I must be a lot more unplugged than I thought.
As a Trans person, it’s important to strike a balance between having your finger on the pulse of adversity and progress, but also keep a safe distance from the toxicity the can wear you down and ultimately pull you under the current.
Especially in the current climate, where emotions are running at an all time high and common sense has exited the building, which is on fire and crumbling around us like a scene from a Hollywood disaster movie. Minorities, specifically those who have found themselves on the receiving end of an onslaught of political abuse and social terrorism, have to self preserve. Sometimes that means turning off social media, which can inundate a casual user with hateful rhetoric, wordy news articles spreading misinformation, and people they care about, friends, family, casting away their fear of retribution or accountability and putting their prejudices proudly on parade. It can be shocking, deeply disturbing and overall very, very sad.
Knowing when to shut the world off can be a blessing. There is nothing wrong with putting down your sword and retreating to the safe harbor of netflix and pizza, at least that’s what I tell myself. Things are spiraling into some dystopian parallel universe, where upside down is right-side up. Trying to make sense of the chaos and understand the insanity can make you insane.
A lot of people have gone crazy. We don’t call it crazy anymore, though. We call it religious freedom, or alt-right viewpoints or alternative facts. It’s all radicalism.
While on the phone with a friend in the UK, she told me about a woman on the news who created the “Radfem” movement. I had not heard the term Radfem before, but it’s not exactly science to determine that it implies a Radical Feminist. They’re basically TERFS- Trans Exclusionary Radical Feminists, but reject being referred to as TERFS, claiming it is a slur.
“They’re a hundred times worse than TERFS…” My friend told me. After a few days of research, I discovered she was right.
Radfems are indeed much worse than the traditional TERF. As where TERFS are typically casual with their prejudices, I’ve found they lack self-awareness. They try to logicize their bigotry and sell it to their audience packaged as a “Sophisticated Arguments” and “Clever Rebuttals.” They resist being called a bigot, it offends them. Instead they ask others to sympathize with them for being portrayed as villainous. They are villainous, make no mistake, but they lack the capacity to comprehend why we make that deduction. Therefore, they presume the role of a victim under assault by an army of “Men in Dresses.”
Radfems are a different beast in that they embrace their radicalized sensibilities with pride. They covet their bigotry and wear it like a badge of honor. They aren’t interested in posing as innocent victims of a make-believe Trans agenda, but desire to be viewed as vigilant guardians of femininity, sexuality and womanhood. They aggressively attack, unprovoked, nonsensically hellbent on creating a narrative that paints them as a hero trying to slay a mythical beast. Radfems are completely consumed by their hatred and any awareness of a shared reality is entirely absent- They exist in an imaginarium where only others like themselves exist. They feed off each others rage. They have handed over their freedom of thought and developed a hive mind, informing each others opinions- and their very souls have gone septic, sending them into a state of madness not altogether unlike a rabid dog. They can no longer differentiate between right and wrong, helpful or harmful, kindness or cruelty. They have gone primitive, they only know outrage. They fling their arms about, bellowing inflammatory slurs and when shut out by the public, they complain they have been oppressed for being women.
Despite their vocal intensity, they’re actually a cowardly collective. Their movement lies mostly on social media where they create ridiculous smear campaigns against Transgender women, whom they believe are trying to coerce into their space with the intent of penetrating them by force. Radfems, I’ve noticed, mostly identify as lesbians, and have presumed entitlement over the whole of lesbianism, for example, how lesbians behave, who can be one, and what makes you a good lesbian. If you’ve ever had relationships with men, you’re going to be viewed as traitorous to the RadFem collective. There is one way to be a Radfem, and any departure from that makes you their enemy.
As far as I can tell, the RadFem movement sprouted up like stinkweed, first in the UK, from one woman’s dissatisfaction with the Labour Party deciding to include Transgender rights as part of their manifsto in defending The Gender Recognition Act of 2004. Recently, the GRA has had broad changes proposed, allowing Transwomen to self-identify, rather than navigate years of obstacles and red tape.
Spearheading the RadFem movement is Venice Allan, a 43-year-old from South London, who was suspended from the Labour Party after an investigation revealed she had been heavily engaged in creating and posting anti-trans photos. Doubling down on her hate-parade, Allan publicly condemned Lily Madigan, the first transgender woman to be elected as a women’s officer in the Labour Party. Then, just last week, Allan also found herself banned from twitter for promoting hatred and inciting violence toward Transgender women. She still has her facebook page.
