Right now, we are in the middle of an online misogyny crisis. Each day, influencers who advocate for male supremacy and paint women as inferior are gaining more and more followers, such as self-appointed ‘misogynist’ Andrew Tate. Many are beginning to link this growing online incel culture to the uptick of boys spreading violent and aggressive sexist vitriol in classrooms and among peers, as well as to some recent cases of femicide. So, how can we keep this situation from escalating?
The Red Pill – The rabbit hole of misogyny
This is not a new conversation though. Media spewing and encouraging misogyny is a tale as old as time, spanning from books reinforcing gender stereotypes to films making mockeries out of sexual assault and anything feminine. But now, thanks to the ever-rising ubiquity of social media, misogyny is more inescapable than ever online.
On the frontlines of this wave is Reddit community The Red Pill, a dark corner on the Internet where men can revel in their hatred for women anonymously. The community gets its name from The Matrix’s famous scene, where the main character is offered a choice: “You take the blue pill – the story ends, you wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill – you stay in Wonderland and I show you how deep the rabbit hole goes.” The rabbit hole here is the idea that women run the world and that our reality is not respectful of men’s hardships and concerns. Which is, you know, the complete opposite of how things actually work.
After taking one for the team and doing a quick dip into The Red Pill community myself, I can attest that the majority of the content on the community is more pathetic and confused than outright offensive. It’s mostly men asking fellow guys for dating advice, explaining “how to be a man”, or giving borderline unattainable workout routines. It’s shitty, sure, and the misogyny is not thinly veiled, but it’s not implicitly aggressive for the most part. Unfortunately, the poster boys for this ‘manosphere’ are not like that at all.
The Tate Gospel – How to be (misogynistic) men
The most prolific influencer for this online misogynistic trend is TikTok creator Andrew Tate, a former kickboxer whose career revolves around teaching men how to be men. Or better yet, the super-macho, hyper-masculine version of men. By now he’s been banned by most social media platforms due to the controversial nature of his content, but he still actively posts on X (formerly known as Twitter) and Rumble. There, he advocates for a return to traditional (read: misogynistic) values and promotes outdated gender stereotypes rooted in violence against women to his millions of followers.
Most people over 18 probably first heard of this controversial figure in December 2022, when he was charged with multiple accounts of rape and human trafficking in Romania. Unfortunately, his rhetoric had already found its way among the younger ones much earlier. Research shows that about 84% of boys aged 13-15 in the UK have heard of Tate, and 1 in 6 has a positive view of him. Considering it’s about someone who once said “It’s bang out the machete, boom in her face and grip her by the neck. Shut up bitch.” and casually makes rape jokes on camera, one is one too many.
Albeit extremely alarming, the popularity of this man and the messages he promotes would be slightly less troublesome if these sexist agendas remained confined to online spaces. Regretfully, that is not the case.
Social Media – Are they raising a generation of misogynists?
Femicide has long been a plague to our society. Over 50 thousand women are killed each year because of their gender at the hands of men, and that number keeps rising. But while that is deeply concerning in itself, what makes matters even more worrisome is the age of some of these perpetrators.
Not long ago, on September 27, a 15-year-old girl was fatally stabbed by a 17-year-old boy in Croydon, south London. Reportedly, he had tried to give his former girlfriend a bouquet of flowers and, upon being rejected, attempted to stab her with a knife he had brought with himself that morning. The ex-girlfriend’s friend stepped in to intervene and received a fatal wound to the neck. Besides being absolutely heartbreaking, the premeditation of the crime is also terrifying. He had brought flowers and a knife that morning – meaning he was ready to kill his ex-girlfriend if things didn’t go like he wanted.
After the news broke out, it immediately sparked a heated online conversation, mainly because it was not the first time something like that had happened this year. At the beginning of June, a 20-year-old boy in India stabbed his girlfriend, aged 16, over 30 times when she tried to end things with him. After the Croydon incident, more and more people began putting the pieces together, saying that today’s boys cannot handle rejection from girls anymore, and asking themselves whether that’s fuelled by the likes of Andrew Tate and the online misogynistic propaganda.
