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Don’t let ‘incel’ misogynists like the Toronto killer tell you they’re special — I was a virgin until I was 27

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The man who murdered ten people in Toronto with a van was, like the 2014 Isla Vista killer, considered themselves “incels,” or involuntary celibates. Incels are men who blame the world, and especially women, for the fact that they are virgins, or aren’t having sex as often as they want. They see women as manipulators who choose powerful but shallow men, and unfairly ignore and even torment good guys like themselves. Resentment becomes an excuse for misogyny, and sometimes, for violence.

In the aftermath of the Toronto massacre, some people were quick to use the killer’s celibacy as an insult. As just one example, a New Statesman piece referred to the killer as “pathetic” and noted that there was an “inclination to dismiss these men as sad losers dwelling in their parents’ basements.” This fits a common pattern with men like this. Violent incels are portrayed as radicalized sad sacks, or as failures who have weaponized their own inadequacy.

But there are two problems with portraying incels as outcasts or failures. First, it mirrors their own rhetoric, and their own view of themselves. Secondly, it makes incels appear unusual or special.

There are two problems with portraying incels as outcasts or failures. First, it mirrors their own rhetoric, and their own view of themselves. Secondly, it makes incels appear unusual or special.

The truth is more unsettling. Incels are, in many respects, fulfilling gender norms. They haven’t failed to be men. And when they embrace misogyny and violence, they become exactly what we expect men to be.

Incels see themselves as being unusually unhappy or hard done by. But perceiving oneself as a sexual failure is common for people of every gender. I certainly did. I was a virgin until I was 27. I wasn’t saving myself for marriage; I was just bad at dating, somewhat unlucky and shy. My (now) wife, was, thankfully, very determined and refused to let a little shyness stop her.

Looking back now, it’s easy to be flip. But 20 years ago, my virginity was a source of substantial anxiety, unhappiness and self-loathing. Young men are supposed to have a lot of sex. And if you’re not having a lot of sex, you’re supposedly contemptible. I had good friends, and was not especially miserable on other fronts. But I was not having a lot of sex, and, as a result, I felt ugly and broken a good portion of the time.

20 years ago, my virginity was a source of substantial anxiety, unhappiness and self-loathing. I was not having a lot of sex, and, as a result, I felt ugly and broken a good portion of the time.

The cultural pressures are everywhere, for both men and women. Sex is presented, in movies, films and advertising, as so central to the human experience that it goes without saying that anyone who isn’t sexually active must be miserable. But I don’t think my misery was because of some sort of biological imperative. Like most people, of every gender, I had figured out by my twenties that you can orgasm without the help of other people. And, as I mentioned, I had plenty of close and meaningful friendships. My feelings of worthlessness were learned.

But again, that feeling of worthlessness wasn’t odd or strange. For that matter, people of every gender can feel that they’re not performing their gender correctly. Normative standards for gender expression are designed to make people feel like they are abnormal if they don’t conform. I had friends who were dating when I wasn’t, and many of them (men and women) were also unhappy. Many of them felt like they were not doing it right (whatever “it” might be.)

Incels think they’re uniquely oppressed by gender expectations. But the truth is, gender expectations feel constricting and painful for everyone. Not least for people who aren’t straight cisgender men.

Image: Alek Minassian Toronto van attack
Police are seen near a damaged van after a van mounted a sidewalk crashing into pedestrians in Toronto on April 23, 2018.Aaron Vincent Elkaim / The Canadian Press via AP

But while gender roles don’t hurt straight men more than anyone else, the discomfort of straight men is an especially powerful lever. A patriarchy needs a way to call men to their masculinity. A society in which men dominate needs to get men to do the work of domination.

Men are born into patriarchy, but if patriarchy is going to perpetuate itself, men need to assent to it and work to maintain it. Patriarchy attracts men in part through material rewards, like higher pay or better jobs. But anxiety is also a powerful motivator. Men learn that they aren’t real men unless they sleep with (the right) women. They learn that real men are entitled to women. Women become a status symbol; a thing to assert a man’s own manliness. And since men also are supposed to assert their masculinity through violence, the results are predictable.

None of this absolves misogynist murderers. It simply means that their murders are acts of deliberate terror. Patriarchy is maintained in part through the ongoing threat of violence against women who aren’t sufficiently deferential. That violence takes lots of forms, from misogynist comments to street harassment to domestic violence. The violent attacks by incels are less frequent, but still part of the pattern.

Incels have deliberately adopted an oppositional identity. It’s tempting to take them at their word, and link their sexual failure to their evil. But there’s nothing wrong with living in your parents’ basement.

Incels have deliberately adopted an oppositional identity. It’s tempting to take them at their word, and link their sexual failure to their evil. But there’s nothing wrong with living in your parents’ basement — whether you’re a man or a woman. And no matter what your gender identity is, there’s nothing wrong with not having sex in your 20s or 30s — or never having sex at all.

What’s wrong is a culture which tells men they’re entitled to all the power and tells women they’re not entitled to much of anything — not even sadness or angst. Part of the incel narrative, after all, is the idea that men are the real victims.

