Have you heard of a ‘femcel’ before? Even if you have not, you probably have seen one some way. If you were obsessed with Lana Del Rey, Melanie Martinez, Fiona Apple, Mitski, or MARINA before; admired Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita or Ottessa Moshfegh’s My Year of Rest and Relaxation; felt like a piece of you was lost when Tumblr died; said that you were in your Fleabag era; and identified as a ‘sad girl’, then you might want to double check if you are being taken advantage of — because femcels are coming for you.
The aesthetic of being sad and longing for toxic relationships is getting increasingly more glamorized. The idea of female incels started to become popular during 2014 with the rise of popular artists such as Lana Del Rey, along with the popularity of the social media platform ‘Tumblr’. The romanization of femcels is promoting an unhealthy image that is expected for females to attain and is having an incredibly negative effect on younger and minority individuals. The comeback of this -core might be further endangering this youth’s mental health.
Femcel stands for ‘female involuntary celibate’, in simpler words: women who cannot have intercourse or get in a relationship, not by choice. The term is related to incels which are used for females who believe that they cannot attract sexual partners (mainly males) and feel spite towards anyone who is sexually active. However, femcels took the incel label and turned appropriated feminist language to seem progressive. Mainly by not agreeing with the beauty standards of today and feeling superior to the current dating scene.
In theory, this sounds empowering but it has taken a darker turn: this discontentment with regular men has led to many teenage girls desiring toxic relationships with older men who are not in the regular dating pool of young women. On the other side of the spectrum, through this ideal, many young females started wishing death to any male.
Although many years have passed since the rise of femcels in 2014, this aesthetic became popular yet again with the femcel hashtag having almost 400 million views on TikTok. This problematic ‘sad girl’ trend started mainly on the social networking platform Tumblr with many users sharing pictures of pretty girls crying with a glass of wine in their hands, images of Lana’s Born to Die album vinyl next to a Marlboro pack, and quotes that explain how females are so tired of everything in this misogynistic world.
Yet, these exact femcels also make pretty misogynistic comments themselves. One of the best ways this kind of femcel’s mindset is described is through the character Amy Dunne’s monologue in Gone Girl:
“Being the Cool Girl means I am a hot, brilliant, funny woman who adores football, poker, dirty jokes, and burping, who plays video games, drinks cheap beer, loves threesomes and anal sex, and jams hot dogs and hamburgers into her mouth like she’s hosting the world’s biggest culinary gang bang while somehow maintaining a size 2 because Cool Girls are above all hot. Hot and understanding. Cool Girls never get angry; they only smile in a chagrined, loving manner and let their men do whatever they want. Go ahead, shit on me, I don’t mind, I’m the Cool Girl.”
This manipulative behavior of acting like a totally different person and not being true to who you are is nothing that young females should look up to. Watching a female come up with an undesirable plan to sexually please a man to end up blaming the man for wanting such a relationship might give a sense of false social justice. Especially when this scheming person glamorizes murdering men because they fell for their game.
This whole psychotic delusion plot of Gone Girl gets presented as a feminist movement that shuts up ignorant and sexist men. Still, in actuality, Amy just uses men around her to reflect her dissatisfaction with her own life.
This is what ‘toxic femininity’ is: adhering to social norms for women so that you can find your value in this patriarchal society. Femcels proudly embrace these gender-based stereotypes such as ‘female manipulator’ and spread them across the internet without being aware of the psychological influence on younger females.
On an important note, you might enjoy Gone Girl and the other artists described previously even if you do not associate yourself with the description of femcels. It is quite frustrating when the stuff you enjoy turns into a trend or aesthetic, forcing you to be shoved into an ignorant box. This leads to another toxic aspect of this ‘femcel’ aesthetic: all of these female artists are being grouped together and called incels without the intention of belonging to this category.
Especially now more than ever, we females should be fighting to break away from stereotypical characterizations and beauty standards enforced by the popular media and stop labeling each other as expected from conglomerates that profit from our pain. Yet here we are making fun of female artists and calling each other manipulative and ugly. The same goes for the ever-so-popular ‘ballet-core’, which also romanticizes having eating disorders and being beautifully stressed. Luxury brands like Miu Miu and Simone Rocha end up marketing their products, while teenage girls get a free side of depression by purchasing their best-selling wrap tops and hyper-feminine dresses.
While being a femcel takes a lot of pride in being powerful and progressive — in the sense that you are owning up to your stereotypically negative traits — they are actually getting manipulated by marketing techniques that promote products that fall under the aesthetic. Our emotions and taste for art are used to advertise products to make us feel as if we belong to a community with similar issues.
However, the femcel aesthetic purely displays white females who are in heterosexual relationships; failing to be all-inclusive by not displaying people of different races, religions, or sexuality. The younger minorities are yet again shown that they cannot fit an aesthetic that is desired by the majority. Creating these aesthetic trends not only harms individuals by romanticizing unhealthily slim bodies and the desire for dangerous relationships, but they enable discrimination and alienation of young females who do not fit any of the mainstream aesthetics.
Featured Image: Pexels / Darina Belonogova
Editor: Katrien Nivera