Move over toxic alpha male dude-bros who think they are entitled to control every aspect of the lives of the women they love. The bitter misogynists of the world have news heroes to look upto — incels who are glorified to the extent of being legendary. Involuntary celibates or incels as they are largely called are men who blame women for their single status and thus spew hate against them, often inciting violence, especially on the internet. A report in The Vice describes incels as, “overwhelmingly young men and boys with a history of isolation and rejection,” who they turn to the internet to make sense of their pain.

If incels are to be believed, women are responsible for everything from their loneliness to lack of active sexual lives (thus the term). Lately, the narrative that women turn good men ‘bad’ by rejecting them has caught up in pop culture. The latest example being Joaquin Phoenix starrer Joker, which has been dubbed as “a toxic rallying cry for self-pitying incels,” by IndieWire reviewer. What’s with this need to evoke fandom and empathy for incels?

KEY TAKEAWAYS:

  • Joaquin Phoenix’s Joker has been dubbed as “a toxic rallying cry for self-pitying incels,” by a reviewer.
  • This isn’t the first film which legitimises or glamourises incels.
  • Close home we have seen the glorification of several self-pitying, lovers as wronged by women in films and pop culture.
  • Men often root for these seeming underdogs, because they feel their gender is entitled to love and intimacy from women.

If incels are to be believed, women are responsible for everything from their loneliness to lack of active sexual lives (thus the term). Lately, the narrative that women turn good men ‘bad’ by rejecting them has caught up in pop culture.

You don’t have to look at slick Hollywood films to know how we have legitimised incel mind-set among men through pop culture. Our own films have always been unnecessarily kind with the Ranjhanaas of the society, who have been ‘wronged’ by the women they love. The audience is expected to root for this noble man who can slit his wrists, bunk classes, and stalk the woman he loves. The average looking Joe who is conveniently ditched by a self-centred heroine for a smarter, richer, more powerful man. This is the lie we are asked to believe, that women are opportunists and they don’t know good from the bad. Women utilise good men for their benefit, offering nothing in return. Pyaar Ka Punchnama anyone?

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We used to have so many movies on such a theme in the nineties and eighties. The culture of misogyny fed to us via these films has bred the anti-woman incel trolls that we have to endure on social media. Men with pictures of alpha male heroes in their profile pictures. Men who lament laws against rape and dowry, accusing women of misusing them, of mistreating ‘good’ men. They share WhatsApp jokes about how girls will leave you if they find someone richer or more handsome than you. They fill our timelines with whataboutery, calling feminists ‘feminazi’, because clearly women already have equal rights in the country, and while rape is bad, women aren’t saints themselves, which is why one can’t trust everything they say.

I  know there a millions of amazing men out there who don’t hold a grudge if a woman or many women reject their romantic or sexual advances. They don’t feel entitled to love and sex, because of their gender.

Have I embarked on a rant about men in general or faceless social media trolls here? No, because I know it is patriarchy which creates the men versus women narrative. This gives certain men entitlement to assume that their love and sexual advances must be reciprocated. It is patriarchy which feeds the fragile male ego and thus makes them see feminism and its call for equality as a sham. And I know there a millions of amazing men out there who see this too. Who don’t hold a grudge if a woman or many women reject their romantic or sexual advances. They don’t feel entitled to love and sex, because of their gender. But movie makers need heroes who appeal to the mass mind-set. They need characters who are reject underdogs, but who manage to ‘win’.

Does no one realise how dangerous it is to legitimise the incel mind-set? Why do we want to tell our growing boys that if you have hurt someone, due to rejection from women, you are not in the wrong? Hatred, violence and anger can’t be validated in pop culture, because the ramifications will be born not just by women, but the entire society. In May 2014, Elliot Rodger stabbed six people to death in the US before shooting himself. He had left a document behind in which he had described himself as the “ideal magnificent gentleman” and could not comprehend why women would not want to have sex with him. According to a BBC report he further added that he had “no choice but to exact revenge on the society” that had “denied” him sex and love.

It is easy to ignore toxic misogyny when women are its target, but sooner or later hatred finds a way to destroy everything in its sight. The glamourisation of incel mind-set needs to stop before yet another rejected man feels entitled to go on a murderous rampage.

Image Credit: YouTube Screengrab

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Yamini Pustake Bhalerao is a writer with the SheThePeople team, in the Opinions section.  The views expressed are the author’s own.

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