Recently published research analyzing a popular discussion board for involuntarily celibates, commonly known as “incels,” is providing new insight into the online community’s misogynistic views.
The study, led by Michael Halpin, an assistant professor of sociology at Dalhousie University, examined more than 3.6 million comments on the website incels.is from November 8, 2017 to April 16, 2021.
After collecting a database of popular misogynistic terms—such as “Becky,” a derogatory term for white women, and “noodlewh*re,” a term used to demeaningly refer to Asian women—the researchers aimed to determine how frequently incels make misogynistic comments while discussing amongst themselves online.
Published in the journal New Media & Society earlier this month, the study found that 82% of comment threads and 81% of users’ post histories contained at least one of the terms.
“In this sense, misogyny is a product of the incel community, rather than a few select individuals,” Halpin wrote. “Furthermore, we find that there is no statistically significant overall association between a user’s post frequency and their use of misogynistic terms, which suggests most users posting on incels.is do not become misogynistic on incels.is but arrive already endorsing misogyny.”
Speaking with PsyPost, Halpin further stated that besides hating women, incels also appear to have hostile views toward themselves.
“We also noticed that incels targeted themselves, seeing themselves as failed men, seeing their bodies as ugly, and seeing themselves as being doomed to be ‘forever alone,'” Halpin said. “The way they talk about themselves made most of us on the research team sympathetic to a degree, because it is quite depressing.”
Although Halpin says the data suggests that incels hate all women, the community appears to “specifically dehumanize women of color and see them in both racist and sexist terms.” Specifically, women of color are seen as more accessible but less desirable than white women.
Halpin added that around 50% of incels are men of color, making the use of racist language towards women of color surprising. Men of color also regularly referred to women of color as “race traitors” for expressing interest in white men.
The researchers concluded that early education and intervention is likely the best tool as those on incel forums are almost always already deeply misogynistic. Halpin also argued that deplatforming incel communities is an ineffective strategy given that such censorship, which can be easily bypassed with the creation of a new forum, will only further convince incels their views are correct.