Transgender women have become more visible in the UK, even assuming positions of power. This alone can likely be credited with Allan’s gory birth of RadFem as an opposition.
Quick to join Allan in the formation of the RadFem movement was Lily Maynard (A pseudonym, she informs us via her website.) Lily is Mother to a 15 year old girl, Jessie, who came out to her as Transgender in 2015. Maynard, who describers herself as a one-time “bisexual, polyamorous, gender-fluid, rainbow-sparkle unicorn (who) lived that way for many years,” was so distraught by her daughter’s confession that she was Transgender, she intervened and claims that, together, they worked their way through it and are now committed to revealing the truth regarding the “Transgender War on Women.”
Maynard wrote and article called “A Mum’s Voyage Through Transtopia: Love and Resistance.”
It’s essentially a confession on how she mentally tortured her Trans daughter, Jessie, brainwashing her into conforming to her birth gender and rejecting Transgender ideation. Jessie, herself, contributes to the article in the postscript, and it is heartbreaking.
“Although at the time I didn’t appreciate it, the constant repetition of “you can’t be a boy” did me good. A lot of good. I had been spending too much time on the internet and I had got it into my head that somehow, biological girls could really be boys, if they “identified” as such (& vice versa).
As someone who’s always had a mostly realistic grip on the world, for some reason I had been pulled into a world where boys could become girls and girls could become boys. I felt that because I said I was a boy, I was a boy” — Jessie Maynard
Drawing a parallel; If TERFS are the Focus On The Family of hyperfeminists, the RadFems are the Westboro Baptist Church. They make great spectacles with the intention of generating attention from the public and recruiting other women into their ranks. It is a warped, cult-like organization that is equally dangerous to the public as it is to the mental state of those who enthusiastically self-declare as RadFems. They have no time for science, facts, and reject the idea of sexual or gender fluidity across the spectrum. They hate Trans women and this wholly defines their identity. It is their only purpose; To serve RadFem justice by spreading propaganda and promoting the erasure of Trans people. To be clear, they state in their manifesto that they do accept Transmen into their legion. Because they Bleed.
No one told the RadFems that not all women menstruate. Many women deal with infertility as well, and have never been pregnant. That doesn’t disqualify them as women. But, I digress.
Allan began organizing efforts to recruit other women into her collective, including Linda Bellos and Shiela Jefferys and eventually decided to take her band of angry Fem-Lesbians on tour, which she called “We Need To Talk: UK and Ireland Tour.”
Most do not welcome the RadFems with open arms. As soon as they publicized their intent to tour Ireland, dozens of National organizations and hundreds of individuals alike composed an open letter to Allan and her folly, saying, “We neither want nor need your lecture tour. You’re not welcome here.” Many others have followed suit in cancelling RadFem’s “Transgender War On Women” rallies and appearances, including Millwall in Southeast London.
During an event for International Women’s Day, Allan appeared before MPs Heidi Alexander and Ellie Reeves, as well as Steve Bullock, mayor of Lewisham to ask “Why can’t I speak?” But… that’s all she did, uninterrupted.
The ire of RadFems is as extreme as it gets, save rounding up Trans women like dogs and shooting them. This is the kind of rhetoric they post:
It is untrue that 91% of Trans women are autogynephiliacs. So you don’t have to google, Autogynephiliac is defined as a sex-fueled mental illness. This is the kind of material that RadFems distribute in order to shape opinions regarding Transgender women, implying they are “Extremely jealous” and want to “Wear our skin.”
In my foray into their cesspool of hatred and repugnant lies, I found some of their posts humorous, ironically.
Sadly, there is nothing feminist about blind hatred. It’s clear these RadFem lesbians fear Transgender women. They believe that Trans women threaten their sexuality, or represent some form of competition for them within the lesbian community. They have sexualized the state of being Transgender to the point of obsessively associating the acts of rape and physical assault with being Trans. They become defensive over their lesbianism when broaching the subject of Transgender women, which is ironic, because as far as I had researched, many of these RadFems routinely present outside gender norms- even as the opposite gender- often with such masculinity and dominance, I had to wonder how many steps away these women are from being labeled Transgender themselves.
