By Dimitra Trigka
Lux1isbon, jenn1fersbody, virginmary2008, si1kvoid, and livingdeadgirl44. These are some usernames of the few girls that are left on Tumblr. Tumblr died long ago but other social media platforms nowadays like TikTok, Instagram, and Whisper have been overflown with tumblresque girlie personas with glossy hair, long laces, doe eyes, red lips, and perfect nails.
According to Metro, 2022 is the year of the femcel. Even though, the hashtag femcel and the hashtag female manipulator are being used interchangeably, there is something about the female manipulator hashtag that stands out to me. Femcels are the misandrist female equivalent of the incel. They are the twenty-first century representatives of second wave feminism, and their personas are a bit more fixed than the female manipulator ones. How can this fluid female manipulator persona be imagined?
The female manipulator is a feminine social media persona distinguished for her rudeness and confidence regarding how she deals with her mental health issues. She is also undateable. She has daddy issues. She is a witch, a bimbo, a manic pixie dream girl, revengeful, a husband murderer, a girlboss, a femcel, a male fantasy, an extremely tired girl—the female manipulator is a lot.
The Undateable Daddy Issues Virgin/Whore
“No more skipping rope, skipping heartbeats with the boys downtown” Lana del Rey (”Lolita”, 1:11-1:17)
Even though a female manipulator is considered undateable, one of the most famous “female manipulator” artists, Lana del Rey, does nothing else but talk about dating men. The men that Lana del Rey sings about have some common characteristics. Lana del Rey’s man might be double her age, a bad, tough man and a thief but he loves her “with every beat of his cocaine heart” (“Off To The Races”, 0:19-0:23). She is his crazy wasted “little scarlet starlet” waiting to be saved from her self-destructive urges (“Off to the Races”, 1:05-1:07). This man is drawn to her broken soul, he wants to own her and shower her with his money. In her song “Off to the Races”, she confesses that she would die without him as he is her one true love (3:11-3:17). And while Lana del Rey wants to date her father, Sylvia Plath, another female manipulator favourite, contemplates killing him:
“Daddy, I have had to kill you.
You died before I had time.”(Plath)
Sylvia Plath’s and Lana del Rey’s daddy issues are essential for the construction of the female manipulator persona. The female manipulator has a complicated relationship with her father and she is either seeking male validation from older men—in a Lana del Rey way—or she wants to eliminate the father figure—in a Sylvia Plath way. This father figure is connected to power, influence, and dominance while the mother figure is associated with submissiveness, nourishment, and support.
In Christian theology, the father is God and the mother is a virgin. An article by theologian Eve Rebecca Parker has analyzed the differences between men and women when it comes to the politics of religious belonging. According to her, the church implants fear in the sexuality and independence of women (694). It commands that “if a woman is not to remain a virgin then she must be married, domesticated, and subject to her husband” (694). If the woman is not a virgin or married then she is a whore (694).
The father or the husband is the guardian of the virgin/whore complex. By rebelling against the patriarchal authority of the father, or achieving to become his manipulative partner, the female manipulator encloses the potential for a cutting-edge conception of femininity “due to her daddy issues” and her fiery temperament. The female manipulator can either be a virgin or a whore—this is not important. What is important is the fact that she is surely undateable.
A few months ago, I asked Google how to become a virgin again and plannedparenthood.org answered that there is nothing you can do to grow your hymen back. And If a girl cannot be a virgin again, does she have to become a whore or someone’s wife? Marina and the Diamonds wishes to have spent her teenage years fighting for a prom queen title instead of burning up a bible in her “Teen Idle” song (0:37-0:44). I agree that becoming a prom queen, a wife, and a mother solves the problem of not being a virgin anymore in the patriarchal reality. In the same song, she mentions that she wants to be a pure virgin and a twenty-first-century whore (1:06-–1:14). How is the twenty-first-century whore different from the previous ones?
