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Incel Culture: Why it should not be a culture

What is incel culture?

In a world where love is glorified, a person naturally looks for it in a romantic relationship. Standing short for “involuntary celibate” the concept of incel culture emerges from this expectation of finding a romantic/sexual partner but being unable to do so. Now as sad as it might sound, this concept is deeply rooted in misogyny as its believers propose that women only like men for their looks and find them unattractive.

Roots, Origin and Changing Perspectives:

This idea undoubtedly finds its roots in popular media on the internet. The term incel was first coined by a queer Canadian woman in 1993, who created a website for people who identified as incels to share their thoughts and feelings. While initially, it was a platform for the queer community to empower themselves, its shape and meaning lost context and are now most talked about by a community of cis men.

These men go on to find themselves victims of female bias towards "good-looking men" and encourage other followers to fight against this evil. Being rejected by a woman makes them question the reason and ultimately makes them boil down the answer to “looks”. By large, this phenomenon is visibly dictated by popular media like how women are attracted to guys who are “well built”, “sharp-featured” and “masculine” in movies and TV shows. Thence, the lack of these traits appears to be the reason for their rejection, even if that’s not true for their case. Men in such cases look at themselves as the ones who show affection and are ready to delve and dive deeper into feelings of love, moving to a deeper and less materialistic or platonic outlook, but a rejection or disinterest of the other person crushes down those feelings. While a simple way of dealing with this rejection would be to communicate in a healthy and respectful manner, indulging in self-preservation and ego defence techniques like one-sided analysis and blaming it on the other person makes people subscribe to the idea of incel culture in the first place.

Problems with this "culture"

Unfortunately, this growing culture has fueled the male supremacy ideology by making men stronger in their idea of self-empowerment, against being victims of female power. They believe that they are better than these women who are stuck on “surface level attractive traits” such as beauty and ignore the beauty of a person’s heart. They begin to look down upon women as the power bearers in the romantic world which compels them to blame women and gradually, resentment turns into hatred. Another problematic idea that the incel culture ignores is the concept of consent. Being victims of patriarchy, such men often feel that they are entitled to be a dominant partner or to sex. Such men contest that having sex is a right and that they don’t find a partner because they’re looked down upon - the reason being their looks. What these men need to realise is that even if they were rejected for their looks, they need to normalise and believe in the idea of “acceptance” and “moving on” because different women have different ideas of what they look for in a partner and consent is still their priority. They have the right to choose and have expectations of what their partners can be like. Moreover, it requires an understanding that the idea of “good looksis'' is subjective in itself so another woman might accept a man for their looks. Another upsetting and disturbing aspect of incel culture are acid attacks. Incidents of acid attacks are becoming more prominent by the day. They go on to portray the intolerance on the part of the culprit as most of these accidents are centred around rejection. Maturity on the part of the rejected person would look like understanding the fact that the reason why they were rejected could be various. However, victims of their own egos, these men decide to take on a dangerous road.

Red pill, Blue pill, Black pill

Interestingly, its followers have a very creative way of explaining the incel culture through the concept of the red pill, blue pill and more recently, the black pill. Its inspiration comes from the 1999 film, the Matrix, taking a red pill leads to an awakening or realisation for its user about some hidden truth which, in the incel culture stands for realising how men don't hold systematic power or privilege but rather are the tools of female desires and power in the dating world. They use misreadings of scientific studies, online dating datasets and their own personal experiences of rejection, divorce, etc. to validate the incel culture. The blue pill stands for so-called “ignorance” i.e. the accepted mainstream narrative.

However, the recent development of the black pill states that individual-level changes or attempts at communication and understanding about this perspective are futile and only a change at the societal level can be efficient. This societal change is what encourages the followers of this culture to carry out homicide or suicide (as martyrs) to bring awareness about their atrocity. The Plymouth shooting of 2021 is suspected to have been a result of this incel culture.

Incel in India

In the Indian subcontinent, the incel culture goes one step ahead to include race and ethnicity as contributing factors. Indian believers of the incel culture claim that women prefer white men over brown and thus see themselves further down in the hierarchy of desirable men. In recent years, incel culture has become more popular in India, apparent from its representation in media like songs, videos and jokes centred around casual sexism. “Bewafa” (unfaithful), the Indian anthem of all broken hearts, centres around how a girl cheats on his boyfriend. While the song holds a valid narrative, many young and immature audiences are also seen using this song to hate girls that were either not interested in or rejected for other reasons.

Final thoughts?

This long story of the incel culture with all its aspects still stands strong and only grows every day. Do women really find only “good-looking” men worthy of dating? Are their choices affected and dictated by the media and the idea of a desirable partner? Is taking radical and extreme steps to rebel against this idea appropriate? In the end, is the incel culture a myth or reality?

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