Historically, we know that the most anti-gay individuals exhibit, albeit discreetly, gay interests. Most staunch anti-gay Republicans have been caught in compromising circumstances with other men, including male sex workers and underage boys.
One thing is evident, there is no valid motivation for these extremists. Transgender women cost them nothing and their existence does them no harm. They lose nothing by coexisting peacefully alongside people whose plights they do not know, understand or have any interest in. As with so many instances of social terrorism, there is no winner, there is no genuine purpose except to demonize innocent people who do not meet their standard of acceptability. Odd coming from lesbians who, when it comes to many others, don’t meet that standard either.
Interested in learning more? Here’s their facebook page.
Review of Evil Genes: Why Rome Fell, Hitler Rose, Enron Failed, and My Sister Stole My Mother’s Boyfriend
by Barbara Oakley
(Prometheus, $28.95, 380 pages, October 2007)
Reviewed by Dr. Fred Bortz
Note: Except where noted, all materials on this site are the copyrighted property of Alfred B. Bortz. Individuals may print single copies of reviews or columns for their own use. For permission to publish or print multiple copies of any of the materials on this site, please contact the author by e-mail.
See the author discussing this book on Book TV. I had the pleasure of introducing her.
Readers of Evil Genes will also be intrigued by The Anatomy of Evil by Michael H. Stone, M.D. and Cruelty: Human Evil and the Human Brain by Kathleen Taylor.
We’ve all run into people whose endearing charms camouflage a Machiavellian core. Even after we have been burned repeatedly, our good nature persuades us to give them the benefit of the doubt. They are, writes author Barbara Oakley, “successfully sinister.”
How do some people get that way, and what allows them to survive and often rise to positions of leadership? Those are the central questions of Oakley’s new book, Evil Genes: Why Rome Fell, Hitler Rose, Enron Failed, and My Sister Stole My Mother’s Boyfriend.
As her title suggests, she believes much of the explanation of those people’s behavior can be found in their DNA.
Of course genes alone do not dictate behavior. Environment, experiences, and circumstances can bring out the best or worst in any of us. Few people with a genetic predisposition toward sinister behavior turn out like Hitler, Stalin, Slobodan Milosevic, or Mao Zedong.
Most live more ordinary lives, like Oakley’s sister, Carolyn. Their successes turn out to be illusory, and their lives are marked by a trail of emotional scars on people who care about them. In the workplace, the successfully sinister generate turmoil and leave a trail of damaged careers in their professional wake.
Working in the notoriously Machiavellian halls of academe (she is a professor of biomedical engineering at Oakland University in Michigan), Oakley had plenty of opportunities to observe such people up close. But having Carolyn as a sister no doubt motivated her to explore those questions.
Beginning her research, Oakley found an astonishing gap. She writes about exploring the authoritative Medline database for information on the physiology and biochemistry of Machiavellianism. “Antisocial personality disorder” turns up 5494 hits. “Borderline personality disorder” generates 3090 “meaningful hits, including hundreds of imaging studies, genetic studies, drug studies, and so on.”
However, she continues, “…if I type in ‘malignant narcissist’–a term used by world-class psychiatrists…to describe the kind of malevolent, yet high functioning people I’m researching–I get nothing. Zero hits. No medical studies whatsoever.” (Emphasis in original)
That discovery was “unsettling” to her, “like hearing that the oncologist about to operate on your father’s cancerous liver actually has a fake degree from a diploma mill.” The book is a narrative of how Oakley began trying to fill in the scientific details.
True to its lengthy subtitle, Evil Genes has something to offer almost every avid nonfiction reader. The gap in Medline notwithstanding, Machiavellianism is well investigated in the behavioral and psychological literature, and Oakley is thorough in her discussion of that research.
Machiavellian behavior, she writes, is probably closely related to borderline personality disorder, so named because it sits on the borderline between psychosis and neurosis. To illustrate its most extreme manifestations, the book devotes entire chapters to Milosevic, “The Butcher of the Balkans,” and Chairman Mao, “The Perfect ‘Borderpath’,” the coined word indicating a particularly evil constellation of borderline personality traits and psychopathic tendencies.
Oakley spends considerable time discussing how such traits might evolve in human populations. She recounts the research into the genetic basis of altruistic behavior. Given the social milieu in which humans have found themselves, individuals who engage in cooperation are more likely to pass along their genes either directly or through the reproductive success of close kin.
