How the Resurgence of the Word ‘Simp’ Is a Nod to Incel Culture and Ancient Misogyny

An Opinion Piece

Jen M

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Hercules: Picture from Şafak Atalay on Unsplash

I first heard the word a few years ago from a guy friend. He was disgruntled by modern dating and by his own negative experiences in relationships. He was disappointed in himself for still being a bachelor in his mid-30s, as he’d always desired a loving, fulfilling marriage and family. Despite this dream, he was convinced his fate was to be alone for the rest of his life; forever desiring what he couldn’t have… and he told me why he thought so:

“I can’t find or keep a girl because I’m too much of a simp.”

“What’s that?”

“It means I try too hard and girls see me as beta.”

(Don’t even get me started on the words ‘alpha’ and ‘beta’).

I knew that over-giving and people-pleasing were signs of neediness and self-abandonment. Naturally, placing someone on a pedestal insinuates that you’re powerless and not the greatest catch yourself. I assumed that’s what he meant.

But then I started hearing the word used in other scenarios:

  • If a man called out another man’s misogynistic behavior, he was a ‘simp.’
  • If a man did something thoughtful for his girlfriend of wife, he was a ‘simp.’
  • If I, a woman, talked about my appreciation women, some men would even call me a ‘simp.’

It didn’t take me long to realize this word had a more sinister meaning than mere ‘people-pleasing.’ Rather, it had undertones of misogyny, as it was being directed toward men who were treating women with kindness and basic human decency. I’ve also yet to hear it, or an equivalent, used against someone who loves, appreciates, defends, or offers to men.

I decided to do some more digging on the origins of this seemingly-new word. Unsurprisingly, the word wasn’t new — just revived.

It’s not exactly clear when exactly the word originated, nor who coined the term, but there’s evidence that it’s been around as far back as the 1920s, and was used in the New York Times in 1923.

In 1949, it was defined as an abbreviation for ‘simpleton’ in the New Partridge Dictionary of Slang and

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Jen M

A freelance writer, writer, artist, geek, hopeless (and hopeful) romantic, and over-thinker.