(Photo: Cosmic Shambles)
By Laura Powell – Regular Contributor
Feminist writer and activist Laura Bates, creator of the website everydaysexism.com, released her most recent publication, Men Who Hate Women in 2020. This book made me feel like I was living under a rock, perhaps a rock I would rather crawl back under. Before I wholeheartedly recommend this book, though I do so willingly, there is a considerable content warning which is necessary. It is both distressing and hard to read in parts, citing precise quotes from forums online detailing in-depth threats of rape and murder. Once you become used to abhorrent words and offensive phrases, you can begin to delve into the ‘manosphere’, a varied sphere of influence orientated around men and masculinity. This book is a successful means of exploring not only anti-feminist movements but also the associated concept of far-right and misogynistic radicalisation as a security threat. This security threat, as far too much of Bates’ book has to describe, culminates in violence and even death, such as the actions of Elliot Rodger in his 2014 killing spree and the concerning inspiration that he became to the incel community. He can be seen as one of the first instances of radical incel terrorism, at the age of only 22. He killed 6 people, injured 14, and then committed suicide.
Each chapter in this book explores a different element of the manosphere. The manosphere can be broadly divided into four groups: Men’s Rights Activists (MRAs), Pick Up Artists (PUAs), Men Going Their Own Way (MGTOWs), and incels (shorthand for involuntary celibates). The overarching themes in this book include the radicalisation of young men and boys (and even some non-male members of society) into believing these far-right, misogynistic ideologies, as well as the transition of male-centric groups into anti-women groups. In particular, it was interesting to see the contention between legislators’ fights against radicalisation to extremist Islamic groups in comparison to that of far-right nationalist and misogynistic groups. The latter is clearly, as this book is a 350-page example of, not as much of a concern, despite the pertinent evidence against this. MIT has studied the manosphere, and has established trends demonstrating that there has been an increase in the popularity of these four strands, and furthermore that there have been considerable moves within the manosphere for younger people to move towards the more radical sectors, i.e. identifying as incels. Although this shortening may not seem too concerning at first glance, incels not only blame women for their celibacy but seek revenge as a result, just as the Rodger example testifies. These more radical sectors of the manosphere highlight an undeniable move from the original Men’s Rights Activists, fairly advocating on behalf of men, such as against significantly disproportionate suicide rates. This is just one of the ways that these male-centric groups have shifted to become anti-women. I am by no means suggesting that fighting for men’s rights is unimportant. In fact, as a feminist, this is of equal importance to that of fighting for women’s rights and non-binary peoples’ rights. However, the assumption that fighting for men’s rights can only be achieved through undermining women’s and non-binary peoples’ rights is both untrue and useless for the advancements of rights as a whole.
This book, underlined by Laura Bates’ experience as a feminist writer and activist in the public eye, and her associated work, was eye-opening to read. It demonstrated effectively the wide variety of ways in which misogyny, particularly of an extremist nature, is pervasive in modern society, and how the internet is just one demonstrative element of this. It also outlines some ways there could be an improvement in helping to prevent radicalisation of this kind and to legally protect those who suffer abuse. As university students, many of us are at a critical time in our life for forming our beliefs, perhaps for the first time in our lives being surrounded by people from different backgrounds with different fundamental opinions and perspectives on the world. At this time, and even earlier, it is important that people become aware of the damaging impact the manosphere can have on society and lives.