Rapper Brooke Candy said 10 years ago that it is now time to take back the word slut and turn it into a compliment for “sexy-ass females who running shit and confident” (“Das Me”, 0:37-0:43). I am not sure about it. When her Tinder date asks her if she is going to be his little slut tonight, the female manipulator cringes a bit. His little slut and also tonight? And of course, no, this is not misogyny, he is a great guy right? Maybe he is and who is going to argue against it if this helps him sleep at night—you know being the nice guy? These experiences make the female manipulator realize though that being a slut or a whore is not what she wants. She prefers being the female manipulator that she is while collecting fragments of her trauma on her computer screen
The Esoteric Bimbo Manic Pixie Dream Girl
The esoteric female manipulator is not a trad girl. She stands against conservative anti-feminism. While trad girl girlbloggers can’t shut up about Catholicism, the female manipulator is a satanic witch, who left her traditional family upbringing behind to enjoy the taste of butter, wear pretty dresses, and live deliciously with her coven in the woods. The female manipulator is born under the sign of Capricorn or the sign of Scorpio and she is familiar with the mysterious, cryptic energies of Pluto and Saturn. She is a wounded girl acquainted with the topics of death, darkness, and negativity. Instead of getting swallowed by the darkness though, she managed to get reborn by making a pact with the devil in exchange for power. But even though she can be seen as a powerful sexy seductress, this should be avoided. The female manipulator does not smell sexy because she does not take showers; she smells rotten.
Nietzsche analyzed in his book The Birth of Tragedy the history of Greek art foregoing the rise of the tragic plays of the sixth and fifth centuries BCE (Daniels, 41). He defined the various art forms via the Greek gods Apollo and Dionysus, and what these figures epitomized for the Greeks (Daniels, 41). Apollo represented the values of logic, progress, clarity, harmony, and the principle of individualization, whereas Dionysus stood for disorder, intoxication, emotion, ecstasy, and unity (Daniels, 42).
In Bacchae, Euripides illustrates the maenads, which are the female followers of Dionysus (Reitzammer, 299). The maenads were mythologized as mad women that went into the mountains at night to practice strange rites (Reitzammer, 300). And while the maenads’ rites were associated with the worship of Dionysus, the female manipulator does not serve any god but her desires. We do not have to imagine the female manipulator as a selfish lonely woman because of her unwillingness to submit to a supreme being. The female manipulator finds unity in her coven but this unity is not guided by her fear of god. It is regulated by her nomadic desires. She still loves Dionysus though, but Dionysus is just her sibling.
Although the female manipulator is drawn to mystical ways of knowing, she must not be confused with intellectuals and moralists. The female manipulator is as shallow as the bimbo. Bimbos are her hyperfeminine sisters. She and the bimbo love to “make dumb remarks about stuff that no one cares about and to laugh like they just swallowed a whole balloon of helium.”
It is also true that the bimbo can be thought of as a female manipulator as well since she uses her looks and sex appeal to get ahead in life, as she has realized that being an attractive girl is all you need in patriarchy. I believe though that the female manipulator occupies a different space in male fantasy than the one that the bimbo does.
The female manipulator can be compared to the manic pixie dream girl in this sense. They are seen in the same light by cis straight men. After all, the female manipulator is also a quirky, impulsive woman who plays by her own rules. Their main difference though is that she does not solely exist to display her special ability to help men with problems who listen to The Smiths. She does not think that dying by his side is “such a heavenly way to die.” The female manipulator should not lift you up and she would never die with or for you. The female manipulator is a digital murderess that should scare you.
The Anti-Self-Help Revengeful Husband-Murderess
Destroying his favourite pants, cutting his bike tires, sending him aggressive letters, and sticking them with a knife on his apartment’s door. Who has time for revenge plans and dealing with the repercussions of their actions? Revenge is a gesture that is stemming from rage and its cause is to take back what was lost in the past. Revenge is concerned with justice paired with aggressive attitudes toward a person that becomes the enemy. Declaring someone as the enemy requires emotional depth as it implies that you passionately care about a person. It’s also catastrophic, brutal, and violent. The female manipulator is familiar with the emotion of anger and sometimes she feels revengeful. In the end, the people who hurt her will have to pay for the damage they have caused.