Yet every trait has a range of expression among individual members of a species. Each person falls at a different place along the cooperation-competition axis. Machiavellians lie at one extreme. At the opposite end are individuals who are so selfless that they are easy pickings for the duplicity of Machiavellians who seem to be cooperative while taking every advantage they can manage.
Though the evolution of a species is a slow process, the distribution of such traits within a population can change markedly in a few tens of generations. Smaller social groupings favor cooperative behavior and lead to a population of perhaps two percent Machiavellians.
Urban life improves the prospects for a Machiavellian, and Oakley notes that they are probably twice as prevalent in such settings. She wonders if evolution will lead to even larger numbers in future generations, and ponders what kind of societies will result.
When discussing evolution of behavioral traits, Oakley draws connections to the physical structures and chemical processes within the human brain. Difference in genes can produce considerable changes in the brain. These have significant consequences for an individual’s psychology and behavior.
In the case of her sister Carolyn (who used her “dazzling knowledge of French food and wine” to displace her mother on a European adventure with an emphysemic boyfriend), Oakley concludes that genes were only partially to blame for the sinister characteristics. Polio also enters the picture.
Scientists have noted a genetic tendency favoring the development of polio into its paralytic form. The disease struck Carolyn at age three and progressed quickly to paralysis as it did in several other afflicted relatives. Treatment of polio at the time led to isolation from families in facilities with row upon row of “iron lungs.
With limited staff to attend to her, Carolyn’s recovery experience–she was left with minor withering and paralysis of one leg–must have been more horrifying than the disease itself.
Oakley notes sparse but suggestive evidence that paralytic polio has a subtle but lasting effect on one particular brain area that is associated with borderline behavior. In addition, Oakley’s family seems to carry genes that produce a tendency toward addictive behavior.
Oakley draws on that history as well as diaries found after her sister’s premature death to ask this question: Could the combination of subtle brain changes due to polio, the psychological trauma of her treatment, and pre-existing genetic tendencies have sent Carolyn over the edge?
She weaves that mystery into the broader scientific story, producing an odd but fascinating hybrid of a book. Its prose is always clear and lively, but some readers will find it slow going in places, such as when it describes brain physiology and function in detail or when it lays out the taxonomy of psychiatric and behavioral disorders.
The text is also non-linear: It intersperses the various pieces of history, scientific evidence, and necessary background knowledge. Thus Evil Genes should be viewed as a jigsaw puzzle with some missing pieces that produces an interesting picture with gaps to be filled by further research and speculation.
That may be less than satisfying for some readers, but not for those who love science for the questions it opens more than the answers it finds.
Science & Nature
Professional & Technical
Sci-Fi & Fantasy
The Time For ‘Incel’ Explainers Was Years Ago
Over the last several years, we’ve witnessed a veritable uprising of angry men. Most of them are white, most of them racist, most of them are misogynistic and all of them are seriously pissed that they, and their fellow angry men, don’t get the automatic deference they imagine the men of the past once enjoyed. That particular strain of rage is what sociologist Michael Kimmel, a longtime student of insecure masculinity, calls “aggrieved entitlement.”
Last week, one of these men reportedly drove a rented van into a crowd of pedestrians in Toronto, killing 10 people and injuring more than a dozen others. The accused mass murderer, 25-year-old Alek Minassian, left behind a miniature manifesto of sorts in the form of a Facebook post.
His missive declared the start of the “incel rebellion” and praised Isla Vista spree killer Elliot Rodger. Rodger murdered six people in 2014 in what he called his “day of retribution” against the “spoiled, heartless, wicked bitches” who wouldn’t date him.
Media outlets have obligingly offered up detailed explainers of the internet’s strange subculture of “involuntary celibates” and their violent hatred of the women who want nothing to do with them. As someone who has been writing about the male supremacist movement on my blog We Hunted the Mammoth for nearly eight years ― and as someone who wrote one of these explainers myself ― I think most of these “incel 101” pieces have been useful and accurate.
The real question is: Why are they still necessary? Since the flurry of the 2016 election and its aftermath, we’ve had over two years’ worth of field guides to the poisonous online wastelands in which nationalism, fascism and bigotry fester. Why are we only now shining the light on the role patriarchy plays in the petri dish?
