How the Plymouth shooting illuminates the urgency of de-normalising such misogynistic ideologies in society.
On 12 August 2021, Jake Davison embarked on Britain’s worst mass shooting in over a decade. Davison, a 22-year-old White male who repeatedly declared his hatred of women, shot and killed five people in Plymouth, including his own mother and a 3-year-old girl, before taking his own life. The police soon determined the shooting as non-terror-related. Yet, the investigation into the Plymouth shootings has since emphasised the role that his adherence to extreme misogynistic ideology played in his murderous decisions. Indeed, Davison had links to the ‘incel’ community.
“Women are arrogant and entitled beyond belief,” Davison ranted to a 16-year-old US teenage girl on a subreddit forum, just five days before he murdered five people. In the online exchanges, obtained by the Observer, Davison expressed his belief that women “treat men with zero respect or even view them as human beings,” and implied that sexual assaults were justified because “women don’t need men no more.”
Evidence of his misogynistic views goes further, with his claiming that he was “entitled” to a “16, 17-year old-GF [girlfriend]”. After the teenager questioned why Davison would pursue young girls, he responded: “If I were to walk into my room and find a 16-year-old spread wide on my bed yeah I would have sex with her.”
Incels are men who describe themselves as “involuntary celibates,” referring to an online community that blame women for their failed relationships and the fact that they are not having sex. “In other words, they’re not having sex and they want to be,” explained Laura Bates to the Guardian, author of the book Men Who Hate Women. The incel movement encompasses a spectrum of different attitudes and beliefs, but expressions of violent misogyny are common. Online forums have detailed what they describe as a ‘day of rebellion’ or ‘incel uprising,’ where they pursue their beliefs in the real world and murder women. The incel movement has inspired several well-known murders in the US, including Elliot Rodger, who killed six and injured fourteen in attempt to instigate a “war on women” for refusing him sex in California in 2014. Indeed, incel culture is considered to strongly overlap with extremist right-wing ideology.
Yet, the men who have carried out attacks in the name of incel culture are almost never classed as terrorists by the justice system or police. In attempt to understand why, it is important to refer to the definition of terrorism in the UK.
- The use or threat of violence designed to influence the government, an international governmental organisation or to intimidate the public or a section of it
- The use or threat of the violence is for the “purpose of advancing a political, religious, racial] or ideological cause”
- The violence must be “serious violence” or actions that would endanger someone’s life or cause serious damage to property
Would misogynistic incel-inspired violence not be prosecuted as terrorism? Are these men not being radicalised to advance a male supremacist ideological cause? Does this not pose a serious terrorist threat that could lead to further attacks?
Yet, just hours after the Plymouth shootings, local MP Johnny Mercer determined the murders an “isolated incident,” claiming that it was no longer ongoing and there was no reason for people to be afraid. However, the extreme misogyny ideology that it is propagated by incel culture is a threat to all women and all communities. We cannot normalise the radicalising nature of those online spaces, and the extreme acts of violence that it inspires.
Indeed, it is feared that the Plymouth shoots may be a sign that incel culture is gaining traction. As highlighted in a BBC news article, research from the International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation at King’s College London shows that one of the biggest forums for incel online activity has around 13,000 active members and around 200,000 threads. In fact, the impact of the pandemic, lockdowns, and subsequent social isolation risk pushing people towards extremism, and will undeniably have led to the radicalisation of more men by the online incel community.
An investigation has commenced by the Independent Office for Police Conduct into why Davison’s firearms licence was returned to him in July following an allegation of assault against him since September 2020. Perhaps this is reflective of a gender-blind approach to prosecuting violence against women and girls in the UK. On average, a woman is killed in the UK by a man every three days. Had Davison’s public misogynistic beliefs been taken more seriously by police watchlists, perhaps tragedies such as that in Plymouth could have been avoided. It is time to reframe the normalisation of such women-hating ideologies in society. And perhaps viewing these misogynistic acts of violence as terrorism is one place to start.
At JAN Trust, we put a focus on minimising the prevalence of domestic violence by providing impartial, culturally sensitive and confidential advice and guidance in English and South Asian languages for women suffering or fleeing from domestic abuse. If you or someone you know is experiencing domestic abuse, try to maintain social connections online or over the phone, if it is safe to do so. We also offer workshops that aim to raise awareness of how to detect cases of FGM, as well as offer advice on how to support victims.