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Men Who Hate Women:
From Incels to Pickup Artists, the Truth About Extreme Misogyny and How It Affects Us All
by Laura Bates
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Laura Bates is best known for founding the Everyday Sexism Project in 2012. Within three years her website, which encourages people to submit their day-to-day experiences of misogyny, had attracted 100,000 entries. Bates has become a regular commentator on gender bias, and gives talks at schools. She has published two previous books, Everyday Sexism, an analysis of the project’s entries, and Girl Up, a feminist manifesto aimed at young women and girls.
This third book, however, takes a markedly new direction. Bates is sick of being invited on to panel shows to debate things such as wolf-whistling or Kleenex ditching its “mansize” branding, and is keen to distance herself from “whining, privileged feminist hysteria about trivial issues”. Instead, Men Who Hate Women focuses on misogynistic extremism, studying groups of men who meet, usually online, to discuss and promote their hatred of women.
There is a range of distinct groups within the online community dubbed the “manosphere”. Bates’s deep dive devotes a chapter to each, from Men Who Prey on Women to Men Who Are Afraid of Women.
The first chapter, called simply Men Who Hate Women, is about incels, a portmanteau of “involuntary celibates”. The term was first used by a young woman who started an online support group for those unlucky in love. More than 20 years later this community has mutated, becoming a huge online network of men who believe they cannot be in a romantic or sexual relationship because “evil” women “only choose to sleep with the most attractive cohort of men”. New visitors to the multitude of incel forums are encouraged to “swallow the red pill” (a reference to The Matrix) and see the world as it “truly” is:a man-hating matriarchy.
Some incels “solve” their supposed inability to find a partner by raping women. One such “rapecel” wrote, in what Bates describes as a “typical post” in an incel forum: “Since most [women] deserve to be raped, I cannot concern myself with the pain that rape causes them.”
How the manosphere is infiltrating mainstream culture is what concerns Bates the most. Media outlets usually present these groups as fringe — slightly pathetic, laughable even. Yet not only does this community attract thousands of internet users (one strategist estimates that there are 100,000 members of women-hating communities in the UK alone), but it also poses a very real physical threat. Brenton Tarrant, the man responsible for the massacre of 51 Muslims in New Zealand last year, advocated not just white supremacy in online forums, but also male supremacy.
Worryingly, says Bates, the rhetoric seems to be having an impact on children. When she first started giving talks about feminism at schools eight years ago, there was sometimes a backlash from boys in the audience. But in the past two years she has noticed that boys’ responses have become more angry and more premeditated, and are, chillingly, often backed up by the same false statistics quoted on forums.
Better education in schools about these online groups, more moderation by social media companies and more support from actively feminist men are all needed, says Bates, if we are to protect boys from being influenced by misogynistic extremists. This conclusion, like the rest of this excellent book, is impassioned yet clear. Men Who Hate Women has the power to spark social change. For, as Bates rightfully puts it: “We can’t tackle a problem if people don’t even know it exists.”
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