Inside the manosphere: understanding extreme misogyny online

Posted on April 12, 2024 in Explainers.

Extreme misogyny and anti-feminist rhetoric are the foundations of a network of toxic online communities known as the manosphere. These communities promote different ideologies and ideas of masculinity but are united in their view that women have attained too much power – by taking it away from men.

Social media platforms and search engines enable the manosphere’s hatred of women and even profit from their content. The spread of this toxic misogyny can radicalize young men and lead to real-life cases of harassment, violence, and mass murder.

Keep reading this article to learn more about the manosphere, what the main online communities in this space are, and what platforms can do to stop the spread of online misogyny.

What is the manosphere?

The term “manosphere” refers to a network of interconnected misogynistic websites and online communities. It is a loose confederacy of interest groups that includes four main categories, amongst others: Pick Up Artists (PUAs), Involuntary Celibates (Incels), Men’s Rights Activists (MRAs), and Men Going Their Own Way (MGTOW).

Even though the manosphere is not an ideologically homogenous network and encompasses different ideas about masculinity and feminism, the groups under its umbrella share a misogynist and male supremacist worldview. They broadly agree that women have acquired too many rights and freedom, which they associate with a loss of power and rights for men.

Overall, these communities promote deep resentment and hatred against women and girls.

Definition of the four main groups in the manosphere:

Pick Up Artists (PUAs)

The Pick Up Artists community is based on structured teachings on how to manipulate or coerce women into having sex with men. This involves objectifying women, insulting them (“negging”), undermining consent, and promoting harassment or even violence. 

Popularized in a book called “The Game” by Neil Strauss, Pick Up Artists subscribe to the idea that women can and should be manipulated into sex. It has become a profitable industry in which influencers like Andrew Tate sell online courses and feature videos filled with toxic masculinity and hatred against women.

Despite being banned from some social media platforms, Tate has created a scheme to manipulate algorithms and flood his followers with misogynistic videos. In November 2022, CCDH’s analysis identified more than 100 accounts that frequently promote content featuring Tate on TikTok, with a total of 250 million video views and 5.7 million followers. 

Videos posted by these accounts included clips of Tate saying that women should “take some degree of responsibility” to prevent rape, that “virgins are the only acceptable thing to marry,” and that women who do not want children are “miserable, stupid bitches”. Read more about Andrew Tate.

Manosphere: Andrew Tate

In 2021, CCDH identified 500 groups on social media linked to Global Game, a network of Pick Up Artists, with more than 26,000 members globally. In these groups, members discussed how to get women into bed and spread misogynistic content.

Involuntary Celibates (Incels)

The term incel refers to an online subculture of predominately young, heterosexual men who believe they are unable to establish relationships. These self-proclaimed incels tend to blame society – and women in particular – for their lack of sexual or romantic experiences.

The incel community has grown to be deeply ideological, promoting hate and violence against women across social media platforms. Their hateful and frustrated worldview has led to violent real-life attacks, mass shootings, and suicides, becoming a growing cause of concern across the world.

CCDH’s study on the “Incelosphere” analyzed the world’s leading incel forum and revealed the promotion of extreme hatred, rape, and mass shootings. Our researchers found, for example, that forum members post about rape every 29 minutes – and further examination of the comments showed that 89% of people who expressed a stance on the issue in discussions demonstrated support for rape. 

The research also highlighted that the incel worldview often intersects with other far-right ideologies. Over a fifth of the 1.2 million posts analyzed featured misogynist, racist, antisemitic, or anti-LGBTQ+ language.

Read more about incels.

Men’s Rights Activists (MRAs)

Men’s rights groups tend to focus their attacks on gender equality. These groups are not entirely homogenous, but they share the belief that feminism has stripped men of their rights and privileges, transferring them to women. 

Their misogynistic interpretation is that women’s empowerment has come to the detriment of traditional ideas of masculinity, turning men into the oppressed gender. They reduce feminism to a movement that aims to derogate men and masculinity.These activists resort to online communities to share narratives of victimhood and to spread their extreme misogyny – often celebrating backlashes against women’s protection laws, such as legislation concerning abortion rights and sexual assault.

Men Going Their Own Way  (MGTOW)

“Men Going Their Own Way” or MGTOW is a movement that advocates for men to avoid women altogether, choosing to abstain from relationships and sex. 

They believe that Western society is rigged against men and that this is impossible to change, the only solution being to “go their own way”. Some members of this group advocate for abandoning mainstream society in general.

What is the Red Pill?

The manosphere borrows terms from the movie “The Matrix” to describe people and society in general. The red pill, for example, is used to refer to men who have “woken up” to a supposed reality that the world favors and benefits women over men. 

Different manosphere communities build on this concept in different ways, offering contrasting advice on how men can overturn the supposed advantages that women hold in work, culture, relationships, and more. According to scholar Debbie Ging, the red pill philosophy is the “key that unites these communities.”

Take a look at the incel glossary.

Manosphere: red pill

What is the real-life impact of the toxic manosphere?

The failure of social media and search engine platforms to stop the spread of extreme misogyny can deeply affect men’s and boys’ perceptions of gender roles, promoting distrust and hatred against women and girls. Vulnerable young men who feel their anxieties are not being taken seriously can fall into the online manosphere rabbit hole, which can seriously harm their mental health by exposing them to toxic ideas of masculinity and affect their relationships and social behavior for life.

Toxic misogynistic claims and anti-feminism rhetoric are reportedly being mimicked by schoolboys and are becoming a growing cause of concern for teachers and parents

Manosphere ideologies can also radicalize young men. In 2014, 22-year-old Elliot Rodger killed six people and injured fourteen more in Isla Vista, California. Before committing the crime and killing himself, Rodger posted a misogynistic manifesto about his hatred of women. Previously, he had identified himself as an incel and had held accounts on PUA pages, where he envisioned “a world where WOMEN FEAR YOU.”

Four years later, Alek Minassian drove a van into pedestrians on a busy pavement in Toronto, killing 10 people. Just before the attack, he published a post on Facebook praising Rodger and saying that the “incel rebellion” had begun.

What can social media and search engine platforms do to stop the spread of online misogyny?

  • Social media platforms must stop amplifying and profiting from extreme misogyny. 
  • Search engine platforms like Google must not amplify or privilege incelosphere and other manosphere websites in search results.
  • Cloudflare should stop providing services to incel websites.
  • Governments and legislators must implement a set of regulations that force social media companies to act against online extremism.
  • You can also do your part. Stand against the toxic manosphere and demand platforms take action to protect women and girls from hate, harassment, and violence online.

TikTok, YouTube, Facebook, and Instagram have taken the first step to remove accounts like Andrew Tate’s, but that isn’t enough. Social media companies must step up and proactively counter misogynistic content online and the bad actors who spread it.  

Online hate can have fatal offline consequences. CCDH will keep combatting the spread of misogynistic content online by calling for proper regulation of social media and search engine companies.  

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