My, what a cheerful read. The underlying synchronicity of the universe declared that I should see this advertised shortly after the Plymouth shootings, when it had emerged that the shooter was an incel; I had previously thought these were a USian phenomenon but I thought that if they’re coming over here too then it really is time to get to grips with the whole thing. It’s not just about men who hate women, though that is the core of it – a study of the history and habits of the whole incel movement. There’s also men who fear women, men who avoid women, men who hurt women, men who hound women … A lot of men that I really wish I didn’t share a gender with, really, with a chapter given over to each category, though there is a lot of overlap. The author acknowledges that there’s only a small minority of men at the heart of it – but in real terms, that small minority is still a lot, and they are influential. What is most unnerving is the way she can track the rot. Certain turns of phrase, or false statistics, or bogus biological claims, appear first of all via the websites and tweets of the movers and shakers. Then she can follow them as they gradually work their way down the chain; she starts hearing them repeated mindlessly by newspaper columnists and MPs and other people in the mainstream eye, who probably have no idea where they originated, and then end up being fired back at her in all innocence by teenage boys at schools where she gives talks on sexism. It’s eerie, it’s unnerving, and it’s a threat.
But it ends positively, with a chapter (“Men who hate men who hate women”) on all the good work that is being done, as well (inevitably) that remains to be. My favourite “yay!” moment is when she gave a talk to an audience drawn from two separate boys’ and girls’ schools. The schools work closely together so all the kids knew each other, and the girls picked up via social media that the boys were planning on disrupting the meeting. So, they asked permission to leave their classes a few minutes early, got to the auditorium first, and carefully made sure they sat in every other seat, making it impossible for the boys to form a bloc. Go girls!