Welcome to the ‘manosphere’ – a brave new book shows why we should all be afraid

Ceri Radford in Independent:

I don’t mean to slight the brilliant, insanely brave writer Laura Bates when I say that I did not want to read her latest book, and that my first reflex on getting through a page of Men Who Hate Women was to slam it shut and go watch something soothing on Netflix. Sure, I realise that there is a seething cesspit of misogynistic hatred out there, but much like my next dental appointment, while dimly aware of its existence, I’d rather not think about it.

It’s uncomfortable to know that a violent hatred of women isn’t confined to the tame cliche of spittle-flecked keyboard warriors in greying Y-fronts, and that there are swathes of men in all layers of society who hold views that frankly make Margaret Atwood’s Gilead look progressive. Bates is best known for running the Everyday Sexism Project, a website predating the #MeToo movement that lets women share their dispiritingly commonplace experiences of prejudice and harassment. For her new book, she set out to find the source of an increasingly fanatical wave of misogyny. Prowling the message boards undercover as a disillusioned young man called Alex, she walks us hand-in-hand through the shocking online communities that stoke a real-world pandemic of sexual assault and violence against women.

Together dubbed the “manosphere” – itself a cute term that Bates warns trivialises the threat – these movements include “incels”, a shorthand for involuntary celibates. Frustrated and grumpy over their lack of success with women, this group of charmers broadly appears to believe that rape and sexual slavery are not just justified but part of the fabric of an ideal society. Those who enjoy sexual success – “Chads” and “Tracys” – meanwhile, deserve violent retribution. Bates shares a typical post from a user who is perturbed by the concept of women as human beings in charge of their own lives.

“Nature gave them [women] a bunch of social and sexual advantages to compensate for their lack of resources. Now that they have resource and sex power, things are out of balance. We need that prevent females from going to university or taking family supporting jobs. Our prisons are full of men who could not feed their families, the rape laws should be repealed. Females are artificially restricting the supply of available females in their reproductive years. Rape is the answer. Societies go to war over lack of females and jobs. Females have become a threat to society and must be put back in their place.”