And even though the revenge plan makes her feel better at first, revenge can look very ugly in action. Revenge is also not compliant with the self-help cult that dominates our times. According to the self-help cult logic, women should remind themselves every day that “they are one of the most beautiful and bravest human beings in the world.” Women just have to love themselves even if they feel insane and are struggling with self-loathing and depression. At these troublesome moments, they should remember that “every time they get out of bed it is an act of courage.” They should find the strength to live, laugh, and love harder. Anger, destruction, and revenge are so toxic after all.
Letting go might be a more sustainable practice, but is there always enough space for forgiveness? “Girls like these put themselves in danger.” “You are so pretty.” “I’m a nice guy.” “I’m not the only one that didn’t believe it.” “We get accusations like these all the time.” “I have to give him the benefit of the doubt.” “It’s every guy’s worst nightmare getting accused like that.” As Amy in her “Gone Girl” monologue states, “Cool Girl never gets angry at her man.” The female manipulator is not a “Cool Girl” for sure. She is a caricature of a person and a response to the societal problem of dealing with female rage. “Cool girl never gets angry at her man. She only smiles in a chagrined loving manner and then presents her mouth for blowing.” Amy Dunne is every man’s worst nightmare and she leaves us wondering about the kind of personality disorder that she has or why she went mad in the first place. And while we know every man’s worst nightmare a good question to ask is this: what is every girl’s worst nightmare?
“I’m only friends with guys because girls are too much drama.” “The extensively dramatic girlfriends are usually victims of an emotional complex.” “The root problem of mean girls is insecurity.” Women’s drama is so exhausting. It’s time for the female drama to end. The female manipulator is cancelled. And after we sacrifice her virgin body for the devil’s cattle hoping that this will make our indie boy band successful, her body will resurrect because she was not a virgin to begin with. She now starts feeding on humans and when her best friend accuses her of killing people she answers, “No,I don’t kill people, I kill boys.”
Girlboss Femcel Male Manipulators Get Tired Too
The female manipulator is not just angry she is also sad. Female sadness has been sexualized repeatedly. “Crazy girls are better at sex.” Sad girl characters like the Lisbon sisters in The Virgin Suicides and the narrator of My Year of Rest and Relaxation are all attractive (and extremely white) girls. Their sadness though is not just sexy, it is also hopeless. The female manipulator theory calls for sad girls to display every ugly part of their depression to make this hopelessness visible. As I mentioned earlier, the female manipulator doesn’t take showers, her room is full of trash, and she is a complete bitch. Sometimes, she admits that she might be a mess but she is at least pretty and this is enough. It’s time for the female manipulator to stop being pretty by revealing her extreme ugliness.
In one of her posts on Instagram, @girlblogger2008 refers to a video essay about female manipulator culture made by YouTuber Mina Le. @girlblogger2008 wonders why people can’t leave female manipulators alone in their misery. A crazy amount of articles were indeed written about femcels and “toxic femininity” this year and this theory do the same. Maybe we all expect girls to be girlbossing, womansplaining, and bitching too much. The female manipulator needs to rest as well. According to @girlblogger2008, girls can experience difficult emotions too, and growing up online they reach out to people that share similar experiences with them. While angry men in incel communities are coming up with terrorist plots together, femcel girls just share their similar tastes in media. What’s wrong with this in the end? It’s probably okay for girls to fangirl over female villains.