It’s inevitable that teenage boys will see these messages of toxic masculinity and internalize them.
Women are gaslit into thinking all crimes such as these are unrelated to the rise in online incel culture, but a quick look around on the web is enough to know it is astonishing to think otherwise. On all social media platforms there are men who parrot Tate’s ideals, advocating for male supremacy and describing women as property they can own and dispose of if not compliant. It’s inevitable that teenage boys will see these messages of toxic masculinity and internalize them.
Nowadays, online platforms act as communities for many young boys, giving them a sense of belonging they otherwise lack. It’s only natural for them to try and emulate whatever views and beliefs they see online in order to fit in. It just so happens that bigotry and misogyny are reigning rhetorics in a lot of these communities.
A recent and disturbing example came just last month, when a clip of alt-right, red-pill influencer Sneako meeting some male fans went viral on X. The group of boys were clearly enthusiastic to be meeting their favorite content creator, and thus greeted him with exclamations they thought he’d be pleased to hear. You know, like “fuck the women!” and “all gays should die!” In the video, Sneako appeared taken aback by hearing such bigoted words coming from literal children. At one point, he even turned to the camera wide-eyed and said “What have I done?” But why should he be surprised? After all, those boys were just repeating things he has been saying for years.
Afterwards, he took it to social media, saying: “They are children and obviously joking. This is how I was at 12. If it sounds egregious to you, blame the flags in their classrooms. Blame the media for emasculating men. Its YOUR fault for forcing an obvious agenda. Not these kids. BOYS WILL BE BOYS.” However, that is of no consolation, as the phrase ‘Boys will be boys’ is now nothing but a harrowing dog-whistle for misogyny.
[A]dults also need to protect children from the indoctrination and the radicalization of bigoted online communities
In light of all this, there’s now a new growing concern amongst parents and educators regarding children’s social media use, particularly with boys. Several teachers across the globe have been sharing on social media that they’ve noticed an uptick in students repeating misogynistic vitriol and making reference to Tate’s content, and many parents have shared similar concerns. It’s no longer only worrying whether kids are being subjected to inappropriate and endangering content – now it has gotten to a point where adults also need to protect children from the indoctrination and the radicalization of bigoted online communities. But how can they do that?
Boys Will Be Boys – How to make sure they will not
In short, the answer is education. A large number of people seem to think that the solution is keeping kids away from the Internet altogether, living by the old code of “out of sight, out of mind.” However, by doing so you run the risk of turning your kid into a social pariah, as having no access to pop culture or whatever’s trendy online will end in them being on the outside looking in most of the time. Plus, denying your child social media when all their peers are using may lead to them becoming resentful and less trusting over time. In other words, it turns them into the perfect prey for bigoted messages.
It’s in song lyrics, in movies, in TV shows, in commercials, and even on the news.
Besides, keeping a kid away from social media and the Internet nowadays is actually impossible (unless you live in an Amish community). Even if they don’t have a device themselves, their peers most likely do, so they will be subjected to social media regardless. And this is not even accounting for the fact that misogyny isn’t merely confined to social media platforms, but it’s also mirrored in mainstream media. It’s in song lyrics, in movies, in TV shows, in commercials, and even on the news.
Hence, the only real solution is educating children, providing the skills, knowledge, and tools they need to ensure that if they encounter misogynistic content, it won’t be able to pierce through. Teachers should begin teaching kids media literacy and how to wisely navigate the web already from elementary school years, before they become teenagers and are left to fend for themselves online. Parents, older siblings, and other older relatives should be more involved in the younger ones’ lives, taking an active interest in them and becoming people they can trust. I’m not advocating for helicopter parenting, but offering them guidance and a willing ear might just do the trick.
Adult figures in young boys’ lives need to start having constructive conversations with them about consent, gender roles, rejection, and all the other aspects of life that may be misrepresented to them by self-appointed alpha males on TikTok. In other words, they need to make sure that boys know how to NOT be boys.
Edited by Mila Macrander