If you’re a parent, have you ever heard of the “manosphere”?
The manosphere is a smorgasbord of forums, blogs, websites, YouTube channels and social media profiles that cater to men who bond over the common ideology that’s centred around male separatism and the belief that feminism has corrupted and ruined society.
If you’re raising young impressionable boys, I hate to break it to you, but it’s not porn sites that should worry you as much as the manosphere should. It is a space for men who feel oppressed and threatened by the arrival of feminism within society to bond, and their beliefs are heavily laced with misogyny. If you don’t think this is cause for concern, try imagining a young pre-teen boy who wants to learn how to talk to his school crush. He’s too shy to talk to his parents or peers about it, so he goes searching online for answers ... “How to get a girl to like me.” It seems innocent enough but it’s often a gateway and an easy click away from getting caught in an echo chamber of toxic masculinity.
Over the past few days I’ve embarked on my own foray into the manosphere for the sake of this article, and quickly found myself in a weird vortex of chauvinism, gender bias and pure sexism, all disguised and wrapped in a shiny bow labelled “male empowerment”.
Honestly, at first I found it silly and amusing listening to these predominantly white cisgender men talk about how hard and unfair the world is for them. However, I quickly became rather disturbed to discover the extent of their global reach and how many young men hero-worshipped these misogynists.
Do the names Jordan Peterson, Steven Crowder, Ben Shapiro or Andrew Tate sound familiar?
They are all poster boys within the manosphere and have millions of fanboys the world over who idolise them for their “male activism” and their quest to return to a time when traditional gender roles prevailed.
They all echo the same fundamental core belief, that men should be physically strong, the patriarch, protector and provider, seeking social status, power and money, while a woman’s role is to serve their partner, bear children, be nurturing, and a good homemaker. Women who meet these expectations are to be rewarded and cared for, but those who do not follow these expectations should be punished.
It’s a jungle out there in the manosphere, and the more I travelled down the rabbit hole, the more I learnt about all the subcultures that break off into different levels of extremism.
There are the “Flirt Gurus” or PUAs (pick-up artists) who are apparently such experts at “picking up” women they manage to monetise this and teach others how to seduce women - for a fee, of course. You also have the MRA (men’s rights activists) who mostly seem to be divorcees who have been caught up in parental custody battles, or feel mistreated by a society who favours women. They “seek justice” and law reform because they feel the current justice system is designed to unfairly oppress men and fathers.
While on my subculture safari, it appeared that the worst thing you can be labelled is an “incel”. The term incel is an abbreviation of “involuntarily celibate” which is used to describe men that struggle to establish romantic or sexual relationships.
In many of the forums and YouTube clips I painfully had to read and sit through, it became clear that to call someone an incel was the ultimate insult. They are seen as the weakest link, the crybabies and social outcasts. I found it quite unsettling reading the incel forums. There was a common thread among these self-proclaimed incels. An undercurrent of loneliness, shame and more concerning, deep anger, resentment and hate.
They appear to be seeking solace and support because they’ve experienced so much rejection.
In some extreme cases, an “incel complex” is linked to crime. In some countries like the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom, violent acts are carried out after meticulous planning took place on incel forums. It’s something referred to as “incel terrorism”, where vulnerable men become radicalised. In the case of 40-year-old gunman Scott Paul Beierle, who in 2018, killed two women and injured four more after opening fire inside Hot Yoga Tallahassee, he left behind a chilling note, saying, in part: “If I can’t find one decent female to live with, I will find many indecent females to die with.”
Fast-forward and we now have Andrew Tate, currently in 30-day custody in Romania while local authorities investigate allegations of rape and sex trafficking. Despite the latest allegations, he continues to have a staunch global fan base of young men who idolise him.
The image of masculinity that Tate sells is nothing new, it’s rooted in traditional gender stereotypes. But, his brand of misogyny is seductive in the way he sells it, showing off his lavish luxury lifestyle, the fast cars, private jets and fancy holidays. This is the epitome of success in a society that glorifies excessive consumption. To many young impressionable men, Tate is aspirational, and in my opinion, he knows this and uses it to his absolute advantage.
If you have teenage boys in your life, whether as a parent, aunt or uncle, guardian or grandparent, I urge you to start paying attention to the online content they’re consuming. If you think I’m being ridiculous, ask them if they know who Tate is and what they think of him … you may be surprised by what you hear.