It is important to acknowledge that girls can be horrible people as well and not in an empowering self-help girlboss feminist icon way. The American fascination with serial killers is well known and it is a fascination that is centred on men. The serial killer’s excitement was, it still is, so big that these men were receiving love letters from fans in prison. Male serial killers make great Halloween stories after all. Even though there has been a female version of this phenomenon, it is not as notorious as its male counterpart or at least it hasn’t made it yet as a Netflix hit. This male serial killer enthusiasm proves that there is enough space in our culture for men to be evil. Does contemporary popular feminism allow women to be mean in a disastrous, harmful, and toxic way, or is the battle against patriarchy a 24/7-full-of-positivity-and-good-vibes pursuit with no rest? Why do we expect girls to be constantly inspirational?
Feminism needs more non-inspirational anti-heroes. These anti-heroes can work as a great response to the extremely exhausting demand of liberal middle-class feminism to be a girlboss who gets things done and has a successful career. Adopting a disgusting and filthy persona online can also piss off a lot of incel men’s rights advocates who argue that being a girl is not that hard because the only requirement is to be attractive, and according to them being male-gaze pretty is easy. The female manipulator persona needs to get filthier and filthier.
Male Fantasies, Male Fantasies, Male Fantasies
Lana del Rey is getting older. She also deleted her social media accounts and gained weight. Not a good thinspo icon for sure. Do older men still find her daddy issues cute? Is dating these men, along with their cocaine problems, still exciting for her? Sylvia Plath and the Lisbon sisters are dead. Susanna Kaysen from Girl Interrupted got released from Claymoore Psychiatric Hospital and Amy Dunne got pregnant. These women, either dead or alive, older, fatter, dealing with their issues or avoiding them, haunt the female manipulator’s imagination. They inspire her to be her best rude, overconfident, self-destructive, disgusting version of herself.
The female manipulator is a pick-me girl and nothing more than a male fantasy. Even though she desperately fights to be seen and heard, she is still a broken girl that needs to be saved from her manipulative self by daddy. She is not okay but at she is pretty. A pretty princess and the internet is her only weapon. Her smartphone is her witch tool and she executes her spells through social media platforms. She didn’t make a pact with the devil but she surely agreed to the terms and conditions. Mark Zuckerberg is her modern Dionysus.
But even though daddy saves her in the end, the female manipulator resents him for it. She doesn’t want to heal, she wants them to pay for what was done to her. This need makes her feel like something horrible is happening inside of her and she doesn’t know why. The female manipulator tries her best to be the most adorable girly girl. And when she succeeds she feels like the hottest bitch to ever walk this Earth, and when she doesn’t she hates herself. When the doctor in Virgin Suicides reaches out to Cecilia Lisbon after her first suicide attempt, and he tells her that she is not even old enough to know how bad life gets, she responds that obviously, he has never been a 13-year-old girl— and it never gets easier.
The female manipulator persona wants to gain male attention from her looks. She secretly wishes that she could be like a trad wife, a female men’s rights advocate. She fails to find empowerment through her submissiveness and she just ends up hating herself for it. The female manipulator is a patriarchal ruin—a woman that fails in being a woman. After all, she is undateable, spooky, childish, and disgusting. And even though a persona can annoy you or entertain you, you cannot smell the overripe odour of the female manipulator persona through your smartphone screen. This is where most of the female manipulator persona power lies: in her disgusting smell.
Dimitra Nefeli Trigka is a current research master’s student of Cultural Analysis at the University of Amsterdam. Her research interests include feminism, pop and digital culture, posthumanism, and embodiment.
Candy, Brooke. “Das Me”. Spotify. https://open.spotify.com/album/1Hknxm56B1MRc9YGByrpGn
Daniels, Paul Raimond. Nietzsche and the Birth of Tragedy. Acumen Publishing Limited, 2013.
Del Rey, Lana. “Off to the Races”. Spotify. https://open.spotify.com/track/3vV6IX7lbyQFmOyAuQpdav
Del Rey, Lana. “Lolita”. Spotify. https://open.spotify.com/track/696cNqpF2NwRLzC7KqCurz
Girl Interrupted. Directed by James Mangold, performances by Winona Ryder, Angelina Jolie, and Lisa Loomer. Columbia Pictures, 1999.
