“Men are afraid that women will laugh at them. Women are afraid that men will kill them.”

― Margaret Atwood

News of the devastating attack in Toronto has spread across the world and for us, the attack hits close to home. Not only does our heart hurt for the families and friends of those killed, our heart hurts for our sister organizations in Toronto, YWCA Canada and YWCA Toronto, and for every woman who woke up the next day knowing there are virtual communities dedicated to hating them.

Minutes before the attack, the perpetrator posted a message on Facebook praising the mass murderer Elliot O. Roger, a man driven by misogyny seeking retribution against women whom he said rejected him sexually, and warning of an ‘incel rebellion’. For those unfamiliar with ‘incel’ it stands for “involuntarily celibate”, it’s a term that unites a community of men who haven’t convinced women to have sex with them. Vox explains this community believes their sexual failures centre on the ‘fact’ that “women are shallow, vicious, and only attracted to hyper-muscular men.”

Essentially those subscribing to this set of beliefs feel they are entitled to have sex with women and women unjustly deny them sex. What it really centres on, is that in these men’s eyes women are not human beings, they are objects to be used when, where and how these men see fit. This is an ideology and a belief system that women’s organizations have been fighting against for decades, if not centuries.

This attack was based on misogyny. This attack was based on the hatred of women and the continued existence of some online communities which put all women every at risk. The truth is, our society has normalized violence against women. We would rather call the Toronto attacker a ‘lone wolf’ or ‘mentally disturbed’ instead of what he really is a misogynist and a sexist.

What do we do now? We call out sexist and misogynist behaviour when we see it.  We hold each other to higher standards and we start listening and supporting the feminists and women’s organizations who have long warned against these communities and individuals. We need to better protect women and we need to do more to break down the notion that sexism is normal.

In 2017, YW supported more than 1,350 women who experienced violence or abuse. Many women who are struggling with poverty and homelessness have experienced violence as well.