With this post, I would like to raise awareness.
While misogyny has always been a problem (especially in STEM fields, such as math, and IT, which is my profession), along with rising feminism and independence, education and wealth of women, lonely men began to resent them and radicalise against them, and form women-hating groups, such as Incels*, MGTOW, TRP, kink subs/sites/forums for abuse/humiliation and even coercion. These groups specifically target vulnerable, lonely men in primarly male spaces.
Looking at the origins of the manosphere, back to the early usenet groups in the 1990s, you will notice they consist primarily of white, educated, tech-savvy men. And there was this thinking about it being their space, their ownership of the space, which they are now trying to claim what is 'rightfully theirs'. ("There are no women in the internet"). These tech-savvy boys back in Usenet times are adult men now, who work in STEM fields, wanting their 'rightfully theirs' space (IT, tech, gaming) back, by bullying women out. They want to protect their manospheres from 'female invasion'.
This is not only in tech, gaming and the internet, but workforce in general. This became especially prevalent post-#meToo, after MGTOW ideologies became very influential, and thoughts such as "No meeting alone with a woman", and "No sending women alone with a male colleague on business trips" increased in the workforce. Many women's careers have suffered substantially, and they continue to do so.
They are supported by the social gaslighting of women not belonging into those fields, because we are 'less rational' and 'less intelligent'. Which is also an idea Incel groups follow. "Chads", for incels, are men who are sporty, cool and popular. The opposite of that would be the former nerdy kid, and now adult tech worker and gamer.
Additionally, terrorist groups such as:
- Incels (the most violent corner of the manosphere, celebrating and organising mass-slaughters of women, responsible for at least 12 known mass-slaughtering incidents between 2015 and 2019, following their celebrity Elliott Rodger. However, since incels and the alt-right are inherently connected, most terrorist attacks - such as in Hanau - are simply recorded as right-wing terrorism. Misogyny is no 'terrorism category')
- MGTOW ("Men going their own way". This used to be a group about focusing on yourself, instead of dating. However, it got inspired by more terrorist ideas about how to best drive women out of 'men spaces', such as the workforce and education. MGTOW became particularly powerful post-#meToo. Their main agenda is that no woman is to be believed when she accuses a man of rape, since women are inherently evil and liars, and all their accusations are to be treated as false)
- PUA ("Pick up artists", a multimillion dollar industry online and offline teaching young, insecure men to rape and celebrate rape, as well as that rape and violence is what women are into and how to 'pick us up')
- MRA/AVFM ("Men rights activists", and "A voice for men". There is a group about men's liberation, which used to be a valid movement for men to break free from shackles of toxic masculinity and strive towards becoming better people. For this, I recommend "Men's Liberation" by Jack Nichols. However, MRA is not about men gaining more rights, but women gaining less rights. Namely, legalisation of domestic abuse and rape, blaming women for their victimhood of domestic abuse and rape, revoking women's rights to vote, work and education. This group is the second most influential of the manosphere, and played an important rule in Brett Kavanaughs trial, as well as the support of Donald Trump. Their slogan is "Male lives matter", a parody of the BLM movement)
recruit and spread their ideologies very aggressively on online platforms, such as 9GAG, Reddit and even via advertising on Youtube, where they receive money. This is where people in tech and gaming tend to spend a lot of time. And the main demographic online is still male, white, educated and tech-savvy, hence men in STEM and gaming. The problem of women being bullied out of tech and gaming has been a well-known problem for a long time as well. Conclusion: Tech / gaming <=> Incels.
Incel influence in gaming culture became more visible than ever during Gamergate. Or 'gamERs rise up', as they proudly say, using capital ER as an acronym for Elliott Rodger.
The online presence of anti-women terorrism and their connection to the alt-right reaches from humiliation porn such as "abuse/rape/humiliation/torture/murder kink" groups ( TW! guro
), white supremacists, the exclusion of PoC (think of the 'currycel', 'ricecel', etc. words for people of other ethnic groups), LGBT people and, well, women. They had obsessed with Meghan Markle marrying Prince Harry, saying the 'race traitor should be hanged'. As Fields Jr drove into the crowd in Charlottesville, he was chanting the same three words, over and over again: 'White sharia now'.
In June 2018, American tech investor Ellen Pao, former CEO of Reddit, warned in an article for Wired that ‘incels often work in the tech industry and in engineering’, enabling them to use ‘tech platforms and workplace communities to spread their ideas, onboard new recruits, and train them on how to execute these ideas in their companies’. She left Reddit, due to it (and tech environments in general) being full of hate towards women and the ideal platforms for incels, which she addressed in this article: https://www.wired.com/story/ellen-pao-the-perverse-incentives-that-help-incels-thrive-in-tech/
When a post on mathmemes
had been made, objectifying a woman's boob size and mocking her for it ("woman bad" is pretty common "joking material" among men in tech, math and gaming. Also, we are at 4k upvotes now.), I counter-joked with d1ck size (receiving -400 votes). Which, of course, was unacceptable, and made me a "crazy feminist", who "deserved to be raped", a "c0nt". They brigaded, made a post with my username, and spammed my Inbox full of rape threats. And men in that subreddit justified it ( https://imgur.com/a/9FUqQUZ
). This is not an uncommon situation. The most interesting part was their profiles. Almost all of these men who attacked me in mathmemes
(which is a STEM subreddit) were following alt-right subs, Trump, antifeminism, anti-immigration and similars. Admittedly, this one is more of an anectonal reference, but it fits the pattern a bit too well.
