If you have been on social media recently, then you have probably seen the word “simp” thrown around a lot. Upon first hearing the word, I thought it was just an abbreviation of the term “simpleton.” However, the word has a deeper and more problematic meaning.
The term was first used in the 1920s when the New York Times used the word “simpleton” as an insult to someone’s intelligence, that they were dumb and incapable of understanding larger concepts. In 1946, “simpleton” was shortened to simp, and became used as slang. Over time it evolved, and in the 80s and 90s, during the rise of rap and hip-hop, rappers used to insult men who were “soft” towards women and their female friends. Around 2010, during a major time in the third wave of feminism movement, many men’s rights groups and incels began using the word to insult to describe men who supported feminism, treating women with respect, and as their equals. The word circulated back into popular use just last year on TikTok, a Chinese video-sharing social networking service where users can make talent, comedy, dance content and more, after TikToker Marco Borghi, known virtually as poloboy, posted a video about “simps,” making fun of them. Many people on TikTok have begun using simp in a more innocent context. Namely, to describe their behaviors and affections for a significant other, or by saying they idolize or are attracted to and would do anything for a celebrity they like. However, the more toxic and true to its origins definition comes from UrbanDictionary, which defines a “simp” as “ a man who puts too much value on a woman for no reason.” Dictionary.com defines it as a slang insult that is used “for men who are seen as too attentive and submissive to women, especially out of a failed hope of winning some entitled sexual attention or activity from them.” These definitions are extremely problematic for a number of reasons. The first one insinuates that women inherently do not have value, and that there is no reason to treat them with respect, decency, or dignity unless they are assigned a value. The second definition suggests that the only reason a man would “be attentive” to a woman’s needs is if he thinks there is something to be gained from it, instead of common propriety. Not to mention, that it implies that being “submissive to women” is emasculating and you would only do it in order to get “sexual attention.”
By these definitions, it is abundantly clear that simp is a sexist term in thinly veiled misogyny, used to call men who do things for their female counterparts or treat them with decency without expecting anything in return, namely sex. It has become a way for men and boys to insult one another as well as attack or question their masculinity. On TikTok, we see boys saying that comforting a girl, asking her how her day was, or making sure she gets home safe by texting her is “simp behavior.” It is used to put down men who show women the absolute bare minimum of respect and decency. This only encourages poor treatment of women, implying that you cannot both respect them and be masculine— perpetuating toxic masculinity. Many men and boys already struggle with being seen as not masculine enough, and, by these definitions, do not want to be seen as “weak” or “whipped”; so, in turn, they treat women and girls they are attracted to poorly. This behavior in response encourages a narrative girls are told from a young age — that if a boy is mean to you, it is because he likes you. This conditions women and girls to expect poor treatment from men and boys they like. The already low bar for them is lowered even more by words like this.
We need to stop using simp to describe men and boys. We should not put them down for being kind and decent to women and girls without an expectation of something in return. We should appreciate and encourage that, as it is the bare minimum.