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The Atlanta-area shootings of six Asian women in massage parlors in March 2021 raised awareness about anti-Asian discrimination and violence in the United States. When the perpetrator, Robert Aaron Long, shot the Atlanta-area spa victims, public speculation arose about whether he was motivated by hatred for the Asian victims because of their race. Many wondered whether the shooter would be charged and convicted of hate crimes against the victims. When asked by police about his motives, the perpetrator stated that he had a "sex addiction," meaning that the spas created intolerable sexual temptations that he was unable to resist. Considering this comment, a captain at the Cherokee County Sheriff's Office announced that the shooter had a "bad day," and that it could not yet be determined whether the violence constituted hate crimes.

The captain's minimization of the tragedy created an outcry; many protested, arguing that the perpetrator's targeting of Asian massage parlors demonstrated that his intent was race-based. But few voiced what also seemed obvious: the shooter's comments about his "sex addiction" were admissions that the sex of the female victims also motivated his crimes.

Many commentators have overlooked sex or gender as a motive for potential hate crimes. Moreover, despite the longstanding theory of intersectionality introduced by Professor Kimberle Crenshaw, only a few progressive online opinion pieces by Asian women raised the issue of the intersectional causes of the rampage. Few acknowledged that the most likely motivation was bias against the female victims due to their sex, race, and/or national origin. Masculinities, feminist, and intersectionality theories and familiarity with the dark Internet pages of groups such as "incels," reveal that overlooking sex or gender as a motive is a mistake.

"Incel" is short for "involuntary celibate.'" The incels comprise a group of young men in the United States and abroad who communicate online about their hatred of women because of their failure to have sex with them. In their posts and those of other similar groups, incels invoke racism, white supremacy, and misogyny. Inspired by their "hero," Elliot Rodger, who committed suicide after murdering female and male students at the University of California, Santa Barbara, the more radical incels advocate the killing and torturing of women.

Long and Rodger seem to represent opposite ends of the spectrum of young men living in the United States-Long appears to be a "normal" but ill-fated frustrated young man who went astray, and Rodger appears to be the leader of a band of evil criminals-but things are not that simple. There is an important link between Long's and Rodger's crimes. Both are the result of misogyny. Misogyny, as defined by feminist philosopher Kate Manne in Down Girl: The Logic of Misogyny, is systemic. It includes individual or group action, societal norms, and expectations that harm its victims and support the existence of patriarchy. Misogyny is not defined by the individual psychology of the perpetrator, but rather by its effect on the victims. Using this definition, murder because women do not provide the services and care that are expected of them (or because women are "evil" for tempting men) is misogynistic because it supports the superiority of men over women and punishes women for their failure to abide by the expectations of men and society.

Nonetheless, only two-thirds of the states include gender or sex as protected statuses in their hate crime laws. In fact, some states' hate crime laws protect victims based on their sexual orientation and gender identity but fail to do so based on sex or gender. While prosecutors may charge suspects with hate crimes caused by bias against more than one group, none of the statutes explicitly reference intersectional hate crimes.

This article examines, through the lens of the Atlanta spa shootings and the incels' movement, mass sex-based crimes that could be characterized as hate crimes or even domestic terrorism. Involuntary celibates (or incels) are a group of radicalized young men, many of whom advocate violence toward women on Internet forums. Some, who are considered heroes by the incel community, have carried out their threats by engaging mass murder. This article employs masculinities, feminist, and intersectionality theories to analyze incels and other similar groups and the dangers they present to society. But it does more than that. It demonstrates, through reference to the Atlanta spa shooter's situation, that misogyny is endemic to the United States and found not only in terrorist movements but also in our institutions such as schools and churches

This is the first law review article to analyze the intersection of misogyny, public mass murders, and hate crime legislation. In general, legal scholarship has undertheorized the incel phenomenon and has underappreciated the effects of misogyny, whether it be present in "normal" institutions or in terrorist movements. Moreover, many policymakers have omitted gender from hate crime legislation, an omission that suggests that women's lives and properties are not as valuable as men's. This article fills these gaps.

This article analyzes the failure to recognize gender as a common motivator for hate crimes despite the increase of violence against women by groups and individuals who are motivated by misogyny. It argues that due to misogyny's ubiquity in society, we often fail to recognize or acknowledge it. Only through an understanding of misogyny and the violence it causes and public education and recognition of the link between systemic misogyny and violence can we hope to ameliorate the failure of the general public to recognize gender, specifically misogyny, as a cause of violence against women. To educate the public to recognize the importance of gender and misogyny in violent acts, this article recommends that all states include gender as well as intersectional identities as potential motives for hate crimes. Enacting hate crime legislation has a symbolic and expressive purpose. In this instance, it would serve as a public recognition of the dangers of misogyny and a warning to those who seek to engage in misogynistic violence. Besides adding gender and intersectional identities to state hate crime legislation, this article encourages further research into misogyny as a source of domestic and international terrorism. In addition, based on research findings, this article recommends the implementation of future legislative changes that protect all people whether they be male, female, or nonbinary.

Publication Citation

45 Harv. J. L. & Gender 177 (2022).