The manosphere is a collection of websites, blogs, and online forums promoting some forms of masculinity, hostility towards women, strong opposition to feminism, and exaggerated misogyny. The manosphere has been associated politically with the far-right and alt-right. Movements within the manosphere include the men's rights movement, incels (involuntary celibates), Men Going Their Own Way (MGTOW), pick-up artists (PUA), and fathers' rights groups. The manosphere has been associated with online harassment as well as some mass shootings and other real-world acts of violence, and has been implicated in radicalizing men into committing violence against women.
The manosphere grew out of social movements such as the men's liberation movement of the 1970s and 80s. Groups now considered to be a part of the manosphere, such as the men's rights movement, predate the term "manosphere". The term, a play on the word "blogosphere", is believed to have first appeared on Blogspot in 2009. It was subsequently popularized by Ian Ironwood, a pornography marketer and author. The term entered the popular lexicon when news media began to use it in stories about men who had committed acts of misogynist violence, sexual assault, and online harassment.
2010 has been identified as "a clear tipping point" by researcher Emma A. Jane, at which the manosphere communities moved towards the mainstream from their previous position on the fringes of the Internet. She hypothesizes that this popularization was spurred by the advent of Web 2.0 and the rise of social media, in combination with ongoing systemic misogyny and patriarchal society. The manosphere was well established by 2014, and its ideas had entered more mainstream discourse, where they are sometimes used among men not necessarily identified with any specific manosphere group.
Ideology and content
The manosphere is a heterogenous group of online communities that includes men's-rights activists (MRAs), incels (involuntary celibates), Men Going Their Own Way (MGTOW), pick-up artists (PUAs), and fathers' rights groups. Some of these groups have adversarial relationships with one another. Debbie Ging writes that several groups, such as MRAs and PUAs, "exaggerate their differences in displays of infight posturing, in spite of the fact that their philosophies are almost identical".
While the specifics of each group's ideology sometimes conflict, the general ideology of manosphere groups centers on the promotion of some forms of masculinity, hostility towards women, strong opposition to feminism, and exaggerated misogyny. Journalist Caitlin Dewey argues that the main tenets of the manosphere can be reduced to (1) the corruption of modern society by feminism, in violation of inherent sex differences between men and women; and (2) the ability of men to save society and/or achieve sexual prowess by adopting a hyper-masculine role and forcing women to submit to them.
The manosphere has its own distinct jargon. A central tenet is the concept of the "red pill", a metaphor borrowed from the film The Matrix. It concerns awakening men to the supposed reality that society is fundamentally misandrist and dominated by feminist values. Donna Zuckerberg writes, "The Red Pill represents a new phase in online misogyny. Its members not only mock and belittle women; they also believe that in our society, men are oppressed by women."
Manospherians believe that feminists and political correctness obscure this reality, and that men are victims who must fight to protect their existence. Accepting the manosphere's ideology is equated with "taking the red pill", and those who do not are seen as "blue pilled" or as having "taken the blue pill". Such terminology originated on the antifeminist subreddit /r/TheRedPill and was later taken up by men's rights and MGTOW sites. Men are commonly divided into "alpha" and "beta" males within an evolutionary-psychology framework, where "alphas" are seen as sexually dominant and attractive to women, who are hardwired to want sex with alphas but will pair with "beta" males for financial benefits. Among MRAs and PUAs this argument is known as "alpha fux beta bux".
The manosphere is associated with the far-right and the neoreactionary, white nationalist alt-right movement. Zuckerberg writes that many alt-right members are either pick-up artists or MGTOW, and "the policing of white female sexuality is a major concern" of the alt-right, The severity of the antifeminism espoused within these communities varies, with some espousing fairly mild sexism and others glorifying extreme hatred. Racism and xenophobia are also common among groups in the manosphere, and perceived threats against "Western civilization" are a popular topic.
The manosphere has been associated with online harassment as well as some mass shootings and other real-world acts of violence, and has been implicated in radicalizing men into committing violence against women.
Reddit has been a popular gathering place for manosphere supporters, and several forums on the site are geared toward its ideas. However, in the late 2010s Reddit began to take steps to discourage more extreme manosphere subreddits. Some were banned, such as /r/incels (banned in 2017) and its successor /r/braincels (banned in 2018); other subreddits such as /r/MGTOW and /r/TheRedPill have been "quarantined", meaning that a warning is displayed to users about the content of the subreddit and users must sign in before they're allowed to enter. As a result, some of these communities have found new homes on websites that are more welcoming of extreme content, such as Gab.
The manosphere has received significant coverage in the media from its association with high-profile violent attacks including the 2014 Isla Vista killings in California, the 2015 Umpqua Community College shooting in Oregon, and the 2018 Toronto van attack, as well as phenomena such as the sustained online abuse towards female members of the video game community that came to be known as Gamergate. Following the Isla Vista shooting, the killer Elliot Rodger was found to have been an active participant on the PUAHate manosphere forum. Following the attack, Dewey wrote that, while the manosphere was not to blame for Rodger's attack, "Rodger's misogynistic rhetoric seems undeniably influenced by the manosphere". The sociologist Michael Kimmel argued "it would be facile to argue the manosphere ... urged [Rodger] to do this. I think those places are kind of a solace ... They provide a kind of locker room, a place where guys can gripe about all the bad things that are being done to them by women".
Arthur Goldwag described the manosphere in the Spring 2012 edition of the Southern Poverty Law Center's Intelligence Report as an "underworld of misogynists, woman-haters whose fury goes well beyond criticism of the family court system, domestic violence laws, and false rape accusations... [who are] devoted to attacking virtually all women (or, at least, Westernized ones)." He added a caveat later that year, saying, "It should be mentioned that the SPLC did not label MRAs as members of a hate movement; nor did our article claim that the grievances they air on their websites – false rape accusations, ruinous divorce settlements and the like – are all without merit. But we did call out specific examples of misogyny and the threat, overt or implicit, of violence." In 2018, the SPLC added male supremacy as a category they track on their list of hate groups. The British anti-extremism group Hope not Hate included the manosphere in its 2019 State of Hate report.
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