Exploring the darker corners of Reddit through the femcel community

By Kate Paterson

Brittany's hometown: Dresden, Ontario

Brittany Melton, PhD in Media Studies candidate, dreams of teaching others everything she's mastering as a student, but only considers herself a "baby scholar" for now.


When Brittany Melton isn’t listening to K-Pop or reading Sarah J. Maas’s fantasy literature, she’s peeking into darker corners of the internet, often on Reddit, and studying the culture of femcels.

Brittany defines femcels as women who identify as involuntarily celibate. The term is an approximate counterpart to the more widely known label incel, which is usually adopted by men.

When she came to Western for her PhD, Brittany was expecting to study horror television and gender representation, which would have built on her studies as a master’s student in popular culture at Brock University. But she quickly found herself on a different track.

Fun Fact

When reading for pleasure, Brittany's genre of choice doesn't stray far from her studies of gender representation in media. She likes reading books where Fantasy intersects with Romance because as she describes it, "Fantasy is such a boy's club and Romance is decidedly for women, so when we get fantasies that are integrated with romance, it feels like women are taking back fantasy."

“Within a month I ditched that fully and went into a passion project of studying female hate groups, which are called femcels. It started out with me just wanting to learn more because there wasn’t much research on the topic, and I saw that there’s a lot of research I could do,” she says. Brittany became curious about how femcels situated themselves as a women-only space, specifically on Reddit.

Alongside studying femcels, Brittany is currently working with Dr. Jacquelyn Burkell, a FIMS professor and Western’s Associate Vice-President (Research), to study the ethics of doing social media data research and collecting information from online forums like Reddit. Brittany is using her work with Burkell to inform her research on femcels because much of that work is being done on Reddit.

“The best projects come out of you wanting to learn more,” she says. “My scholarly work and passion studies are combined seamlessly at FIMS.”

Brittany stays busy as a Teaching Assistant, and also as an on-air host of GradCast, a student-run podcast hosted by the Society of Graduate Students. The podcast gives graduate students a platform to share their areas of study and delve into impact and consequence.

Jumping on extracurricular opportunities has helped Brittany mature as a scholar. One notable academic experience was when she presented her first public talk for the FIMS mediations lecture series, which is an academic forum organized and presented by graduate students, who invite responders to each event.

“I did it because I felt like I should, not because I had to. I really didn’t know what I was doing and felt like the odd man out,” she explains. “It really stuck with me because a lot of people and professors came, so it was crazy to have this much attention given to my research because I didn’t think people would be that interested in what I was doing.”

“Every student has imposter syndrome, asking 'why am I here?' but speaking at mediations gave me the moment where I understood why I was here and saw what I could do. That moment made me realize that I don't just need to be a student, I can be a scholar.”

FIMS faculty and grad students engaged with her lecture and asked her difficult but useful questions that helped her move her research forward. She says that these questions gave her the “aha moment” needed to take the next step. The experience allowed her to feel like she belonged in the scholarly community.

Long-term, Brittany would like to continue teaching and she is working toward being a professor. “I love teaching and I love doing research and I don’t see them as being completely separate from each other,” she says.


Profiles in the Meet Our Students section are written by students in the Master of Media in Journalism & Communication program, who are enrolled in MMJC 9604 - Professional Writing.