The Guardian • Issue #2064


Growing misogyny in online spaces and internet activism

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Like many young people born into the online world, I first became exposed to political ideas through social media as a teenager and therefore saw the internet as the primary place where political activity was conducted. For me, that initially took the form of passionate enthusiasm for liberal feminism.

Over time I began to recognise the shortcomings of liberal feminist ideology and moved towards socialism. However, many of my early forays into a type of activism still consisted largely of participating in online interactions, whether this was sharing other peoples’ content, creating my own, or simply arguing with strangers online. At the time I still believed that social media and online spaces were one of the most valuable tools for creating social or political change.

After joining the Communist Party, my politics continued to develop significantly and I began to truly appreciate the importance of real world organising over and above social media activism. As my political activity changed, I became disillusioned with the ability of social media to affect genuine positive political, social or economic change.

Something that I have come to realise more recently is that while I and other leftists favour grassroots organising, conservative and far right individuals and organisations are continuing to proliferate online – and they are not tucked away in the darker corners of the internet. I am now more than ever seeing the popularisation of misogynistic and anti-feminist content on social media, and most infuriatingly, I see this content being produced by women.

One content creator, known online as Pearl, is an anti-feminist woman who is capitalising on the success of misogynists like Andrew Tate to build herself a platform online. And sadly, she appears to be doing so with great success, despite how shocking many of her opinions are. I have heard her argue for ending no fault divorce, for removing women’s suffrage, for banning abortion, ending premarital sex, and many more outrageous and idiotic things. I believe her success in building an audience of men is in part owed to the ideology of identity politics (which, ironically, I’m sure she would claim to hate). I believe that she emboldens misogynistic men to be more forthcoming with their own views, as they now have women like Pearl to hold up in their defence when they’re challenged.

Not only are Pearl’s opinions harmful enough in and of themselves, but short-form social media reproduces her content (and other kinds of conservative content) in a way that makes her ideas seem more powerful and more persuasive than they really are. Often this content will be taken from longer podcasts or interviews, which allows passages to be cherrypicked to make her arguments seem stronger, her evidence less tenuous, and her opponents less educated.

Seeing the rise of creators like Pearl, I once again feel the need to grapple with how leftists should use social media to be a counterbalance to misogyny online.

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