The basement-dwelling, fedora-wearing neckbeards


You’ve likely heard this pejorative before or in some variation. This is an insult mostly formed online to shame people with differing opinions and is most often seen in ad hominem attacks. But what does it mean, and why should you care?

This particular set of insults is used to describe a certain set of men who are socially awkward, live with their mothers, and are somewhat detached from social norms. But there is more to this than meets the eye.

When people first gained access to the Internet, it could only be navigated by nerdy folks who put in time and effort into understanding it. But as the Internet became more user-friendly, there were suddenly more people entering the pool. Most notably, the sorts of people who can barely use a computer, let alone the Internet.

With the arrival of the recession, many tech-savvy men who would normally be employed are now either out of a job or suddenly have an uphill battle before them to find employment in their field. As a result, many of them have had to take lesser paying jobs that won’t cover the costs of both an apartment and their increasing student loan debt.

They are not alone. A record number of adults are now living with their parents. In 2013, 34% of US citizens aged 18 to 32 were living with their parents due to the rising costs of housing and the high unemployment rate.

Debt and financial woes are a major contributor to depression and even suicide. The average amount of student loan debt is $29,400, a 63% increase in under a decade. Some 71% of college students graduate with debt.

It’s a truth that is not easily ignored. Many students graduated into a recession, hoping to pay off their debts with a job paying above minimum wage only to find themselves making expensive coffee for spoiled hipster kids.

The larger picture is one of men and women aged 18 to 32 who cannot yet afford to live on their own, and do not possess jobs that can sustain an independent lifestyle. Meaning, there are an increasing number of people, mostly men, who are being shamed for not living up to the life imagined for them by their parents, peers, and dating prospects.

Many women see men that live with their mothers as “momma’s boys” who are essentially undateable. But women who live at home often don’t suffer in their dating lives as a result of living the same lifestyle.

What we are seeing is a rather large disparity between societal expectations for men and the reality of widespread economic struggle. When these women who don’t suffer in this way come online and find themselves arguing with these men, this is the insult they use.

Which is very much like kicking a homeless person after they’ve been hit by a car. But it is most importantly a logical fallacy. It does not matter if a man likes fedoras or lives in someone’s basement. It’s entirely irrelevant and in no way invalidates their claims.

What does it say about a society when the insult you hurl at someone is not that they are an idiot but someone who is struggling financially and is socially awkward. It’s a silencing tactic being used against any man who dares to question the common cultural narrative.

If you happen to be one of the men being shamed this way, it’s important to remember this: They are trying to make you feel worthless by shaming you and your arguments; don’t give them an inch. Conduct a reasoned argument and there’s not much they can do.

In fact, right about the time that they hurl that insult at you, you’ve likely won the debate because they have no other argument aside from your dating status and choice of headgear.

Remember, folks, you might have a neckbeard, but you can shave. They will be a heartless bitch forever. Keep fighting the good fight!

Rachel Edwards
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Rachel Edwards
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