“Incel” and Healthy Attitudes for Men and Women


I see the new trend of the word "incel" being heavily thrown around on social media and all internet platforms, by both young and old people, as a means to intimidate or shame others. Thoughts?

—Mirza, Germany


Dear Mirza,

I’m not a sociologist or one who studies and follows modern trends around attitudes and relations between men and women, but I do observe that the roles and relationships between men and women are evolving. The archetypal picture of the bread or hunt-winning male provider and protector, and the nurturing and educating homemaker female, has dwindled- if not considerably at least noticeably. More than this, but related to it, is the rise in the status, rights, opportunity and equality of women generally. The relative assertiveness, confidence, independence, and empowerment of women, combined with or augmented by their inherent influence on men based on sexual, romantic, or other more-specifically feminine attributes can feel like a serious threat in men who are, of themselves, insecure.

Put more succinctly: the rise of the status and power of women in society can trigger a backlash from some men, especially if they feel on some level inadequate or threatened. I’ve observed among a broad cross-section of young men, a decline in what might be seen as masculine traits. In some circles, the young man is likely to be too thin, lacking in physical strength or manual dexterity skills, and inclined to be a bit geeky or even addicted to video games. (Sorry for the profile but it serves to make a point anyone can recognize.)

At the same time, the growing opportunities and status accorded to young women doesn’t inhibit Mother Nature’s job to exhibit the attractive power of inherently female attributes. (While young women naturally feel an equal attraction to young men, on the “dance floor” of mating rituals it is the male who traditionally asks for the first dance. This is intended to require courage on his part!) The combination of (what might seem as) assertiveness, both in the job, skill and status marketplace as well as on the sexual playing field, is bound to send a certain percentage of men running from the “dance floor.”

I have painted a simplistic picture, though working from the images of archetypes. I don’t have a sense of critique for any of it. Human consciousness is evolving the relative roles of men and women. The good news, from a spiritual perspective, is that one aspect of that evolution is towards not just equality in social, economic or legal terms, but an equality that transcends emphasis upon our respective differences: moving away from the so-called “war of the sexes.”

Nonetheless, the influence of gender on behavior continues despite modern attitudes that dismiss it. Attraction and repulsion between men and women isn’t going away. Women who flaunt and men who taunt similarly will continue their dangerous, self-defeating charades.

But the “incel” (involuntary celibate), with his pent-up anger at his perceived rejection and his seeming inadequacy (in truth: fear) to (boldly) gain attentions of the powerfully attractive woman (women) of his fantasy is, apparently, a very real phenomenon in our society. It is sad to see this, and so far as I am capable of commenting, it doesn’t really seem to have anything to do with any “fault” of women. It seems, sadly, to be the insecurity of a group of men. My essential point is that this insecurity, while always present in some men, can get exacerbated by the otherwise appropriate and necessary rise of women’s status in society.

I’ve pondered this to a small degree and it occurs to me, especially from a spiritual and archetypal point of view, that a more natural and more healthy response from men would be to emphasize those traits which come most naturally to them: strength, protectiveness, fairness, justice, integrity, independence, courage, and wisdom. In archetypal or historical terms, men acquired their sense of masculinity by going to war or otherwise demonstrating (perhaps to a potential, high-status female mate) their prowess and dependable, honorable character. This is, of course, no longer necessary!

Would that boys in grammar and high school be encouraged in the direction of the natural traits above. Would that the potentially de-magnetizing consequences of premature and immature relationships and/or the responsibilities of a sexual relationship be more fully and factually emphasized to both boys and girls.

Let men (and women) be encouraged to have a period of their young life to pursue education, career, health, or humanitarian or spiritual pursuits for a time, free from the shackles, limitations and psychological responsibilities of relationship or marriage. (Instead, there is so much emphasis on sexual gratification as the summum bonum of human life.) Those who, for positive reasons of other interests, effectively discipline themselves by virtue of one-pointed focus on their priorities and refrain from sexual relationships, find increases in confidence, vitality and creativity. This is a traditional teaching and “I’m sticking with it!”

Living on one’s own is, for example, an important experience in self-confidence, acquiring how-to-live skills, and focusing one-pointedly on worthwhile pursuits. Our society makes too much of the romantic wonders of young love. Young people and all of us have many traits and skills to learn and obstacles to overcome.  We need to know ourselves before we can in a mature way commit to another person.

Since “incels” define themselves as such and express anger alone, not much can be done to help them. Thus it is that having education and training at a younger age, allowing space to honor a period of independence (even a lifestyle of independence) would be perhaps more practical.

I hope some of these thoughts help bring some perspective to your inquiry.

Nayaswami Hriman