for the most part, even within these spheres, racism goes unchecked. White incels often use reductive terminology for ethnic minorities, blaming the race of fellow incels for their failure with women, rather than the attributes that white incels relate to. 

After a deadly attack in Toronto in which an incel killed 10 people and them himself, the perpetrator’s actions were glorified and even revered in online communities. His initials turned into an abbreviation with positive connotations, and was described as a “warrior” by fellow incels. In the media, the coverage of these killing sprees is often vague, or chalked up to other factors, such as race, or an assumption that the murders were mentally deranged. Until recently, there has been little thought put into how the murders came about, and what inspired or encouraged these young men to take the lives of others and in some cases themselves. 

A 2018 attack which took place in a Toronto erotic massage parlour, fatally stabbing one woman and injuring others, was updated from a murder charge to one of incel terrorism, marking the first charge of its kind in the world. The precedent has been set: incel terrorism has been recognised by law enforcement in Canada. This begs the question – why are the media still so slow to call other attacks incel terrorism? Or to identify incels as terrorists at all? Incels thrive in secrecy. They have created their own vocabulary to avoid being revealed, so comfortable are incels in their online privacy, manifestos have been found published online preceding attacks containing plans for the tragic events before they happen. 

We need to stop letting this community fester and grow in darkness. Not only do we need judicial and media-based recognition of the danger posed by incels, but we also need to dismantle a society which places so much pressure on boys and men to be masculine that failure feels worthy of rape and murder. We need to talk to the boys and men around us and let them know that they are seen and heard, and that how many women they “succeed” with is no metric of their identity. We need to rethink masculinity, femininity and what it means to be a success in our society. And we need to do it now, before even more lives are lost to the lonely, violent manosphere. 


* Reddit has since moved to ban incels from the platform  


Additional Resources: 

‘Men Who Hate Women’ by Laura Bates 

@vulgadrawings on Instagram: 


Glow West Episode 104: 

Close Friends The Podcast: 


This article was supported by: Opinion Editor Olivia and STAND Engagement Coordinator Aislin


2021 Politics Roundup: The biggest stories in US politics

2021 Politics Roundup: The biggest stories in US politics

2021 Politics Roundup: The biggest stories in US politics

Sean Creagh

13th of December 2021


2021 was a mesmerising and consequential year in US politics. Here are some of the biggest stories of the year summarised:


6th January

After a substantially controversial and polarising election, the United States of America sat on the precipice of total civil disunion and chaos with the streets of Washington boarded up in fears of attacks from protestors.


Hordes of disgruntled Trump supporters swarmed the Capitol building with deluded hopes of overturning the election result. The “deplorables” went to the streets to seeking white-washed revenge against the changing face of America and vengeance against a system they felt had long forgotten them.


Rioters occupied the building for several hours whilst senators fled for safety in the lower quarters of the Capitol Complex. Pipe bombs were later found but had failed to detonate. One hundred thirty-eight police officers were injured, and five people died.


The president failed to take accountability for the insurrection and would later be impeached for a historic second time.


20th January

After a successful run for the White House, Joe Biden was inaugurated with a minuscule crowd on Capitol Hill due to Covid-19 related restrictions. 


His inauguration speech was solidarity focused but ushered in the themes of what the administration would ultimately represent. Across its 2411 words, the theme of “unity” featured the most. The incoming president would face many tough challenges: China, truth decay, mass unemployment – If Trump were Herbert Hoover, he would have to be Roosevelt.

Biden would immediately become the oldest sitting US president upon inauguration, at the steady age of seventy-eight. Kamala Harris also makes history as the first female Vice President of the United States.



Texas suffered a major power crisis, due to three severe winter storms sweeping across the state. This led to massive electric grid failure and the White House approving a major disaster declaration for all 254 counties.


Texas senator Ted Cruz (Republican) is rebuked by critics for choosing to vacation during this time. He later remarked his trip to Cancun was “obviously a mistake”.



The House of Representatives gave the green light to the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act in a 220-212 vote on 4th March. Racial profiling at every level of law enforcement would be prohibited, and any form of chokehold outlawed at the federal level. The qualified immunity for officers’ systems is also overhauled. The bill receives no Republican votes.


On 6th March, the Senate voted 50-49 to approve the COVID-19 relief bill: the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021. The legislation features $1400 stimulus checks for Americans and amounts to a total of $1.9 trillion of government spending – the most ever in US history. Biden signed the act into law on 11th March, and it became an early victory for the administration. The bill, again, received no Republican votes.



In March, US authorities picked up almost 19,000 unaccompanied children at the southwest border, the highest monthly number on record. This comes following the Biden administration’s rolling back of many Trump-era immigration policies, such as the immediate expulsion of unaccompanied minors.


Vice President Harris receives the most flack for the humanitarian crisis, as she had been put in charge of the situation in February. Images circulate on social media of children being dropped from extraordinary heights over the border wall by traffickers and further perpetuate the idea of chaos at the US-Mexico border.



