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Monday, January 27, 2014

How the 'Manosphere' is a problem.

Perhaps you have heard of the Manosphere? It was started via the Return of Kings site and has grown to include over 20 listed pages on the Best of the Manosphere. There are countless other less advertised sites espousing similar sentiments. A quick review of Return of Kings' beliefs statement, it is immediately apparent that misogyny runs rampant through the group. A terribly heavy emphasis is placed upon the value of women on the basis of their sexual performance and Return of Kings even states directly "A woman’s value is mainly determined by her fertility and beauty. A man’s value is mainly determined by his resources, intellect, and character."

Such a front-loaded position makes clear that women are not viewed as equals. Reviewing the material on Return of Kings and other Manosphere blogs, this repetitive dismissal of women as little more then sex objects is blatant and receives no greater consideration then the function of gravity. The target audience of the Return of Kings and its brother blogs is not the enlightened men of the 21st century. No, the target audience of these sites are men who yearn for an imagined past where rigid sexual roles defined how men and women interacted.

It is easy to find articles upon these sites that describe women who do not fit their ideal as damaged goods. More disturbing is that these are not just circulating within some dark corner of the internet. No, they have been found on outlets such as Facebook, Twitter, and other major social networking media. Part of the rising popularity of these sites are from the people who share the outrage that they feel and include a link back to them. Another part of the appeal of these sites is that there is a significant population of men who feel intensely threatened by the cultural shifts that are taking place.
 
As such, these men react by lashing out with their words to belittle and denigrate those who do not fit what they believe are the correct mold of behavior. Derogatory comments as to the quality of a person with respect to their gender have reached near epidemic levels on the internet. Sites that make up the Manosphere serves to perpetuate this behavior when we should be decrying it. When women are declared to be flawed on the basis of the length of their hair, it is apparent that they are not being considered upon the merits of their intellect, efforts, or other personal qualities that are being applied to men.

Actions such as this deny women their humanity. Indeed, Return of Kings even has an article talking about how women 'train' men to rape. This type of mentality is dangerous for society at large. It dis-empowers women just as racism dis-empowers people of color. Repetitively teaching one group that the other is valueless or inferior to them, the message spreads to the other group by way of inference and context cues. These are the unspoken elements of language that can be found in both written and verbal communication.

Communicating the inferior status of another group escalates the potential for violence against that group. It encourages a negative position with respect to someone from the scorned group at the outset of any exchanges, irregardless of the actions taken by that person. The Manosphere may claim they do not condone violence against women but the attitudes that they espouse and express are frequently used to justify abusive behavior, sexual assault, and subtle second class person status behaviors, like the refusal to pay equal compensation for equal work.

The solution to the problem presented by the Manosphere is not simple. While one could theoretically create a demand for these sites to be taken down, these sites would simply come back. People who ascribe to this misogynistic approach and are especially vocal in their efforts could be simply ignored. This works on a small scale but once one moves out of the scale of individual interactions, it becomes far more difficult to remove their audience. It is more effective to create an alternate message and disseminate it with intensity and vigor.

A combination of spreading an alternate, more balanced perspective and shunning of those who are particularly virulent has a significant chance of success. A counter message that informs and educates women and others marginalized by the Manosphere how to respond to the scorn heaped upon them is vital. Encouraging the people in charge of forums such as Facebook or Twitter to apply their decency standards equally and to discourage hate mongering is also an effective tool.

If the community of the internet comes together and publicly denounces the sexism and related precepts espoused by the Manosphere, it would be a major step forward towards a public forum where people are not verbally assaulted for their differences.

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