CULTURE

Empathy for Incels

Separating the venom from the genuinely pained and human core of inceldom could be the first step in saving society from the vileness of incel ideology and saving some of these lost young men from themselves.

Original image from lookism.net

Technically speaking, dating is easier now than it has been at any other point in human history.

Even in the early 2000s, a person's relationship options were largely limited to the people they knew through work, school, or their local community––meeting new people meant going to a bar and hoping to click with whoever happened to be there that night. Today, the options are limitless. Dating apps like Tinder and Bumble expand potential relationships from social circles to entire cities. On the modern dating circuit, everything is public and everyone seems to be hooking up. But in a hyper-connected world, people who can't seem to make connections feel lonelier than ever before.

Incels are people who self-identify as "involuntarily celibate" and participate in an online subculture marked by rampant sexism, hate speech, and conspiratorial thinking mixed with intense self-loathing. It's easy to write them off as just another group of entitled, mostly-male reactionaries who are angry about the modern equality movement and the increased social clout women are gaining. After all, the political landscape is rife with those (see Gamergate). Considering the type of rhetoric commonly found on incel forums––expressions of admiration for the "Supreme Gentleman" Elliot Rodger are not uncommon, for instance––anything short of outright condemnation of the entire incel subculture can be seen as condoning a dangerous hive of radicalization.

And yet, while incel ideology is dogmatic, dangerous, and inherently flawed, recognizing that the experiences they stem from are overwhelmingly human––pain, loneliness, social anxiety, and self-loathing––might bring to light new solutions that could lead incels to genuinely recovering and reacclimating into modern society. So, too, could the acknowledgement that incels aren't just born from dangerous, sexist feelings of entitlement, at least not at first, and while their larger ideology certainly sits upon a heap of misconceptions, there might be a kernel of truth somewhere at the bottom.

The Cut recently published a phenomenal article about incel plastic surgery, a growing trend whereby incels seek cosmetic surgery to fix perceived facial flaws in order to become more "Chad-like." To clarify, incel subculture calls the most attractive men, who "hoard" most of the world's sex with women (or so they believe), Chads. Chads are men with square jaws and prominent brows, but they can also be lithe or vampiric as long as they possess an aesthetic that Stacys and Beckys––attractive blonde women and basically every other kind of woman, respectively––typically find hot.

zac efron shirtless Zac Efron, total Chad. MCCFL / Splash News


While some incels who opt-in for this kind of cosmetic surgery experience a noticeable difference in their lives afterwards, specifically in the way they're treated by others, many find that their lives don't change very much at all. The core subject of the article, a man who uses the alias Truth4lie, is stuck in an endless cycle of surgeries, post-op elation, discovering a new flaw, suicidal ideation, and then more surgery. Ultimately, his account suggests extreme body dysmorphia, an isolating mental illness far more likely to cause "involuntary celibacy" than his perceived physical flaws.

In fact, the most standout revelation upon browsing many incel forums is that the users––on the rare occasions they post pictures of themselves for critique––are usually pretty average looking guys. Granted, many of them are not, but they're not hideous or grotesque either. Countless men who are just as "ugly" by conventional measures of attractiveness can be found on dates in every restaurant in every major city. So, then, what's really "wrong" with incels?

incel chin The difference between an incel and a Chad according to incels.reddit.com/r/incels

The answer most likely varies from person to person, but chances are high that two common scenarios account for most members of the community. The first is mental illness and neurological atypicalities, which manifest in multiple ways that could lead to "inceldom." One, as outlined in The Cut's article, is body dysmorphia. Others might include social anxiety, depression, or autism––anything that causes one to feel isolated or leads to confusion regarding social contacts. The second is the possibility that these individuals are genuinely physically unattractive and don't have the proper tools or social skills to make up for that disadvantage when dating.

The underlying issues for both groups of incels––and there's likely a good deal of overlap between the two––make their initial involvement in incel communities all the more understandable. Connection with others is a core human need, and long-term loneliness can lead to severe mental and physical repercussions, from insomnia to suicide. For people in circumstances like these, incel communities offer support and a soothing––albeit incorrect––scapegoat for their problems.

"The black pill" is the incel community's core ideological offering: the fatalistic, sexist "truth" of biological determinism––that unattractive men are simply doomed to be rejected by the selfish, shallow creatures known as women. Black pill ideology is repugnant and patently disproven by every single average and below average-looking guy in a healthy relationship. But for someone who has convinced himself that his face is the bane of his own existence and for whom every glance in the mirror is a brutal takedown, black pill ideology shoulders the burden of rejection through absolute affirmation. Black pill ideology says, "Yes, you are ugly, and no, your lot can't be changed." For someone struggling and failing to climb out of a dark, deep, lonely pit, that kind of affirmation, however damaging, can seem like a ray of light.

