If you have been on TikTok or Twitter in the past few months, it’s very likely you have seen the word “simp” or “simp nation” used in memes and comment sections. The term rose to its peak popularity online earlier this year and spread faster than any virus could.
The meaning of simp and its etymology is quite vague and far-reaching. Generally, the definitions of simp all apply to men who overvalue women through some display of kindness, defensiveness or submission to them, oftentimes with ulterior motives. These loose terms on which people ground “simphood” make “simp” a word that was practically doomed to overuse from the start. And this is precisely what has happened.
Though “simp” has seemingly appeared in online lexicon out of thin air, the word is actually a case of misappropriated African American Vernacular English (AAVE). Its use in African American popular culture has roots in 90s hip hop. I say misappropriated because though the word was never founded on the most progressive principles to begin with, it’s now used far too often by men insulting other men for being considerate towards women and respecting their bodily autonomy in relationships or otherwise. Now any guy who defends a sex worker in a comment section: you’re a simp. Are you willing to listen to a woman's traumatic experience? Simp. Do you think we should maybe hear women out about their negative experiences with dating? Simp.
It should go without saying that men are very capable of being kind and considerate towards women without expecting a sexual reward. However, to the men that continuously throw around the simp insult, this is not possible. The slow dissolve of long-standing gender roles is confusing for these men to navigate in an increasingly egalitarian dating world. To a man, accepting an equal position can feel like submission. However, it’s really just a step down from dominance, a broken promise. Furthermore, traditional gender roles confine heterosexual relationships and tell us that understanding, compromise and genuine friendship can and should never happen between a couple. Men who have it out for simps are likely victims of this kind of thinking whether they realize it or not.
These ideologies, however invisible to us, are very much in line with the worldviews of the misogynistic “manosphere.” In fact, the word “simp” has been proliferating around anti-feminist forums on Reddit and 4chan for years now. It’s not new to see smoke signals rise from these dark crevices of the internet and adjoin themselves to more mainstream meme culture.
Clearly, there is some problematic juju surrounding the popularity of “simp.” Some are using simp in its misogynistic context across all mainstream platforms. And so the question arises: should we be doing anything about this?
My answer would be that not much can be done. The beauty of the internet and its endless trend cycling mechanisms is that words lose their effect when they get repeated into oblivion. We are already starting to see a new wave of people turning simp into a positive thing. Men and women alike are reclaiming “simp” ironically to embrace their appreciation and respect for women. Popular internet slang can’t be retired, but it can be repurposed.