‘This is not just about women and girls. It is also a battle to protect the boys who are lost, who fall through the cracks of society’s stereotypes and straight into the arms of the communities ready to recruit them, greedy to indoctrinate them with fears of threats to their manhood, their livelihood, their country.’
This is an uncomfortable book to read: it must have been difficult to write. In ten depressing chapters, Ms Bates writes about those extremist groups who despise women and the spaces they occupy in the manosphere. Here’s one definition of the manosphere: ‘a collection of websites, blogs, and online forums promoting emphasized masculinity, hostility towards women, strong opposition to feminism, and exaggerated misogyny. The manosphere has been associated politically with the far-right and alt-right.’
There has been quite a lot written about misogyny, about the different ways in which women are abused, exploited, and mistreated. What made me read this book was the realisation that there are growing online communities hiding behind varying degrees of anonymity spreading their hate-filled messages. Who are they? How are they doing it? And why are some men so susceptible to their messages? What fuels the anger and hatred?
‘Men hurt women. It is a fact. It is an epidemic. It is a public health catastrophe. It is normal.’
It is difficult, sometimes, to wade through the white noise of claim and counterclaim about cause and effect. I read through this book, thinking about recent events in the USA and in at least two Australian parliaments, of men behaving badly, of those who defended unacceptable behaviour as being ‘okay’. I wonder how many of the same men would be comfortable if it was their wife, sister or daughter who was raped or assaulted, or ‘grabbed by the pussy’?
‘Our father didn’t lose control of himself, he had lost total control over us when we escape[d] him.’
What do we need to do differently? Most men (and women) I know are kind and respectful. But in a world where personal contact seems to be diminishing, where social skills seem less important as many people interact almost exclusively online, individuals become somehow abstract and their feelings less noticed or cared about. And if people don’t talk to each other, how are feelings reality-checked?
‘Parents don’t know how to talk to kids, teachers don’t know how to talk to kids, no-one knows how to talk to kids, but also people don’t know how to talk to each other about the male experience.’
I have read both praise and criticism of this book. Praise for the work Ms Bates has done to identify and articulate issues, criticism for exaggerating these issues. I think the book is worth reading and talking about.