On June 7th and 8th, Kamala Harris travels to Guatemala and Mexico to help rectify the immigration situation with Presidents Alejandro Giammattei Falla and Andrés Manuel López Obrador.


Meanwhile, Joe Biden attends the G7 summit in Cornwall on 8th June. Whilst the conference mostly centred around uniting western Europe against authoritarian regimes such as Russia (following the imprisonment of Alexei Navalny), talks of a global minimum corporation tax also prove constructive. The US applies pressure on countries such as Hungary and Ireland to increase their tax rate to 15% to create a fairer market environment.



Despite some early successes, the US has begun to trail other countries in vaccine uptake. By July, roughly 50% of the population is fully vaccinated, with growth in numbers slowing week on week. The new “delta” variant also proves problematic for America’s recovery from Covid.


The Biden administration pushes several incentives and mandates as a result, such as states providing $100 incentives for jabs and instructing federal workers to show proof of vaccination when coming into offices. Some of these measures prove unpopular and contribute to Biden’s now flagging approval rating.


The state of West Virginia also chooses to raffle off hunting rifles to vaccine recipients during this time.



New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announces his resignation, effective two weeks later, following a state Attorney General report on his sexual misconduct. His fall from grace is significant considering his rise to mainstream stardom the year previous, during the early stages of the coronavirus pandemic. His concise and direct press conferences received widespread praise in contrast with the Trump administration’s haphazardness and had some even calling for Cuomo to run for president in 2024. 


A year later, Cuomo resigns in disgrace. Democrat Kathy Hochul replaces him as governor.



On the twentieth anniversary of 9/11, the final US troops withdraw from Afghanistan. However, any sentimentality about the catastrophic event is completely clouded by the disastrous exit, which saw the Taliban recapturing the country within a few days.


A military embarrassment witnessed on the global stage; Biden’s poll rating reaches new lows. He received mass condemnation for his handling of the troop removal, with critics comparing the events to Saigon in 1975. Despite twenty years of US occupation, the wheel comes full circle for the region and is left just as unstable as when American troops first landed.


Also, this month saw new laws restricting abortion introduced in Texas. These limitations include removing abortion care beyond six weeks of pregnancy (and possibly earlier).



US coal and fuel prices have reached their highest level since 2009 as inflation continues to plague the rebounding economy. This has been driven by more robust electricity demand and a doubling of natural gas prices in 2021, leading some power generators to switch to fuel. High international prices have also propelled US coal exports.


The Department of Energy later announces a release from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve to help tackle rising prices.



World leaders attend the COP26 Climate Summit in Glasgow, Scotland. Progress is made in critical areas such as cutting greenhouse emission gases and coal usage, but there is the noticeable absence of crucial superpowers China and Russia. Other global powers Iran and India, also choose not to attend.


Photos of Biden and UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson asleep at the conference also go viral.



EU and NATO allies get behind America’s assessment that Russia is preparing for a large-scale invasion of Ukraine.


This follows a significant escalation of US-Russia relations which sees the Biden administration directly warning the Kremlin of the ramifications for such an attack.


Debates around the consequential Roe v Wade ruling also resurface this month, following signals that the Supreme Court is preparing to overturn it as part of an ongoing legal battle with Mississippi lawmakers.



Collage was created in Canva by the author

Image Sources for collage (all creative commons): 

Top left, Top right, Bottom right, Bottom left

This article was supported by: STAND Engagement Coordinator Aislin


‘Period justice is gender justice’: DCU’s Ross Boyd on period poverty

‘Period justice is gender justice’: DCU’s Ross Boyd on period poverty

‘Period justice is gender justice’: DCU’s Ross Boyd on period poverty

sibeal devilly

12th of December 2021

Across the world, 800 million people menstruate daily, but the topic still remains generally undiscussed. The lack of conversation around the issue feeds into a cycle of stigma and silence, which serves to create a sense of shame for people who menstruate, an important bodily function which is completely natural and experienced by about half the global population. Difficulty in raising awareness about the issue allows these these challenges to go unnoticed and unchecked which perpetuates a cycle of stigma and the proliferation of harmful myths. These social stigmas, when coupled with other financial and cultural barriers, mean that the fight for global menstrual justice requires an intersectional approach. 

A new campaign from STAND and the Union of Students in Ireland (USI), #FreeTheFlow, aims to break this cycle of stigma and inaccessibility. Partnering with a number of activists and experts, the campaign explains the barriers to menstrual justice and explores the ways we can break them down. According to Aishah Akorede, founder of Recrowned Ireland: “#FreetheFlow means breaking the cycle of stigma attached to menstruation, which is the first step towards addressing the problem of menstrual poverty…you cannot solve something that you cannot speak about.” With panel discussions and workshops, the campaign hopes to encourage both those who menstruate, and those who don’t, to take action to tackle menstrual inequality together. Students can sign the #FreeTheFlow pledge to receive an action pack filled with ideas about how to support the fight for menstrual equity on university campuses and around the world.


