The manosphere today is considered a hotbed of radicalization, a misogynistic spectrum of which incels represent the most violent and toxic extreme, due mostly to their reckless online rhetoric and the heinous actions of a few. But incels are a large and diverse group, united more by their lack of contact with women than their hatred for them.
One of the most pervasive misconceptions about incels’ unique brand of misogyny, and incels themselves, is that it’s primitive and superficial, all about sex. The way they talk about the body, rank attractiveness, and promiscuity — it smacks not just of resentment, but common depravity.
Furthermore, they objectify women, reducing them into little more than potential conquests to reflect their own status, a prize of masculine achievement.
Though fewer than their masculine counterparts, the words available to describe females abound, and they range from the comical to the cruel: a “Stacy” is an extremely attractive, top-tier female, while a “Becky” is something of a Plain Jane. Certain characteristics are usually associated with these respective designations — Stacies are generally considered vacuous and traditionally feminine, while Beckies are pseudo-intellectual or rebellious, usually feminists. But these opinions vary and are often the subject of some debate. The categorization is based primarily on physical beauty. There are also overweight “landwhales,” and a variety of ethnic epithets such as “noodle-whore” as a complement to those that exist for men.
The most ubiquitous of these neologisms, of course, is “femoid,” often shortened, simply, to “foid.” Cold and medicalized, the word suggests some kind of automaton or lower-order primate, devoid of consciousness and driven entirely by a set of instructions or urges compelling it to eat, drink, and “fuck Chad.”
And indeed, in incel spaces, female behavior is often explained as exactly that, with references to a growing body of work from social scientists, clinical psychologists, and neurologists who agree that the majority of our idiosyncratic human routines can be understood as basic survival skills which date back hundreds of thousands of years. So it would follow that one should “never trust foids,” who can’t help their treachery, their laziness, their lust or their greed, because it is hardwired.
However, a deeper look into the etymology of the word reveals a more complicated relationship with actual women and femininity. If we parse the term down, we find the root “femina” from the Latin for “woman,” followed by the suffix “-oid,” also from the Latin, which is used to form adjectives and nouns denoting form or resemblance. Thus, the term is not an indictment of women themselves, but rather of these women, these cheap imitations, these imposters, that look and act like the real deal but lack any soul or humanity. Modern women, the women that reject and object, that taunt and betray, that exploit both the beta males and their own sexuality for profit — these are the femoids, the objects of derision and contempt. According to incels, foids are often cruel to them, demonstrating their inability to feel compassion or think abstractly by laughingly dismissing them and using the term as a pejorative. They refuse to acknowledge the incels’ humanity, thereby proving that they lack it in themselves. As an observer, I can confirm that this occurs a lot in online spaces, where we increasingly spend our time.
But back to “feminoid.” I don’t believe in linguistic coincidences, and the word reveals that on some level, for incels, actual women represent something good or at least neutral. Actual women are coveted, as is actual intimacy, while meaningless sex is generally considered an excess and an aberration.
Such paradoxical nuance is present throughout the black pill or incel “ideology,” which is basically, like most philosophy, a broad critique of modern society — our lack of community, of spirituality, of authenticity. It is a criticism of the narcissism, greed and insincerity required to navigate the world with our FaceTuned, filtered avatars instead of ourselves, to exist in a virtual marketplace where sex still sells better than ever, often traded for doses of influence or attention. Is such criticism really undeserved?
Incels’ brand of misogyny lauds the loudest and the lewdest, but also presents respect for intellectual rigor. This worldview is not benign, but it’s also nothing new. Misogyny exists at the core of most hate-based ideologies and a great deal of violent crime. It also exists, however, in the volumes of most religions, scientific works, and revolutionary political treatises, if one looks back into the past. (And if women are mentioned at all, which they usually are.) We have evolved, in large thanks to the antiquated systems of the past, and to the tireless curiosity and dedication of those thinkers who sat off on the sidelines and observed their fellow humans as they danced their strange ritualistic dance. They bucked at the social consequences of turning inward and asking why, and for that, we owe them a debt of gratitude.
Not every incel is on a noble quest for understanding, but some are. Not every normie is obligated to understand incels, but maybe more of them should try. Because we are all human, behind the keyboard, and the filters, and the fifty dollar words.
Creator and host of the New York Times-reviewed podcast, “Incel” for the Crawlspace Media Network, and “ESC-Hate” for Light Upon Light.