Incidents like in mathmemes
are not uncommon. Long descriptions about being abused and violated, messages about our hypothetical future children being raped, notes about destroying our genitals and vagine, videos that depict me as the devil, threats to harm our families, graphic details of how they will track us down, violate us using pieces of furniture and film themselves raping us, are those, women - especially those who were ever involved in feminism - get flooded with every day. After that, it’s even easier to see the warning signs. Easier to join the dots between the abuse that’s hurled at women and ethnic minority politicians online, the lack of diversity in our parliaments, and the murder of a female MP in cold blood in her own constituency. Between the vitriol that faces girls who play games online, the sharp, cutting edges of their social media feeds, and the real cuts that litter their teenage bodies when half of them have self-harmed and a quarter have a mental illness.* This type of hounding is a common tactic to terrorise and silence women online. Women's spaces are invaded, taken over by making it about themselves again and flooding the inbox of women who dare speak up. The most prominent- and large-scale - incident of this happened during Gamergate, but make no mistake: This happens to ordinary women who speak up on a daily basis.
This is the world women live in.
If you thought, that these groups consist of few extremists with unusual opinions, have very little offline impact, and that they pose no real, concrete threat, and hence should be either ignored or pitied, you couldn't be more wrong. Each assumption is wrong, and together they lead to dangerous complacency.
An excerpt of "Men who hate women" by Laura Bates (a book I greatly recommend reading in full): https://www.reddit.com/useamievenreal99/comments/jsjzkj/men_who_hate_women_an_excerpt/
The question: How do we tackle this?
The unfortunate truth is that most boys nowadays start being exposed to the realm of the internet (and, inevitably, Incel ideologies) as well as porn from a very young age on. Most who start being infected with anti-women ideas before they even know what misogyny means. For them, this will not be 'hating women', but something they consider completely normal, since they have been socialised in that manner. Young boys at the age of 12 will cite 'false rape statistics', 'gynocracy' and talk about 'feminazism'. To quote out of "Men who hate women":
"According to a 2018 Pew Research Center study, 95 per cent of US teens have access to a smartphone, and 89 per cent say they are online ‘almost constantly’, or at least several times a day. [...] Until a few years ago, one might have assumed that the majority of boys and teenage young men were unlikely to have heard much about feminism, an assumption borne out in my early experiences at schools. But, talking to boys over the past few months, it became increasingly clear to me that their online world was giving them some very clear (and very misleading) messages about women, sexual violence, feminism and sexism.
When I started writing this book, I put out a call for interviewees, asking parents if their teenage sons might be willing to talk to me about their experiences online, and particularly their perceptions of feminism. One mother contacted me immediately, suggesting I speak to her 12-year-old son. While he was playing video games, she had heard other players telling him, over the speaker system, that ‘feminism is cancer’.
Her son, Alex, agrees to talk to me. ‘Yes,’ he says, ‘I’ve definitely heard a lot about feminism. A lot of the boys at my school, they don’t usually class themselves as feminists, because they always think that feminism is man-hating and everything.’ When I ask him where this information comes from, he doesn’t hesitate. ‘It’s mostly YouTube, definitely.’ As his peers find out about feminist activity, he says: ‘I think they may be worried that [it] could start to affect them in some sort of way.’ [...]
A survey for the BBC found that 60 per cent had viewed online porn by the age of sixteen, and that a quarter were twelve or younger when they first saw it.
It’s a world in which the readily available videos they see contribute to the notion that sex is an aggressive, violent, humiliating, often racist act of dominance, initiated and controlled by men, while women submit, often in pain. If this sounds extreme, simply type the word ‘p0rn’ into Google and click on the top link that appears – the most easily accessible, run-of-the-mill, free site you can find. To give you a snapshot, when I follow exactly this process, among the very first videos offered are one about a ‘teen’ with a ‘knife in p0ssy’, one about sticking the biggest possible objects into the vag1na of a ‘tiny teen’, one about 1ncest, one showing a woman looking terrified as a man covers her mouth with his hand and forces himself on her, one called ‘petite teen rough an4l fuck and cre4mpie’ that shows a young woman with her face screwed up in pain, one that shows a woman crying with her face covered in semen, one whose title describes a woman being ‘throttled’, one called ‘5 on 1 gangb4ng’, and one labelled ‘black teen maid f0ck the white man with her friend’. When I visit schools, extraordinary though it sounds, I frequently hear young people say that ‘r4peis a compliment really’ or ‘crying is part of f0replay’. At one school, at which they had had a r4pe case involving a 14-year-old boy, a teacher asked: ‘Why didn’t you stop when she was crying?’ The boy looked back at her, bewildered, and said: ‘Because it’s normal for girls to cry during s3x.’ (words censored) [...]
