literary journalism sex & gender

Men problems: the new gender wars

Since Donald Trump ascended to the Oval Office in spite of his crude “locker-room talk”, masculinity has been a hot topic. As three new books demonstrate, the causes and consequences of its more “toxic” manifestations are manifold.

Laura Bates, author of Men Who Hate Women, has visited schools almost weekly since founding the Everyday Sexism Project in 2012. Of late, she has noticed a marked increase in the number of students who are “angry, resistant to the very idea of a conversation about sexism”.

Men are the real victims, these boys tell her, “in a society in which political correctness has gone mad, white men are persecuted, and so many women lie about rape”. After hearing the same ideas repeated across the UK, Bates decided to investigate their provenance, diving into online communities of incels, pickup artists, Men Going Their Own Way (MGTOW) and Men’s Rights Activists. Referred to collectively as the ‘manosphere’, Bates takes issue with the cuteness of the word: “Like man cave, man flu and man bag…the manosphere is seen as a joke and, therefore, harmless.” It is, in fact, anything but: “There is some illegal incitement to real-life violence [in these spaces] that is able to flourish with absolute impunity.”

The manosphere’s most sinister citizens are ‘incels’—a portmanteau of ‘involuntary celibates’. Enraged with women who ‘deny’ them the sex they feel is their due, incels propose controlling women’s sexual autonomy through rape, sexual slavery or sex redistribution. Incels registered on forums number in the tens of thousands, but their ideology has outsized influence among the alt-right. “A lot of the vocabulary that has been adopted by the reactionary right over the past couple of years has really come from the incel community,” Tim Squirrell, a researcher studying social interaction in online communities, told Bates….

Read the full article online in the Financial Times

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