Hey, do you want listening to Lana Del Rey? What about Fiona Apple? Mitski, Gap, Melanie Martinez, MARINA? Are you able to recite the ‘cool girl’ speech from Gone Woman verbatim? Do you like that one Jacques-Louis David piece (“Portrait of a Woman in White”) not since you care about artwork, however since you just like the damaged feminine protagonists of Otessa Moshfegh’s literature? Do you’ve gotten a favorite Lisbon sister (and is it Lux)? Are you continue to mourning the lack of Tumblr? Do you wish to learn Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita? Do you get pleasure from Catholic iconography? Pressed to explain your self, or to have others describe you, would you be snug with adjectives like “poisonous” or “manipulative”? If the reply to any of those questions is ‘sure’, then congratulations — you could be a femcel.
Or a minimum of a contemporary femcel. Taking its inspiration from incel tradition (the time period is a portmanteau of ‘feminine involuntary celibate’), the social media femcels of at the moment use the time period much less as an indicator of how a lot intercourse they’re unable to have, and extra as a solution to categorical their character traits which are perceived as pathetic or manipulative or poisonous not directly. They achieve this unapologetically, romanticising these stereotypical ‘femcel’ traits within the course of.
It could be outlined by KnowYourMeme (the closest factor the web has to a sacred textual content) as “a slang time period that defines the feminine model of an involuntary celibate or incel”, courting all the best way again to the primitive days of the web (Yahoo Teams, circa 2004), however fashionable femcels, which exist totally on TikTok and Instagram, and on Spotify — the place they create a number of the saddest playlists you’ve ever heard — are extra fascinated by aestheticism than intercourse with males. The hashtag #femcel has round 242 million views on TikTok. On Spotify, there’s an overlap with the femcel tradition meme and our present period of ‘feral girl summer’ with infinite playlists known as issues like ‘feminine manipulator anthems’ and ‘songs on your fleabag period’. There’s little reference to precise celibacy as, for femcels, not like their incel counterparts, the motion has merely ascended previous this concern.
Compared to incels — a as soon as fringe web group that has since leaked offline and been linked to escalating incidents of violent crime, primarily towards girls and minority teams – femcels have been comparatively un-investigated, till lately a minimum of. They’re actually not as established (or feared) as incels, who’ve been recognised as a genuine extremist group and a growing terrorist threat by the US Secret Service as of March this 12 months. However simply as incels are rising, so too is an internet curiosity in femcels; Google tendencies illustrates showcases a recent spike in use of the time period.
Final month, a bit in The Atlantic reported on the centre of the femcel motion in its purest kind: the subreddit r/Trufemcels, which was based in 2018 and banned by Reddit in 2021 as a part of their makes an attempt to remove hate speech on the web site. Not like femcels’ present iteration, this discussion board was a extra nascent type of what it means to be a feminine incel. On the discussion board, feminine incels submit about “fairly privilege”, being neglected by male companions (the customers of /trufemcels have a tendency to debate their need primarily to exist in heterosexual relationships, if in any respect) and on the inherently misogynistic “pink-pilled” society during which they dwell. They borrow terminology from male incels too, posting about “Stacys” (the feminine equal of “Chads” in incelspeak) and mocking the looks of girls who’re thought of conventionally engaging. Whereas incels are actually a (sadly) all too well-known amount, the article describes femcels because the “new thriller”.
A part of this thriller — which many items about femcels have neglected — is that incel tradition at its inception was not segregated by gender. The founding father of the web’s first incel discussion board, in reality, was a queer girl. While she has remained nameless within the years since (understandably involved for her personal security and regretful over what has turn out to be of her creation) the girl did converse to journalists in a single episode of Reply All, Gimlet’s erstwhile and massively well-liked podcast investigating web tradition and on-line communities. Identified by a pseudonym, Alana, she remembers beginning the mailing record in 1997 and inventing the portmanteau of “Involuntarily Celibate’ as a lonely faculty pupil in Ottawa, intending for it to be a assist group, describing its demographic as blended gender from the start. When she discovered a relationship and moved away from the mission, she anticipated it to peter out. After all, it didn’t. As an alternative the web did what the web does: it grew and morphed and created a juggernaut of individuals, primarily males, constructing one thing larger and meaner than Alana had anticipated or needed. It turned memetic and devoid of which means — or its authentic which means anyway — identical to aesthetic femcelism has turn out to be, 1 / 4 of a century later.
