Browse all

Who are the femcels?

From "involuntary celibates" community to TikTok aesthetic

Who are the femcels? From involuntary celibates community to TikTok aesthetic

Let us go back to the time of the beginnings of the Internet. The year is 1993. Alana is a Canadian statistics student, 28 years old and has not yet had any sexual relations. In order to find other people who are in the same situation as her, she founds the blog Alana's Involuntary Celibacy Project, a safe place where she can feel free to share her experiences and find comfort for her feelings of inadequacy, exclusion or loneliness. For a few years after the project was founded, Alana lived celibate, but gradually became more socially confident, started a relationship and moved away from her project, thinking that the other members would do the same. But things turned out differently, and the initially harmless page that was meant to describe "anyone, regardless of gender, who was lonely", the "involuntary celibates" or incels, became an underground movement on the internet associated with male violence and extreme misogyny. The term "incel" refers to a group of men who see themselves as victims of the female sex, who are accused of only considering those who have looks, money and status, and who therefore hate women and blame them for their lack of sexual activity and inability to have romantic relationships. Meanwhile, it is a real, widespread, dangerous and extremist ideology that has led to acts of violence, mass shootings and murders from the 1990s until today, so much so that it is classified as a growing terrorist threat by the intelligence agencies of the United States and other countries. While we have been forced to familiarise ourselves with incels in recent decades because of these heinous aberrations, we are much less informed about their female counterpart, the femcels.

According to the description of TruFemcels, a Reddit chat with tens of thousands of users that was shut down in 2021 because it had become a place dominated by hate, homophobia, transphobia and views of the alt-right, "A femcel (the conjunction between "female" and "involuntarily celibate") is an adult woman whose physical appearance is below average (<4/10) or who suffers from a significant disability that prevents her from having a romantic relationship - NOT sex." Although there is no single definition and the term is constantly taking on new nuances, we can describe involuntary celibates as a community of women who, because of our society's toxic misogyny and impossible standards of beauty, describe themselves as unable to have sexual or romantic relationships and feel so ugly that they are unworthy of male attention. Discussions about the impact that "beauty privilege" has on their lives, from which loneliness, bullying, social rejection and discrimination result, is a characteristic that certainly unites them with incels. Although both communities strive for gender solidarity, they have some key differences. The main difference? Incels externalise their frustration and hatred and direct it entirely against women, whom they deny the right to have sex. Femcel, on the other hand, direct the feeling of inadequacy inwards. They do not blame the opposite sex for their unhappiness, but themselves for not adhering to the socially imposed standards of beauty that would guarantee them attention and love. It is a constant self-victimisation that manifests as hatred of themselves and their own appearance. An article in The Atlantic states, "Real femcels see two choices for themselves: Either they give up on love and society altogether to just 'lie down and rot,' or they begin a path of upward mobility through rigorous self-improvement and sometimes changes to their bodies."

@gzzmtn Ecco cosa penso della Toxic Femininity #greenscreen #trendanalysis #cryingmakeup #feralgirlfall #thatgirl #prettywhenyoucry #2014tumblr #toxicfemininity #femcels #lanadelrey #girlinterrupted original sound - Martina | fashion + culture
@sc0rpi0111 watch the video rn #greenscreen Black Swan - Swan Lake - Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky

After many Femcel forums closed, much of the issue shifted to social media, especially TikTok, where it became an aesthetic rather than an ideology, with over 500 thousand views. It was stripped of any possible meaning and turned into another core. It has been stripped of any possible meaning and turned into another core. Femcelcore is a mixture of melancholy, toxic femininity, Catholic iconography and Tumblr aesthetics. It has affinities with manic fairy dream girls and indie sleaze, with precise musical, literary and cinematic references ranging from Otessa Moshfegh's fractured female protagonists to the "cool girl" monologue in Gone Girl, from Vladimir Nabokov's Lolita to Sylvia Plath's The Bell Jar, from The Virgin Suicides to Jennifer's Body, from Girl, Interrupted to Black Swan. TikTok's femcel playlist includes Lana Del Rey, Marina and the Diamonds, Fiona Apple, Mitski, Hole and Melanie Martinez.