Ultimately, the incel movement’s hatred is banal, not deviant. Shame and misogyny are familiar motives far beyond one particularly poisonous internet clubhouse. It would be nice to be able to say that incels are as isolated and shunned as they claim. But they’re not.

Noah Berlatsky is a freelance writer. He edits the online comics-and-culture website The Hooded Utilitarian and is the author of the book “Wonder Woman: Bondage and Feminism in the Marston/Peter Comics, 1941-1948.”

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Joe Biden’s climate goals already have activists breathing a sign of relief | Climate News

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Environmentalists and those on the front line of climate change have told Sky News of their relief at seeing Joe Biden sworn in as America’s new president.

The inauguration of a new world leader who describes climate change as an “existential threat” is a lifeline for countries whose people and land are being devastated by global warming.

Analysis: Biden wastes no time in undoing Trump’s work

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COVID, climate and race top Biden’s agenda

Tina Stege is climate envoy for the Marshall Islands, a group of atolls lying just two metres above sea level in the northwestern Pacific Ocean.

She said: “For a country like mine which is really on the front lines of climate change, we now have optimism. It’s got to be cautious optimism when the challenges are this big.

“But with a partner like the US and with all the resources that the US can bring to bear, with this president we are at the start of a process that provides some hope.”

Immediately after taking office, Mr Biden signed executive orders to rejoin the landmark Paris climate agreement (which Donald Trump pulled out of), when countries came together in 2015 to pledge to reduce devastating levels of global emissions.

Mr Biden has also rolled back a host of executive orders put in place by Mr Trump which weakened efforts to tackle climate change.

They include revoking the presidential permit granted to the controversial Keystone XL pipeline delivering hundreds of thousands of barrels of crude oil each day from Canada to be refined in the US.

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November 2020: Joe Biden appoints first-ever US climate envoy

Joye Braun has been fighting the pipeline for a decade and was – as she calls it – “boots on the ground” from day one “until we were evicted”.

A member of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe and Indigenous Environmental Network, she said: “To have Keystone Pipeline XL go through is a climate changer – we’ve always said that. It’s an absolute necessity that the Keystone XL pipeline be stopped.

“Watching the inauguration, I felt a huge sigh of relief. For 10 years I’ve been working on this. We’ve gone cold, we’ve gone hungry. Thank you President Biden.”

Joye Braun (L) has been fighting the pipeline for a decade
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Joye Braun (L) has been fighting the pipeline for a decade

Throughout his campaign Mr Biden had promised rejoin the Paris agreement on “day one” of his presidency.

America will be back in the club in 30 days after notifying the United Nations.

Remy Rioux, the head of the French development agency, was a lead negotiator for the Paris agreement.

He said: “I remember in 2015 it was an executive order by President Obama which had the US joining the Paris agreement so there’s no need for Congress approval to join or to come back within the agreement. President Trump withdrew by a single executive order as well so it can be very fast.”

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While Mr Biden wants to be a global leader on the climate, his credibility rests on transforming decarbonising the US.

He’s promised a $2tn plan to create millions of jobs in clean energy and energy retrofits.

His climate strategy is underpinned by the belief that the climate is inextricably linked to America’s health, wealth and national security.

He subscribes to a global recovery from coronavirus being green and will likely announce net zero goals.

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Joe Biden takes oath of office to become America’s 46th president | US News

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Joe Biden has become the 46th president of the United States, after taking his oath of office in a heavily scaled back inauguration ceremony in Washington DC.

He swore to preserve, protect and defend America to the sound of cheers and applause from former presidents both Democrat and Republican – though Donald Trump decided to break precedent by skipping the event.

It came minutes after new Vice President Kamala Harris took her oath, too.

Biden’s inauguration – follow live updates

Air Force One
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The outgoing president was whisked to Florida in Air Force One

Mr Biden stressed the fairness of last November’s election result in the opening of his inaugural address by declaring: “This is democracy’s day. The will of the people has been heard and the will of the people has been heeded.

“We’ve learned again that democracy is precious, democracy is fragile and at this hour my friends, democracy has prevailed.”

U.S. President Joe Biden delivers his speech after he was sworn in as the 46th President of the United States on the West Front of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, U.S., January 20, 2021. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
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Mr Biden delivered his inaugural address facing the National Mall

Mr Biden promised to “press forward with speed and urgency” during a “winter of peril” to tackle the “once-in-a-century virus that silently stalks the country”, also vowing to confront white supremacy and terrorism.

He stressed his prevailing focus after a divisive election campaign will be on “uniting our nation”, adding: “With unity, we can do great things, important things – we can right wrongs.”

And he said he wanted to “make America once again a leading force for good in the world”, seemingly in a snub to Mr Trump commenting: “Let’s start afresh… all of us.”

Inauguration of Joe Biden as the 46th President of the United States
President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris during the inauguration of Joe Biden as the 46th President of the United States on the West Front of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, U.S., January 20, 2021. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid
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Kamala Harris was also sworn in as the new US vice president

Mr Biden urged people to “join forces, stop the shouting and lower the temperature”, for, he explained, without unity there will be “no nation, only a state of chaos”.

