Laura Bates has called for extremist misogyny to be considered a form of terrorism, following the killing of five people in Plymouth by gunman Jake Davison.
Davison, 22, went on a shooting rampage in the Keyham area of Plymouth last Thursday. His five victims included his mother, a three-year-old girl and her father, a 59-year-old man and a 66-year-old woman. He then took his own life.
Investigators are probing Davison’s links to the “incel” movement after his online activity suggested he identified as an incel and created content on related issues. The incel – meaning involuntarily celibate – ideology involves men expressing anger and hatred towards women, blaming them for their sexual failings..
Speaking to the BBC, Bates said that incel culture “isn’t taken seriously” even though the ideology learned online translates into offline violence, and pointed out that the word “terrorist” had not been used to describe Davison.
Bates also referenced 22-year-old Elliot Rodger, who killed six people in California in 2014, as well as Canadian Alek Minassian, who killed 10 people in Toronto by driving a van into a crowd.
She said: “If anybody else had very clearly been radicalised online into an extremist set of beliefs against a particular demographic of people, and then gone and committed a massacre, then it’s interesting to think about the difference in the kind of terminology we might be using to describe them.
“The reason that matters is because you said it’s difficult to tackle this, and you’re right, it is, but not just because it’s online but because we don’t take violence against women and extreme misogyny seriously in the way that we respond to other forms of extremism.”
Bates, who founded Everyday Sexism and authored Men Who Hate Women, also wrote about the issue in Stylist magazine, pointing towards a number of killings linked to men who identified as incels.
Both Rodger and Minassian identified as incels. Rodger posted a video saying the attack was revenge for continual romantic rejection, while Minassian told police he was inspired by others in the movement who used violence as revenge for “being unable to get laid”.
“These acts fall clearly under multiple international definitions of terrorism,” Bates argued. “They are acts of serious violence, usually involving firearms, with the purpose of intimidating or spreading fear among a specific demographic (women) and they are intended to advance an ideological cause (male supremacy).”
According to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), terrorism is defined as the “use or threat of action, both in and outside of the UK, designed to influence any international government organisation or to intimidate the public”.
“It must also be for the purpose of advancing a political, religious, racial or ideological cause,” it adds.
Devon and Cornwall Police said on Monday they are reviewing the decision not to label the shootings a terror attack. They said the initial decision was made by the National Counter Terrorism Policing Network following a referral from local officers.
A spokesperson for the force said: “We are aware of Davison’s interest and engagement with the incel movement and his use of various online platforms, and this forms a key strand within the ongoing police investigation.”