#FreetheFlow means breaking the cycle of stigma attached to menstruation, which is the first step towards addressing the problem of menstrual poverty…you cannot solve something that you cannot speak about.

There are several different angles through which menstrual inequity can be tackled; social, cultural, economic, environmental. In terms of social and cultural change, dispelling myths around the world that menstruation is ‘unclean’ or ‘unhygienic’ is key. For example, myths around cleanliness prevent young girls on their period from entering the classroom, robbing them of vital education. In terms of economics, tackling period poverty is a huge aspect of menstrual justice. In Ireland, the average annual costs of period products per person who menstruates is estimated to be €96.72, rising to €121 per year when pain relief is taken into account. ​​National data suggested that approximately 53,000 to 85,000 women and girls in Ireland may be at risk of period poverty; while globally, 12.8% of people with periods struggle to access the resources they need to manage their periods. 

One aspect of menstrual justice which is often overlooked is the issue of sustainability. Period products generate huge amounts of plastic waste, with the average person who menstruates throwing away 200kg of menstrual products in their lifetime. These barriers to access add to social stigmas around menstruation, stigma which then leads to misinformation, myths and mistreatment and prevents people from accessing basic human rights. This then feeds back into a lack of action into tackling these original barriers to access, and the cycle of shame and disempowerment continues.


Period products generate huge amounts of plastic waste, with the average person who menstruates throwing away 200kg of menstrual products in their lifetime.

STAND spoke to Ross Boyd, Vice-President of DCU Students Union and member of #FreeTheFlow partner PLAN International Ireland’s Youth Advisory Panel, about how tackling period stigma will benefit everyone, not just people who menstruate. 

As part of PLAN International Ireland, a charity with a strong focus on gender equality, Ross’ eyes were opened to the realities of gender inequality both in Ireland and in the Global South. “You think you know a lot when you go into a space like that,” Ross said, “but then you realise you actually don’t know anything.” For Ross, once he had been exposed to many gender inequality issues which he had previously been unaware of, the next step was “very much about listening,” and then taking that information on board to inform your allyship. Ross, like many men, was nervous at first about entering into the conversations around gender issues such as period justice, but says that what changed for him was “realising that men are just as important to gender equality than women and other marginalised genders are.” 

One major aspect of breaking the stigma around menstruation involves welcoming those who don’t menstruate into the conversation as a way of normalising and removing shame from the process. “The best way to combat that stigma is to have conversations that make it more normalised,” says Ross, “but not making jokes like ‘oh they’re just on their period’, because those kinds of things just dismiss the issue.” According to research done by PLAN International Ireland, around 50% of secondary school girls feel shame around their periods, exacerbated by a culture of silence and taboo around the topic. For Ross, especially as someone involved in a leadership position in a university, “removing the stigma is the first thing, but then also removing those financial barriers.”


“…men are just as important to gender equality than women and other marginalised genders are”

Another issue which is important to deal with in terms of increasing accessibility and reducing stigma is to adjust the language used when speaking about menstruation and menstrual inequity. For Ross, this is often just as simple as remembering that “it’s not just women and girls involved in this issue, but all people who menstruate.” But this is also impossible to separate from other barriers, such as economic ones. Having period products discreetly available in all public spaces allows those who menstruate but don’t identify as women to access period products which stigma or other social barriers might prevent them from accessing otherwise. In DCU, when the campaign for free period products on campus was launched it was important to the team for the products to be free and available, “in all bathrooms, in gender neutral bathrooms as well, so people don’t need to experience the stigma associated with entering a women’s bathroom.” In DCU they also provided a postal service of period products in order to provide people with even more privacy.

In the end, period inequity, like all other forms of inequity, will not only be solved by those who directly experience it. It requires everyone to lift their voice into the conversation to break the stigma and increase accessibility. The DCU free period products initiative garnered such a massive demand that they had to scale back. “It really just showed how many people really did need it,” says Ross, highlighting how the lack of conversation around the topic can shelter people from the realities of how widespread it is. When a topic is not talked about, it is easy to turn a blind eye or to distance yourself from the problem. But Ross implores those who think they have no place in the menstruation justice movement to reconsider; “Your friends or people you know definitely face these issues – either from financial barriers, stigma, or mental health barriers – whether they disclose this to you or not.” While menstruation inequality is just one aspect of gender inequality, it is one that is often overlooked. Ross summed up the importance of this campaign; “period justice is gender justice.”

Learn more about the campaign and take the pledge to #FreetheFlow by visiting


Featured photo by Annika Gordon on Unsplash


This article was supported by: STAND Women’s Editor Ellen and Engagement Coordinator Aislin


Ditch the Disposables with VOICE Ireland

Free The Flow Features

#FreeTheFlow Features

3rd December 2021