Speaking as he looked out on to the National Mall lit by a bright sunshine, Mr Biden continued: “Politics doesn’t have to be a raging fire destroying everything in its path.

First Lady Jill Biden places her hands on U.S. President Joe Biden during the 59th Presidential Inauguration in Washington, U.S., January 20, 2021. Kevin Dietsch/Pool via REUTERS
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Dr Jill Biden celebrated with her husband

“Every disagreement doesn’t have to be a cause for total war and we must reject the culture in which facts themselves are manipulated and even manufactured.”

Repeating a motif from his victory speeches in the days after winning the Electoral College vote, Mr Biden promised to be “a president for all Americans”.

Winding up his address, he struck an optimistic tone, saying: “Together we shall write an American story of hope not fear, of unity not division, of light not darkness.”

He ended with: “May God bless America and may God protect our troops, thank you America.”

President Joe Biden is congratulated by First lady Jill Biden, after being sworn-in during the inauguration. Pic: Patrick Semansky/POOL/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock
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The new first family will later head to the White House

Lady Gaga, wearing a large dove broach on her top and clasping a golden microphone, had just performed a rousing rendition of the national anthem – and Jennifer Lopez followed with an “American musical selection”.

Former presidents Barack Obama, George W Bush and Bill Clinton attended the event at the Capitol – and Mr Biden was greeted by cheers and applause as he walked up to the stage.

Jennifer Lopez performs during the inauguration of Joe Biden as the 46th President of the United States on the West Front of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, U.S., January 20, 2021. REUTERS/Brendan Mcdermid
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Mike Pence, representing the outgoing administration, watched J-Lo’s performance

Mr Biden shared a fist-bump with Barack Obama before the pair took their seats, and then a series of speeches got underway – all sharing a theme of unity.

But as the new president prepared to take the oath of office, Donald Trump was landing in Florida.

Mr Trump is the first outgoing president since 1869 to skip an inauguration ceremony, but departing Vice President Mike Pence was in the audience.

As the inauguration ceremony took place in a chilly Washington DC, where it was trying to snow, the White House was getting a deep clean that was set to cost $500,000 (£366,000).

Shortly before the ceremony began, Mr Biden declared on Twitter: “It’s a new day in America.”

Mr Trump gave a parting message before boarding Air Force One, telling a small group of supporters and family members gathered on the tarmac of Joint Base Andrews that “we will be back in some form”.

“I wish the new administration great luck and great success,” he added, before boarding the plane, which took off to the booming soundtrack of Frank Sinatra’s My Way.

Mr Biden is only the second Catholic to hold the office of president.

His team have already announced he will sign a series of executive orders reversing several of Mr Trump’s policies, including on COVID-19, climate change and racial inequality.

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Australian Open: Novak Djokovic says he is not ‘selfish, difficult and ungrateful’ for quarantine requests | World News

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Tennis star Novak Djokovic has insisted he was not being “selfish, difficult and ungrateful” after making a list of requests for players in quarantine ahead of the Australian Open.

The men’s world number one reportedly sent a letter to Australian officials asking for a reduction in the time players spend in isolation, permission to see coaches and for athletes to be moved to private houses.

His suggestions were firmly rebuffed by Victoria’s premier Daniel Andrews, who said: “People are free to provide lists of demands, but the answer is no… There’s no special treatment here.”

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State premier lays down law to tennis stars

A total of 72 players are in quarantine after 10 people who flew to Melbourne for the first Grand Slam of the year tested positive for coronavirus – leaving many forced to train in their hotel rooms.

Djokovic has since defended speaking out about the quarantine conditions, writing in a lengthy social media post: “My good intentions for my fellow competitors in Melbourne have been misconstrued as being selfish, difficult and ungrateful.

“This couldn’t be farther from the truth.”

He said his email exchange regarding suggestions for the quarantine conditions was an “opportunity to brainstorm” and he was “aware that the chances were low that any of our suggestions would be accepted”.

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“There were a few suggestions and ideas that I gathered from other players from our chat group and there was no harm intended to try and help,” he said.

While many players are under the strictest quarantine conditions and unable to leave their rooms, others who were not on the affected flights – including Djokovic – are able to train outside for five hours a day under COVID-secure protocols.

The men's world number one smiles from his balcony while in quarantine
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The men’s world number one smiles from his balcony while in quarantine

The star player said he wanted to use his “position of privilege” to help others.

“I’ve earned my privileges the hard way and for that reason it is very difficult for me to be a mere onlooker knowing how much every help, gesture and good word mattered to me when I was small and insignificant in the world pecking order,” he said.

He added: “Things in the media escalated and there was a general impression that the players (including myself) are ungrateful, weak and selfish because of their unpleasant feelings in quarantine.

“I am very sorry that it has come that because I do know how grateful many are.”

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Quarantined tennis stars train in hotel rooms

Going ahead with the tournament amid the global pandemic and harsh restrictions in Melbourne has caused some controversy, particularly as many Australians remain stuck overseas.

Three new coronavirus cases related to the tournament were reported on Wednesday, including a player who has been in hard lockdown since they arrived.

The second case related to another player and the third is a support person with the player.

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