By Lorelei Alverson; Image by Jens Wortmann
On January 17th, 2017, women across America galvanized against the recent election of President Donald Trump in, what was seen then, as a monumental rejuvenation of the Feminist movement. Within one year, co-chair of the march Tamika Mallory was accused of espousing anti-semetic conspiracy theories (North), and the march faced a litany of accussions from wheelchair-inaccessibility to promoting white feminism. Internal controversy- especially surrounding the exclusion of BIPOC, Disabled, Queer, and financially disenfranchised voices- has besieged the margins of mainstream feminist movements since antiquitum. And yet, there remains a desire, among both radical and popular women’s movements, to self advocate to the detriment of others. A common perception remains that this is the exclusive problem of mainstream feminist organizations. Recent discussions of “white feminism”, a niche of activism that maintains the power dynamics of capitalism and white supremacy, subtly reinforcing the subjugation of any woman who isn’t white and heteronormative, have lead to an, albeit, reasonable stereotype about womens movements in the 21st century. White, middle to upper class women dominate mainstream feminist spaces donning cheeky “F* the Patriarchy” shirts produced via the coerced labor of women in foreign nations, promoting women’s equality while silencing any woman who doesn’t look- or think- like them. Unfortunately, this issue isn’t exclusive to the mainstream.
This semester I researched the Femcel movement, a branch-off of the infamous Incel movement which has amassed an impressive following in recent years for its extremist ideology and effective manipulation of mainstream media. The organization, which began on the platform Reddit before dispersing to a wide variety of mediums following a ban on hate speech, has captured the minds of young, internet-savvy women with it’s devowedly anti-men violent extremism. A survey of Femcel forums will reveal loaded statements against men and women alike, discussions of both suicidality and violent impulses, a crash-course in media which portrays fictional female serial killers, and even a Femcel- specific dialect. It will also reveal a surplus of explicit racism and transphobia.
Direct racism across Femcel platforms typically spawns from inter-organizational conflict. Despite several members identifying as people of color, the vast majority of users across Femcel forums are white, and leverage this whiteness in disputes. On the “femcel nation” discord server, users Pulp and Chris Angel got into an argument over smartphone technology whereby Pulp disseminated a litany of racially charged statements including “you spent your whole indian paycheck on nitro shame on you panjeet” and “youre indian. Don’t give me orders lmao” (Pulp). Although the server has members numbering in the hundreds, this unabashed racism continued without ridicule until the victimed user Chris Angel gave up and deleted their account. An examination of the archived page r/TruFemcel on Reddit shows that similar racism has been consistent throughout the entirety of this movement; user GerberRabies posted a horrific litany of racist remarks that received hundreds of “upvotes” (the Reddit equivalent to likes);
“black women physically have the highest testosterone levels of any women. There are black girls at my gym who can lift more than Asian men. No man wants a testy or angry woman. ​ Also, black women tend to be in worse health than other women, physically and emotionally. Plus, everyone knows how much black women worship slut culture, it’s very likely any black girl you date has been gangbanged, sandwiched, etc, used up by her early 20’s. There’s a reason roast beef pussy and black women are synonymous” (GerberRabies).
These accusations received some criticism from black femcels, none of which mentioned the obvious racism of said remarks, and all of which were intermingled with statements of agreement or the words “brutal blackpill”, indicating that said belief aligned with femcel theory.
Transphobia is equally present within the Femcel community: on the Femcel-exclusive webpage PinkPill, one user posted “I would be lying if it didn’t make me angry that a trans person can get a nose job and jaw surgery covered by insurance, but I can’t. Where do femcels get in on that sh*t?” (vcardthrow2). Several femcel groups proudly sported the Trans-Exclusionary Radical Feminist flag, indicating support for a subsection of the feminist movement that excludes transgender women from their advocacy on the grounds that they are “biological men”. In fact, the term “terfcel” is dedicated exclusively to individuals who align themselves with both T.E.R.F. and Femcel ideology.
Ultimately, the Femcel relationship with race and queerness is a complicated one- in modern adaptations of the femcel movement, racial minorities and transgender individuals have begun to carve out their spaces and forage unique femcel identities, leading to a noteworthy clash between traditional, white-feminist Femcels and newer branches of the movement. However, the predominantly eurocentric ideology continues to pay homage to its legacy of exclusion. Even in the Femcel niches where racial and gender diversity is present, Femcel “icons” such as Jennifer from the 2009 film “Jennifer’s Body”, Sylvia Plath, and Love Quinn from the hit Netflix series “You”, are predominantly cisgender and white. Future developments in mainstream feminist movements and their corresponding radical subsections will determine whether these spaces for white female advocacy open effectively to a larger audience. Either way, it is hard to imagine that the exclusionary foundations of these movements won’t respectively affect their future attempts and non-violent and violent radical action.