Patriarchy is based on two primary factors: male demand for access to reproductive labour, and male demand for access to sexual intercourse.
Every component of inequality and injustice between men and women comes down to these factors. From abortion, to the performance of femininity, to fatherhood rights, to the nuclear family, to prostitution and pornography, to women’s right to choose sexual partners, to rape and sexual violence, to consent, and to the terrorization of women by men.
I have friends who don’t know what ‘incel’ means. Until now. Incel is ‘involuntarily celibate’, which describes men who are too creepy or dickish to get laid, but men who believe they are egregiously harmed by women’s refusal to let them fuck us. Men who see women as things, as dehumanized hivemind bots denying them access to sex, which is, they’ve decided, half of women’s dual purpose on this planet: fucking and motherhood.
Alek Minassian drove a van into a crowded sidewalk, murdering 10 people, mostly women as surely was his intent, and injuring 14 others. He is an ‘incel’: a man who believes he has a right to fuck women and that women do not the right to say no. Women’s refusal to play along and grant him access to their bodies is punishable by death. These women, whom he’d never met, he decided are disposable and worthless.
The police officer, who had every reason to believe Alek Minassian actually had the gun he stated he did, did not pull the trigger to end the life of Minassian, although this was what Minassian demanded he do. The officer, Ken Lam, a man of colour, didn’t acquiesce to the killer’s desire for suicide by cop. Now we will know more than ever about what men like Minassian think about women – and about themselves.
Minassian worshipped Eliot Rodgers, another incel who killed 7 people in 2014 in the US. I have friends who’d never read Rodger’s manifesto nor seen his final video.
These men are all over the internet, happily escalating each other into raping and murdering women and bystanders. Their words, vile and violent, are there for all to see, if you know where to look – if you’d ever want to. I didn’t want to. I don’t want to know what, or how, these men think. I know what patriarchy says about women; that’s bad enough. Do we need to get into the minds of individual, entitled, hateful, jealous, cruel, and pathetic men? Do we need to try to understand, to soften, to support?
Is that really women’s job? Is it our responsibility to heal men from the wounds inflicted on them by other men and a male-dominated culture? I saw someone ask, ‘I wonder what his relationship with his mother was like?’ How far we will reach to allow men to abdicate responsibility for their choices. Who is to therapize these men who hate women? How much more labour can be expected from women to try to save ourselves from woman-hating violence? How has it become that male violence is women’s responsibility, women’s fault, and women’s job to cure? We already know women can’t fix this. We would have already, if that were even a possibility.
I had a conversation with friends a couple days after this happened. There was a general consensus that our society hurts men too and that we need to understand them and help them heal. Patriarchy hurting men is like the negative side effects of a very effective drug. Men could just stop taking the drug – they could fight against patriarchy, they could opt out of the benefits, they could do the work to support women and uplift our voices and deny the undeserved power bestowed by millennia of near global male control. But with vanishingly few exceptions, men do not. They like the drug. The side effects of patriarchy, like not being able to express ‘feminized’ emotions (who feminized them, anyway?) or feeling limited by masculinity (who enforces these limits? Who created them?) are not negative enough for them to deny the benefits. Benefits of this drug include a culture that decides you are superior if you are born be-dicked, you are granted the ability to earn more money doing less work, male-dominated fields uphold your power and female-dominated fields rush you up that glass escalator. Benefits are having an entire class of humans, the female class, be considered below you enough that you can bypass consent with money, you can view their degradation on demand, you can molest little kids and still be ‘a good man’… you can kill your girlfriend and call it passion. Again and again.
In Canada, every 6 days, a woman is killed by a man who claimed to love her. We call this domestic abuse. Like it isn’t as meaningful because it happened in the ‘domestic arena’, in the world of women, in the home. But like what Minassian did, this is terrorism. These are hate crimes. The death of women has become so normal as to be invisible. Men do not have to fear the wholesale slaughter of themselves by women.
Male violence is a crisis. Did it take a van ploughing into a sidewalk full of people to finally have the conversation about it? If not, how many more women and others will have to die?
What is wrong with men? And who is supposed to fix this?