How the ‘sigma male’ became TikTok’s latest toxic role model
These individuals are the antithesis of the alpha, a kind of lone wolf who refuses to place himself in the social hierarchy
SINCE the start of the year, certain TikTokers have become fascinated with Patrick Bateman, the controversial protagonist of ‘American Psycho’.
This character, created by the novelist Bret Easton Ellis and played on the big screen by Christian Bale, is considered a model of the “sigma male.” And this concept can propagate a toxic kind of masculinity.
Move over “alpha male,” the confident natural leader who appeals to women, because now here’s the “sigma male.” This term was coined in 2010 by the far-right activist Theodore Robert Beale, under the pseudonym Vox Day.
According to him, there is a socio-sexual hierarchy categorising men into alpha, sigma, beta, delta, gamma and omega groups. While we’ve been talking about the so-called “alpha males” for a long time, the “sigmas” are less known to the public at large.
According to the manosphere – a group of online communities promoting masculinity, misogyny and opposition to feminism – these individuals are the antithesis of the alpha, a kind of lone wolf who refuses to place himself in the social hierarchy and yet is successful with women.
His ethos revolves around the cult of productivity and business, nihilism and bodybuilding. He does not need to be liked by his peers, and he is not interested in fashion or pop culture.
The ‘sigma male’ and success
A subject of fascination on male-centric forums and blogs, on sites like 4chan and Reddit, in the 2010s, the “sigma male” has become the symbol of a rejection of societal norms, for men who feel disenfranchised.
It wasn’t until the 2020s that the phrase became a more commonplace term used beyond its initial sphere.
In 2021, a Twitter account brought this then little-known term into the spotlight by sharing photos of socio-sexual hierarchy charts, a tutorial on how to “become” a ‘sigma male’ and a personal development book called ‘The Sigma Male’.
“What the f*** is going on with men?” reads the caption accompanying the photo montage. Users of the social network immediately started to criticize the term and the alpha/beta concept as a whole.
Revived interest on TikTok
Two years later, these terms have come to TikTok. Hashtags like “sigmagrindset” or “sigma male” on the Chinese social media site reveal thousands of videos featuring fictional male characters: Thomas Shelby from ‘Peaky Blinders’, Nate from the ‘Euphoria’ TV show or Patrick Bateman from the movie ‘American Psycho’.
Attracting mostly male admirers who find them attractive or appealing, these characters have become iconic, and are in some cases, inspiring fans. Currently, the hashtag sigmamales has 4.3 billion views.
It features personal development and advice videos with pop music in the background.
According to GQ magazine, “Part of the appeal of sigma grindset, like the revolving TikTok personalities that gain traction every few months, is how fun it is to ascribe a label to yourself and feel validated – like an online personality quiz allows people to identify as part of a club.”
Tim Squirrell, an expert on online disinformation, shares his concerns with GQ magazine about the inherently misogynistic content that could be generated by this focus on the character of Patrick Bateman (a golden boy and serial killer), by potentially disillusioned men, who may become “embittered or cynical.”
The sigma ideology, he explains, portrays women as “broadly interchangeable people with predictable and manipulable psychologies.”
At a time when streaming platforms are full of documentaries and dramas about serial killers such as Jeffrey Dahmer, the unhealthy fascination that a character like Bateman can evoke may not be so surprising.
More disturbing, however, is the fact that he is seen as an icon of virility whose attitudes should be followed. It is a literal reading of a character that is actually intended to be a social satire, rather than a role model.
source – ETX Daily Up