You know those transphobic dickheads online who only have that one joke about identifying as an attack helicopter? A group of Aussie researchers have conducted a world-first analysis of who exactly these people are, and it turns out they’re usually either incels or trolls.
The 2016 Australian Sex Survey got over 10,000 online responses. In the survey, participants could chose form 33 different gender options of simply put in their own.
A handful of people literally responded with “attack helicopter”, while a couple chose other inanimate objects, made an unfunny pronoun joke or simply (and ignorantly) stated that there are “only two genders.”
Now, researchers from the University of Melbourne and Queensland University of Technology have looked at these individuals’ other answers and demographic info to determine that they’re mainly straight(ish), white men in their late 20s or early 30s.
Beyond this, they were able to put them into two categories: incels, who feel threatened by pretty much anything, and trolls, who are bored, malicious and somehow think they’re funny.
“Almost nothing is known about the demographic characteristics of incels but some insight can be gained by analysing linguistic content in their social media posts which often centre on their own perceived ugliness and low social worth,” QUT behavioural economist Dr Stephen Whyte said.
“Many of their posts advocate sexual and physical violence, racism and homophobia, with strong elements of misogyny and anti-feminism.
“So, our study explores key traits, behaviours and demographic characteristics of those who choose to gender identify as inanimate objects of modern warfare, or simply reject the notion of non-binary alternatives in other ways.”
These incels in particular, the researchers argue, feel a sense of lost power and are unhappy at how the world is becoming less and less predictable for them.
It makes sense that a straight, white cisgender male could somehow feel threatened by people affirming their own, non-binary gender identities. If someone is privileged by a system and invested in maintaining that privilege, any disruption to the status quo might be seen negatively.
“The unconscious ambiguity of not outwardly stating a heteronormative position of gender identification is a position of confusion, and a personal lack of order, in terms of what it means to be masculine,” the paper added.
Keep in mind, the “joke” first blew up in 2014. The survey was conducted in 2016. This research was published in 2020, when people are still making the same unfunny and ignorant joke online.
It wasn’t funny then, it wasn’t funny now. But unfortunately, it’s stuck around some corners of the internet like a bad, transphobic rash.
Now we know a little more about the people who think it’s still edgy and cool.