TikTok, the trending app of Gen Z, took over many of our lives during quarantine, from dancing the Renegade to the viral challenges that keep you engaged for 15 seconds. While the application is doubtlessly deemed an entertaining one, it has manifested its fair share of toxicity. The word “simp”, for one, made its first appearance on a trending tik tok, as the hashtag #Simpnation went viral when users described their horror crush stories. Simp, often used as an insult, is a word used by many people in our generation to describe the bare minimum of respect or kindness a man shows towards a woman.
The use of this word was first seen in the 1920s, when the New York Times used it to refer to someone as stupid. The New Partridge Dictionary of Slang and Unconventional English states that it is a shortened version of the word ‘simpleton.’ The contemporary use of the word emerged in the 1980s when it was seen in rap songs by West Coast. The term gained popularity around the 2010s when a men’s rights activist group used it as a term to describe men who respected women and supported feminism.
The power that this simple term holds is an ode to toxic masculinity. The term is used, in a derogatory sense, to call out men for being “soft” or “overly sympathetic” or simply just going against the toxic male stereotype. The word expresses discomfort with the notion that a man would simply respect a woman, without expecting anything in return. The word propagates the flippant attitude of a man towards a woman, further accentuating the idea that if a man is being kind or attentive, he is expecting something in return. It promotes the idea of our society regarding such men as frail, vulnerable or even timid. Moreover, the term advocates for the male stereotype – egoistical, controlling and dominant in their behaviour. It further underlines the concept of men validating women only when sexual or emotional feelings are involved. From time to time I’ve heard my guy friends calling another guy a ‘simp’ for texting first, for texting to make sure a girl arrived home safe, or even to the extent of a guy being labeled a simp for praising a girl’s personality over her looks. This mentality questions and degrades the level of respect and politeness men express towards women.
In this context, while nowhere does the definition of ‘simp’ mention a gender associated with it, for more than a century it has been used to exclusively describe and shame men. Alternatively, when considering women who are caring and passive, the word ‘simp’ would most definitely be the last one we’d ever use to describe them. This directly connects with the societal presumption of superiority and inferiority between both the genders, respectively.
While most of Gen Z claims that the term is just a harmless joke, it doesn’t mean that this humor isn’t promoting toxic masculinity. As MEL Magazine put it, the term is “Now another catchall misogynistic term, seemingly aimed not directly at women but rather the men who value them”.
It is long overdue that society accepts that treating women courteously is not simping; it is treating everyone around you with respect, kindness and dignity.