Jennifer’s Body. Directed by Karyn Kusama, performances by Megan Fox, Amanda Seyfried, and Adam Brody. Dune Entertainment, 2009.
Marina and the Diamonds. “Teen Idle”. Spotify. https://open.spotify.com/track/5B8N5rPOmTVVGpuBMK2Vby
Moshfegh, Ottessa. My Year of Rest and Relaxation. Penguin Press, 2018.
“Out of Touch”. Euphoria, created by Sam Levinson, season 2, episode 2, HBO, 2022.
Parker, Eve Rebecca. “The Virgin and the Whore – An Interreligious Challenge for Our Times.” The Ecumenical Review, vol. 71, no. 5, 2019, pp. 693–705, https://doi.org/10.1111/erev.12473.
Plath, Sylvia. “Daddy”. 1965. Poetry Foundation, https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/48999/daddy-56d22aafa45b2. Accessed 18 October 2022.
Promising Young Woman. Directed by Emerald Fennel, performances by Carey Mulligan, Bo Burnham, and Alison Brie. Film Nation Entertainment, 2020.
Reitzammer, Laurialan. “Bacchae.” A Companion to Euripides, John Wiley & Sons, Inc, 2016, pp. 298–311, https://doi.org/10.1002/9781119257530.ch21.
The Smith. “There is a Light that never goes out”. Spotify. https://open.spotify.com/track/0WQiDwKJclirSYG9v5tayI
The Virgin Suicides. Directed by Sofia Coppola, performances by Kirsten Dunst, Josh Harnett, and James Wood. Paramount Classics, 1999.
The Witch. Directed by Robert Eggers, performances by Anya-Taylor Joy, Ralph Ineson, and Kate Dickie. Scythia Films, 2015.
 This is a reference to Robert Eggers’ 2015 film The Witch.
 The phrase in quotation marks is taken from a definition given to the “bimbo” persona by l0ZER_Face at the Urban Dictionary website: https://www.urbandictionary.com/author.php?author=l0ZER_fACE%5BX0%5D
 This is a reference to the Smiths song “There is a light that never goes out”.
 This is a reference to Kat’s self-love parody scene from the second episode titled “Out of Touch” from the second season of the Euphoria series that aired on January 16, 2022.
 This is another reference to the same self-love parody scene from Euphoria.
 The sentences in quotation marks are from Emerald Fennell’s 2020 film Promising Young Woman.
 This is a reference to Karyn Kusama’s 2009 film Jennifer’s Body.
 Link to the post: https://www.instagram.com/p/ChueTCwI0tTfm_T_FQXiq60d3CkgIqV5Y8A5qo0/
Link to the YouTube video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W6aDNutZoB0&t=314s
 Examples of articles written about the “femcel” phenomenon during 2022: https://i-d.vice.com/en/article/3adzn9/femcel, https://hypebae.com/2022/5/femcels-incels-meaning-celibacy-sex-feminism-misandry, https://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2022/05/femcel-meaning-female-incel-reddit/629836/, https://english.elpais.com/society/2022-05-17/femcels-the-involuntarily-celibate-women-who-say-they-are-barred-from-sex-and-romance.html, https://www.standard.co.uk/insider/what-are-femcels-female-involuntary-celibates-b987250.html.
 Chris Watts is an example of a male serial killer receiving ‘racy love letters’ from women that are fighting for his attention. Link to the Chris Watts’ case: https://www.news.com.au/lifestyle/real-life/news-life/women-sending-chris-watts-racy-love-letters/news-story/e375e9467ae206bc457731afec83ded6
 The ‘Monster: Jeffrey Dahmer Story’ is one of Netflix’s most successful series of all time according to Collider. Link to the article: https://collider.com/monster-the-jeffrey-dahmer-story-netflix-viewing-numbers/