[PIG] Rehabilitating the Femcel Ontology with ‘Touch-Grass’ Protocols

1. Title
Rehabilitating the Femcel Ontology with ‘Touch-Grass’ Protocols

2. Team member names
Carrera Kurnik
Sarah Chekfa

4. Short summary of your improvement idea
Much research has been done about the male incel (involuntarily celibate) community, yet there have been very few investigations into femcels, their involuntarily celibate female counterparts. This project seeks to understand the protocols at play in the creation of femcel ontology online. By probing various femcel communities on Reddit, we aim to understand how interaction on the platform creates alienating protocols of engagement/disengagement between users, creating a community that reinforces eros-dysmorphic understandings of a woman’s place in the world. We will look at the specific mechanics of posting, upvoting, and group formation on the site to understand the making of the femcel ontological project.

Setting this groundwork will allow us to propose strategies for the femcel eros-dysmorphia protocol’s unmaking. (We define eros-dysmorphia as the discomfort or distress that an individual feels about their perceived sexual desirability from other individuals and society at large.) We believe that technologically-mediated protocols exacerbate the health and wellbeing of femcels and thus will be exploring low-tech protocols — we are using the working title of ‘touch-grass’ protocols. This set of protocols — both technologically-mediated and psychosocial — seek to upend the destructive ontologies of femcels through new forms of interactions in online and real-world spaces. The technologically-mediated protocols will be enacted through both interpersonal and intrapersonal modalities, the intrapersonal taking place on Reddit through contextual community notes that seek to correct false information, and the intrapersonal taking place on an app through which routinely speaks a comforting, trusting male voice, relaying validating, loving phrases to the femcel to transcend femceldom. Psychosocial protocols are then introduced, using elements of dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) to teach femcels soft skills necessary to build healthy relationships.

5. Answers to the following questions:
1. What is the existing target protocol you are hoping to improve or enhance?
We seek to transcend femcel eros-dysmorphia protocols, i.e. the femcel attitude towards desire. This requires a subversion of the online engagement protocols proliferating on Reddit that form a self-reinforcing femcel ontology.

2. What is the core idea or insight about potential improvement you want to pursue?
We believe that a combination of technologically-mediated protocols and offline protocols geared toward soft skills — to be identified in our research — will underlie our touch-grass protocol approach to shifting online behavior into prosocial behavior.

3. What is your discovery methodology for investigating the current state of the target protocol?
Our discovery methodology will be four-pronged:
— Ethnographic-informed field observation: We will peruse various femcel forums on Reddit, such as r/FemcelGrippySockJail, r/FemcelPsychWard, r/FemaleDatingStrategy, and r/Vindicta to identify themes that distinguish the femcel experience.
— Expert interviews: We will speak with psychologists to learn about their experiences working with femcels, and explore potential solutions to their predicament. Using our connection to Columbia University, we will confer with socio-cultural anthropologists like Elizabeth Povinelli and Lila Abu Lughod who are publishing work at the intersection of culture, gender, desire, and acceptance. We will speak with feminist theorists to situate the birth of the femcel as a reaction to some combination of historical social, cultural, and political developments. We will speak with dating coaches and relationship scientists at Hinge Labs to learn more about trends in female attitudes towards relationships, and how their work attempts to address these challenges.
— Historical data analysis: Using our access to databases such as Quid/Netbase, Helixa, Neilsen, Kantar, and Q-Omni we will use consumer insights platforms to understand the networked behavior of women who self-report zero sexual partners. This data may give us insight to other indexed behavior such as increased screen time on identified social platforms and reported value found in relationships with friends and family.
— Ethnographic-based qualitative research: We will decode subliminal messaging of media such as articles, TV, and film which calibrate the attitudes of women to better understand how media create the conditions for femceldom.
— Cultural writing: We will consult texts on sex and gender by such writers as Camille Paglia, author of Sexual Personae, Naomi Wolf, author of The Beauty Myth, Joanna Walsh, author of Girl Online: A Manual, and Karley Sciortino, founder of Slutever. Important takeaways on sex and love will prove useful in assessing the femcel ideology.

4. In what form will you prototype your improvement idea?
We will draft a proposal to share with the experts we interviewed in our discovery phase, and incorporate their feedback into the final draft. We will also prototype the technologically-mediated protocols — as a designer, Sarah has experience in Figma. She will prototype the aforementioned contextual community notes that seek to correct false information on Reddit forums, and screens of the app through which routinely speaks the trusting male voice that relays validating, loving phrases to the femcel.

5. How will you field-test your improvement idea?
We will hold a workshop with self-identifying femcels scouted on Reddit to introduce them to our solution and assess their thoughts on our protocols.

6. Who will be able to judge the quality of your output?
We will bring the output from our workshop to our contacts at Hinge and the Columbia University Anthropology Department to assess whether our touch-grass protocols could prove successful and scalable.

7. How will you publish and evangelize your improvement idea?
We aim to publish the report on Do Not Research, a platform on Internet culture research which Sarah is apart of.

8. What is the success vision for your idea?
Success of the idea will provoke empathy for the femcel condition and show that ‘touch-grass’ protocols deliver a viable, sustained, scalable approach to transcending harmful online ontologies for widespread application for other digital cohorts across the Internet.

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