Men Who Hate Women by Laura Bates

3/5 stars

In Men Who Hate Women, activist and journalist Laura Bates explores the long reach of ‘the manosphere’–an awfully benign-sounding name for a large and toxic collection of social networks and movements promoting misogyny, violence against women, and a worrying return to ‘traditional’ gender roles. It is an alarming book, informed by Bates’ year-long infiltration of these groups that exist throughout the Internet, although they are often migrating from one platform to another as they get kicked off, and how their ideas are coming into real-life practice in alarming and often violent ways.

Bates, the founder of the Everyday Sexism Project, is well-equipped to handle this issue, as she has experienced an extreme amount of online abuse–she has been experiencing online misogyny for years, and has only seen the vitriol increase as online misogyny, whether sincere or ‘for the lulz’, grows across the world. And from Piers Morgan to Donald Trump, she has seen this misogyny take root in some of the most toxic ways imaginable.

The narrative is broken down to exploring a few different subsets of the manosphere, including incels, pickup artists, and voluntarily celebate ‘men going their own way’ who spread misogynist material online. Bates spends a lot of time explaining the terminology and the thinking behind their theories–that women are duplicitious, feminism has given them too much power, and they are out to rob men’s power, money, and social status. It’s not easy to read, especially when Bates explains how these communities often become a gateway to far-right ideology and in-person violence.

This is, unfortuntely, common knowledge for anyone at least vaguely involved in feminism in the past decade. Bates’ long explorations of these communities and explaining events like Gamergate and various incel-motivated mass shootings can be quite draining to read, a bleak reminder of the damage this digital misogyny has already done. If you’re uninformed, Bates’ book is a good introduction–but as is often the problem with any media about social justice, the people who need to read this probably won’t be the people picking it up. That’s why this is only a three-star read from me. Bates just hasn’t done enough to really reach out to the readers who need this information.

Although that isn’t to say there isn’t promise in her work–her final chapter explores the sessions she has been running in schools across the UK with young men and young women to help them understand sexism. The work she has done with teachers and school administrators to discuss the radicalisation of young men into online misogyny–including helping them understand that it is radicalisation–and help pull them away from that toxicity. This section was really interesting, and honestly I wish Bates had devoted more time to this aspect of her work. If she decides to write another book, I would gladly read just about this–and I think a lot of other people would do. It’s one thing to understand where this thinking is coming from, but quite another to create actionable change.


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