Perhaps, then, the best solution to dealing with inceldom is offering that same sort of empathy and understanding to struggling people before they turn to incel communities in the first place. The most common "normie" advice (which is always derided by incels) is that if someone wants a girlfriend, all they need to do is "hit the gym and take a bath." This suggests that the core problem incels suffer from is poor hygiene and bad lifestyle choices. But while this may be true for some incels, hitting the gym and taking a bath won't solve deep-seated psychological ailments, pervasive neuroses, or self-hatred.

The truth is that dating is significantly harder for people with mental illnesses or social anxiety. And dating is way, way harder for physically unattractive people. That being said, attractiveness is not stagnant or binary, and plenty of traditionally unattractive people find love and hold successful, lasting relationships with people who subjectively find them attractive. The solution is not to demonize incels for their flawed reasoning, but rather to destigmatize therapy for men, along with undoing so many other traditional, rigid standards that dictate what is and isn't "masculine." Ideally, with genuine empathy and support structures in place, incels wouldn't become incels in the first place.

Unfortunately, incel communities aren't just limited to sad affirmations––empathy would be a lot easier in that case. Black pilling naturally leads to anger and resentment, mainly directed towards women. These views compound and fester within echo chambers, oftentimes resulting in genuine hatred and, sometimes, real-world violence. But separating the venom from the genuinely pained and human core of inceldom could be the first step in saving society from the vileness of incel ideology and saving some of these lost young men from themselves.

TV

"The Bachelorette" Episode 2 Recap: A Crossover Event for Millennials

The gag-worthy event struck a cord and a nerve for viewers, reminding us how the show is attempting to rebrand as inclusive and modern.

Alyssa Edwards and J. Alexander ogling a contestant in a speedo.

ABC

The takeaway from Episode 1 was "be honest." For Episode 2, it's "be bold." Take a shot whenever Hannah says, "Be Bold."

The Group Date: Exciting Takeaways

In the best kept "secret" since Kylie Jenner's pregnancy, Alyssa Edwards and Alaska, the Drag Race sensations, were featured on this past episode. Let's not forget Miss J. Alexander, the runway fanatic and America's Next Top Model phenomenon! All three were guest judges on a panel for the first group date of the season: a pageant. The men on the date endured a thong contest and a talent portion to win the title of Mr. Right!

The challenge was to be yourself and, again, be bold. It was their chance to fight hyper-masculinity and show vulnerability in what Hannah called "showing up!"

As an audience, we got to ogle alongside the fabulous guests and Hannah. The men strutted their stuff, some with singles tucked in their thongs—thank goodness for John Paul (fuck yes) Jones.

Ass-slapping aside, the free-for-all moment felt like a gross callback to the gender-flipping narrative of last season. If Colton had been a woman, would all the jokes have been acceptable? And if Hannah were in the position of these men, strutting down the runway in a bikini, would it seem more like a Magic Mike showdown or a Playboy Bunny drool-fest?

Although the segment was fantastic fun, the guests this week felt reminiscent of Billy Eichner's appearance, following a pattern of gay guests serving as forms of entertainment, sideshows, and commentators.

While watching, it's hard not to remember how heteronormative the show continues to be with 20+ seasons. For a show to consider itself a reflection and evolution of American dating since the early 2000s reaffirmed the question: When will other sexualities receive representation beyond fluff?

Many missteps aside, the talent portion fulfilled the fun quota. Watching John Paul Jones on a unicycle and Mike Johnson walk in heels just to "walk in her shoes" ( swoon) reminded the viewers that this season is about finding a guy that goes all in.

Meanwhile, the narrative arc between Jed and Luke P. was only festering. The heart-throb singer-songwriter from Nashville, Jed, sung his way to what viewers would see as the top until Luke P. "performed." A collective groan was heard nationwide as Luke P. not only did not perform a talent, but annoyingly professed he was in fact already falling in love with Hannah after spending a total of two hours with her!

In the evening, Hannah continued her infatuated mess with Luke P. because, "He's saying everything my heart wants to hear!" The red flag may not be waving in her face yet, but the other men were surely aware of his games. Mike Johnson, the stud, put it best, "You a dog. I don't want her emotions to be rattled." But after a soothing and genuine conversation between Jed and Hannah, Jed won the night and this round.

One-On-One: Snooze

popdust The Bachelorette episode 2 recap

Tyler G., who Hannah described as "Tim Tebow but hotter," got the first one-on-one. They flew in a helicopter and slung some mud (you know, typical date stuff). Tyler G. may seem well-meaning, but nothing was memorable about this date beyond Hannah's strung-out syllables trying to fill the silence. Out of compassion and understanding, Hannah gave him the rose. Next!

Second Group Date: Fine

The season is going to be an active one. The second group date was a roller derby competition between the green team and the orange team. Lots of men fell, but the nose ring guy fell hard and got up to win the whole thing.

Like every season, the injured man gets extra attention. So, Dustin (nose ring guy) had his moment and a smooch with our Bachelorette. It was quite steamy.

