Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Incels and the stories they tell: A narrative analysis of Incels’ shared stories on Reddit

Incels and the stories they tell: A narrative analysis of Incels’ shared stories on Reddit. Thea Høiland. Master’s thesis in Sociology, Department of Sociology and Human Geography, Oslo U. May 27 2019. https://www.duo.uio.no/bitstream/handle/10852/69841/1/Masteroppgave-arbeidsversjon---Ferdig-versjon.pdf

After the separation of pro- and anti-feminist groups in the USA in the 1970s, we saw a growth in more overtly anti-feminist politics throughout the 198’s and 1990s. In 2010s, a more hateful culture emerged, largely due to the possibility for anonymity on the Internet. This is The manosphere, a now transnational, conglomeration of forums, blogs and websites which center around the concept of The Red Pill, a philosophy meant to awaken men to feminism’s misandry and brainwashing. This thesis is about a specific group found in The manosphere, a group of men who view themselves as unable to find a partner or have sex despite desiring to. They are known as Incels or involuntary celibate. I wish to describe and understand this online culture and community by looking at the shared stories they tell through a narrative analysis. Incels are new phenomenon, and my thesis is the first academic study to cover the present constellation of Incels.The research question is as follows: What are the main narratives that emerge in the shared stories told amongst Incels on /r/Braincels? I focus on co-tellership and shared meanings through these supporting research questions: How are the characters from the Incel-word represented? What are the Incel community norms and rights associated with the narrative interactions? Whose interests does the stories serve? I use mediated narrative analysis to analyze the shared stories on three levels: at level one, I look at the shared story through character portrayal. At level two, I look at the sharing and interaction in the shared story. This means discussing the relational work and interactions amongst tellers. I also look the positioning of Incels to hegemonic masculinity, are they distancing or aligning themselves with hegemonic masculinity? At level three, I look at the shared meanings, that being the main narratives and whose interests the stories serve. 

The five main narratives that emerged through my data are as follows: 1) the narrative of sex is what decides a man’s worth 2),  the narrative of “looks are everything; personality is nothing”, 3) The narrative of women being subordinate to men, 4) The narrative of anti-feminism and 5)The narrative of loneliness.Throughout my analysis, I look at the constellation of Incels’ hybrid masculinity in light of hegemonic and hybrid masculinity theories. I find that Incels position hegemonic masculinity as superior to both Incels and women. Women are presented as subordinate to men, and feminine traits are positioned as subordinate to masculine traits. Incels place themselves in another masculine identity than hegemonic masculinity by contrasting themselves to the stereotypical masculine ideal, Chad. In addition, Incels distance themselves through talking about their failures and expresing emotions. This is not accepted when performing hegemonic masculinity.Lastly, I find that /r/Braincels functions as a channel for venting frustration for themen who consider themselves Incels, and who consider our modern day society unfair and cruel to (what they categorize as) ugly men. At the same time, they show concerning categorizations of gender and misogyny. They present themselves as victims, and women as the enemy.

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