This is the backdrop against which manosphere ideology risks taking hold. This is a generation for whom the boundary between online and offline is barely existent, and for whom sexual violence has already become devastatingly normalised[...]
The confusion and the harassment aren’t always well dealt with by schools either. It is common to hear girls, who have been harassed or even assaulted at school, say that teachers told them to ‘take it as a compliment’ – it’s just ‘boys being boys’. [...]
At one school I visited, the girls had been banned from starting a feminist society, because the headmaster had deemed it divisive, unnecessary and potentially sexist.[...]
If the idea that misogyny is so accessible to young people comes as a surprise, it’s likely because many adults tend to have very little concept of the sheer ubiquity and centrality of YouTube, in particular, to young people’s lives.[...]
For those adults who think of YouTube as the home of grumpy cat videos and movie trailers, it is unnerving to learn that the platform is heavily colonised by extreme right-wing thinking, represented by a vast number of channels with white-supremacist, misogynistic hosts, pumping out thousands of hours of content in support of their worldviews.[...]
Figures like Jordan Peterson represented the more socially acceptable end of the spectrum outlined in the report, while the other end featured recognisable names from the web’s most extreme communities of white supremacy and misogyny, like Richard B. Spencer and Mike Cernovich. They also included influencers with ‘red pill’ in their usernames. By hosting and sharing platforms with some of the more radical thinkers, even if they don’t tend to subscribe openly to their views, the more mainstream personalities help to amplify ‘openly racist’ or misogynistic ideas, by treating them ‘as if they are perfectly normal’[...]
The boys I meet at schools don’t even know they hate women. They are mild-mannered and wide-eyed. They think it’s only polite to point out the factual inaccuracies and lies repeated by feminists. They have seen misogyny online so often and heard it promoted so persuasively that they wouldn’t even recognise it as a form of hate."
And this is far from the 'darkest corners of the internet'. Some links I would like to share on this topic: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/03/10/opinion/sunday/youtube-politics-radical.html https://www.wsj.com/articles/how-youtube-drives-viewers-to-the-internets-darkest-corners-1518020478 https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/1461444815608807 https://www.npr.org/2018/11/05/660642531/right-wing-hate-groups-are-recruiting-video-gamers https://www.thecut.com/2019/04/new-study-reveals-how-kavanaugh-hearings-changed-americans.html
The question: How to tackle this?
To quote the book again: "[...]But I’ve also seen one school that did things differently. They had a major problem and they knew it. To say that the attitudes I encountered on my first visit were deeply misogynistic would be an understatement. The girls were deathly silent. The boys shared classic manosphere tidbits. The atmosphere was toxic.
But the school, galvanised by a small but determined group of teachers, had taken one vital first step: they had acknowledged the problem. What they did next was groundbreaking. They thought about the many different possible approaches for solving the problem. And then they implemented all of them. They convened a student council, so that the pupils themselves could work out what the issues were and make suggestions for fixing them. They had big assemblies, yes, but they were led by male members of staff, and visibly supported by the entire senior leadership team. They sent the message that this was being taken seriously at every level. And they didn’t leave it at that. They followed up the assemblies with tutor-group discussions, looking at a wide range of different subjects, and going into depth about issues like gender stereotypes and mental health, looking at how young men were impacted, as well as their female peers. They gave the students a safe space to explore and discuss the problem. Where young people might have encountered misleading information online, they provided facts. And it wasn’t just talk. The school started to take action, too, to tackle sexual harassment and to send a message that it was unacceptable. They appointed a counsellor to offer mental health support. They worked with parents, inviting them to a talk to educate them about the issues facing their children, and the online content they might be unaware of. They provided the tools, information and confidence for parents to start vital conversations with their teenagers."
I believe that the action of highest importance is awareness of the existence as well as the high influence of the manosphere. Only when knowing these factors, we can teach our boys to be better people. To not be afraid of other men who oppress women (and other men), but stand up to them and challenge them. To raise their voices. To protect ideals we teach them. That it is okay to let out your emotions and spend time with them.
But I personally don't think setting a good example is enough. We need to fight misogynist terrorism more rigorously, be not afraid to name it, teach our daughters to stand their ground. We need to fight for a justice system that punishes these crimes more severely, and we need no-tolerance environments.
We can no longer afford to neglect boys and say 'Boys will be boys'.
*References from "Men who hate women" by Laura Bates. If you want to understand more about Incels, I recommend reading the book. It gives a great inside the far-right populistic manospheres on the internet. Namely terrorist movements such as MGTOW, Incels, TRP, PUA and white supremacists, and how much of a "sucking in" effect they have on "normal" young men.
It also clears up with common misconceptions about those groups. For example that they are sad loners, or that they are just a small, loud group. Or that they don't have that much influence IRL. Or that you can easily identify one when you see one.
**More about gaming (which has an almost 100% overlap with men in IT / Software Engineering) and the alt right here: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/checkpoints/202008/gaming-and-the-alt-right https://www.nytimes.com/2019/03/27/opinion/gaming-new-zealand-shooter.html https://www.reddit.com/socialism/comments/bfg0d9/why_are_so_many_gamers_attracted_to_altright_and/