Cut-to-Cam (you know, the man whose catchphrase is "ABC: Always Be Cam," but it might as well be what viewers have memed " Anyone But Cam"). The googly-eyed software engineer showed up uninvited, bringing cheap flowers to a shocked and visibly confused Hannah.

The men did not take kindly to this. Not just one, but three men interrupted Cam's talking head to set him straight.

Some of the best lines:

  • Tyler C. to Cam, "I'm gonna go back to my girl."
  • Cam to Garrett, "I respect you coming at me."
  • Kevin to Cam, "I hope it pans out."

The men, Kevin especially, seemed the utmost frustrated by the distraction of Cam's presence. With Hannah giving the rose to Dustin, the evening ended with a mediocre goodnight.

The Rose Ceremony: Justice for Nugs

The evening began with an anti-climatic speech by a tear-shedding Bachelorette. No one knew what was happening. "I'm just so blessed," she said. Okay?

After an odd start, Kevin finally had his one-on-one time—just to be interrupted by Cam. Ugh, Cam. He invited Hannah AND Kevin to a magical little heart shaped blanket where he goes on to expose his surprise (nuggets) and then the bigger surprise (honey mustard)!

Kevin, obviously frustrated, walked away with the leftover nuggets. The men were pressed enough for Kevin to let off steam just as Cam re-enters the scene. How did Kevin handle his frustration? HE THREW THE NUGGETS AT CAM! Not to say Cam didn't deserve it, but why waste perfectly good food on a fool!

Meanwhile, the real contenders were battling it out. Luke P. took Hannah away to show her he's good with his hands ( eek). She loved it so much that she took off his shirt. Insert Jed. Not only were the viewers basically watching soft core porn, but so was poor, sweet Jed.

Hannah, noticeably embarrassed, had no idea what to do. One startled twitter user even confused Hannah's f-bombs for an emergency flood warning.

Hannah then slinked out of the mansion to manage the dilemma. Jed, like the class act he is, may have been in an uncomfortable situation, but took the moment to relate to Hannah. Jed knew jealousy gains nothing.

At the rose ceremony, nothing exciting happened, unless you find excitement in pain-staking close-ups on the faces of men we're supposed to care about as they sweat out the inevitable moment when Cam receives the last rose. Obviously, The Bachelorette needed to keep their lesser villain to rattle the other men.

Afterwards, the real villain snuck upstairs to interrupt Hannah's confessional. Luke P. whisked Hannah into his arms to manipulatively assure her that she can trust him. Their undeniable sexual connection left Hannah's chest booming, but what about her heart?

NEXT EPISODE ON THE BACHELORETTE...

MUSIC

Filipa's "I'd Rather be Single" Video is a Dose of Satire and Self-Empowerment

Filipa mocks dating game shows and delivers an anthem of self-respect.

South African pop artist, Filipa, first soared to international recognition by winning a cover song competition on Ryanseacrest.com.

Her rendition of One Direction's "Story of My Life" showcased her powerful voice and dynamic emotional range. Winning this contest not only bolstered her popularity in South Africa, but it also granted Filipa the platform she needed to focus on releasing original songs. From there, she released her debut single, "Chills," to critical acclaim and followed it up with "Little White Lie," which rocketed up the iTunes charts and dominated South African airwaves. Now, with the release of her new music video, "I'd Rather be Single," Filipa looks to expand her reach beyond South Africa.

The video begins with Filipa and a friend, lazing on the couch, watching TV. Filipa is visibly upset over a boy who, we find out, is not returning her texts. With a mouthful of popcorn, the friend advises Filipa to get rid of him, and just as Filipa is about to explain why she keeps him around, the other woman interrupts her because one of her favorite shows comes on. The show in question is a parody of those vapid dating game shows that dominated the mid-'90s and early aughts (think MTV's Singled Out). A different version of Filipa appears as the object of affection for which three cheesy dudes are to compete.

The rest of the video is a seamless blend of skits in which Filipa asks the contestants questions, and they give comically disconcerting answers and footage of the how the show farcically plays itself out to the music.

In a written statement Filipa said, "The dating world is so strange and demanding these days, which makes it hard to find that special someone who understands you, supports you and treats you right […] A lot of people stay in relationships in hopes of the other person changing or finally being the type of person they deserve, which starts to become taxing on their own happiness and leads to more tension and heartbreak down the line. I think knowing your worth and respecting yourself first is the key to being happy in and out of a relationship."

"I'd Rather be Single" is a refreshingly positive anthem of self-empowerment that is all too rare in pop music – hopefully this universally salient message resonates with audiences far and wide.

Filipa - I'd Rather Be Single (Official Music Video) youtu.be



Dustin DiPaulo is a writer and musician from Rochester, New York. He received his MFA in Creative Writing from Florida Atlantic University and can most likely be found at a local concert, dive bar, or comedy club (if he's not getting lost somewhere in the woods).


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