Most of these ‘incel 101’ pieces have been useful and accurate. The real question is: Why are they still necessary?
Of all the toxic misogynistic groups I monitor on my blog, the incel subculture is easily the most troubling. It’s a strange and toxic little world that transforms lovelorn men by the thousands into potential terrorists. It not only stokes men’s hatred of the women who won’t date them, it also encourages a hopeless self-hatred that leads many incels to conclude they have little to live for.
Hate and hopelessness are a dangerous combination. I was saddened when I learned that Minassian had hailed incel “hero” Rodger in his Facebook post. But I wasn’t surprised. I’m really only surprised there haven’t been more incel mass murders.
On internet forums like Incels.me, incels talk endlessly about violent retribution against the “Chads” (attractive men) and “Stacies” (attractive women) they blame for their own misery. They lionize Rodger ― celebrating the anniversary of his murder spree as “Saint Elliot Day” ― as well as pretty much every other mass killer who makes the news.
When a bombing at an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester, England, last year killed nearly two dozen people ― most of them teenage girls ― incels on Reddit cheered, with one commenter declaring bluntly that the “stacies … got what they deserved.” When Stephen Paddock massacred dozens of “normies” at an outdoor concert in Las Vegas, Reddit’s incels celebrated the news as “PURE LIFEFUEL.” One commenter “joked” that he had “fapped” to video of the shooting.
In addition to glorifying mass killers, incels often try to claim them as their own. On Incels.me, they hailed the alleged Parkland shooter as “our savior St. Nikolas Cruz,” making much of the fact that the killings took place on Valentine’s Day, aka “this day of incel exclusion.” Recently, incels declared the accused Austin package bomber to be “Elliot Rodger 2.0” and a “Unabomber incel.”
Now, they’re celebrating Minassian as their newest “saint.” One prolific Incels.me commenter has posted a picture of a makeshift shrine he had constructed to honor the accused mass killer; another urged his fellow incels to “spread [Minassian’s] name, speak of his sacrifice for our cause.” Still others hoped the Toronto attack would usher in a new wave of attacks on “normies” that might include mass rapes and acid attacks alongside more traditional mass killings. “[N]ormies … need to be in constant fear for EVERY ASPECT OF THEIR LIFE,” declared one incel terrorism enthusiast.
In the “manosphere” ― as the world of online misogynists is sometimes called ― incels aren’t the only ones who have been talking terrorism. Many in the “Men’s Rights” movement, including some of its best-known names, canonized a fellow MRA named Thomas Ball who took his own life by lighting himself on fire outside a family court in Keene, New Hampshire, in hopes of inspiring other men to “start burning down police stations and courthouses,” as he put it in a rambling manifesto.
The “Men’s Rights” blog A Voice for Men ― recently and rightly designated a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center ― hosted Ball’s terrorist manifesto in the “activism” section of its website for years, censoring only the portion of the manifesto in which Ball gave specific advice on how best to construct Molotov cocktails. The blog quietly removed the manifesto after the Boston Marathon bombing in 2013.
I’m really only surprised there haven’t been more incel mass murders.
At least one major figure in the manosphere is aware that his followers may be capable of terrible violence. In one astounding blog post, “pickup artist” Roosh V ― who once suggested semi-seriously that rape should be legalized on private property ― declared that it was ”just a matter of time” before one of his followers committed a mass shooting. His main concern was not preventing such a tragedy from occurring, but ensuring that, when one inevitably happened, the rest of his followers denounce it and not make too many jokes about it.
Recognizing that some of his followers were likely “to empathize with frustrated males who believe they have nothing to lose,” he encouraged them to “share any empathy with such killers through private message[s]” and not in his comments section.
At this point, it should be clear: The entire manosphere ― from the faux-respectable Men’s Rights Activists to the anonymous Twitter trolls who threaten and harass any woman who dares express an opinion they don’t like ― is irredeemably toxic. The incels are the most hateful of them all. We need to start regarding them with the same revulsion and disdain that most decent people feel for those who inhabit the resurgent fascist movement known euphemistically as the “alt-right,” to whom misogyny is almost as central as white supremacy.
The time for 101 explainers has long since passed. Misogyny kills, quite literally, and we need to shut it down. Incels, we’re coming for you.
David Futrelle is a journalist who writes about the male supremacist movement on his blog WeHuntedTheMammoth.com.