“In current months, headlines have named 2022 ‘the 12 months of the ‘femcel’ and heralded a coming ‘femcel revolution,” The Atlantic writes, “whereby girls are ‘reclaiming involuntary celibacy’ and asserting their proper to offer a reputation to their loneliness and alienation.” It’s this loneliness and alienation that defines the present femcel upsurge we’re seeing on-line, and that explains why it’s moved to a brand new house on the web. Whereas femcels have existed on Reddit since 2012, and on the web since 2004, new femcels have flourished on well-liked social media platforms, the place it may be communicated not by means of tortured posts about being neglected by males and self-hatred, however moderately by means of a post-ironic, self-conscious embrace of aesthetic female toxicity. It’s not femcel for these girls, it’s femcelcore.
A type of descendant from the manic pixie dream girls of bygone eras, or a non secular cousin of the current indie sleaze revival, femcelcore is a type of adoption of a number of the grimier and extra ornamental components of nu-femcelism, a repackaging of it for an web viewers for whom every part is satirical anyway. “Whereas a few of these femcel posts [on TikTok] nonetheless contain girls self-identifying as femcels and speaking about their experiences, the overwhelming majority of posts give attention to the femcel ‘aesthetic’, equivalent to a messy, unappealing room, a scarcity of hygiene, being a fan of ‘feminine manipulator’ artists like Mitski, and studying Sylvia Plath,” Charlotte Colombo writes for a Metro piece on nu-femcels earlier this 12 months.
For these posters, figuring out as a femcel is much less about complaining about societal misogyny and poisonous magnificence requirements, and extra about rejecting poisonous requirements for ladies solely. If incels are the proper distillation of poisonous masculinity, femcelism is, a minimum of aesthetically, its reverse; the time period goes hand in hand with different post-ironic, quintessentially on-line phrases like “poisonous femininity” and proudly figuring out as phrases which might have historically been used towards you, equivalent to being a “female manipulator” (a style which has its personal musical canon and is exemplified by manipulative, villainous or emotionally poisonous characters just like the narrator of My Relaxation and Rest, or Fleabag) “‘Femcel’ has been adopted by many cheerfully partnered girls who merely need to categorical some type of heterosexual dissatisfaction,” Gawker notes, including “the true femcel has assets at her disposal past the caprices of web slang” (the article goes on to suggest some femcel literature as stated assets).
Though it’s ostensibly apolitical in nature, it additionally aligns itself extra intently with conventional feminism — albeit skewed in direction of misandry — than femcels or incels initially did (as an alternative they blamed feminism for the lack of conventional masculine and female roles, which each teams felt had inhibited their potential potential to discover a associate). “It’s arduous to know which got here first, the misandry, or being mistreated by males,” Gigi Fong wrote final month for Hypebae. “However one factor’s for positive, femcels have a deep disdain for the present courting pool and its magnificence requirements, whereas incels imagine feminists are responsible for his or her sexual dysfunction.”
It’s that disdain (each when it comes to a dismissive misandry and a extra common misanthropy) that defines femcelcore, which thrives on platforms which concurrently pushes content material concerning the joys of residing as a standard house-wife and adopting a ‘clean-girl’ aesthetic and a life outlined by female wholesomeness. That is no coincidence: fashionable femcelcore arguably exists as a result of of those tendencies, as a response, albeit a self-reflective and ironic one, to prescriptive doctrines of healthful femininity.
However it will be naive to suppose that irony is sufficient to utterly dispel the problematic roots on the coronary heart of on-line femcel tradition because it stands at the moment. The toxicity embraced by the younger girls self-identifying as femcels on TikTok might sound mordant and innocent, a type of extension of sad-girl tradition on Tumblr, for the subsequent technology, however as Alana came upon in 1997, issues change shortly. The nihilism and misanthropy espoused by fashionable femcels might simply turn out to be much less sarcastic and extra honest and harmful over time. It’s solely attainable too although, that within the present ever accelerating trend-cycle we dwell in on-line, it’s simply one other fad that shall be deserted — like feral woman summers, coastal grandmothers and goblincore — by the point Lana drops a brand new album otherwise you’ve struggled by means of 320 pages of Ottessa Moshfegh’s Lapnova. Solely time will inform.