As the countdown continues to the US midterm elections, it’s clear that women’s rights activism is reaching more people than ever before. Both online and offline, the poll, seen by some as a de facto referendum on abortion, rallied women to defend their rights. But while online campaigns have rallied women, so have anti-feminists and misogynists. And, like feminists, the online pontificating of misogynists can have a direct influence on politics, especially far-right movements.
The Italian elections were recently won by the Brothers of Italy with 26 percent of the vote. The far-right party was inspired by fascist ideologies, which made anti-feminism a central tenant. Although its leader, Giorgia Meloni, was Italy’s first female prime minister, she is often seen as anti-feminist and has attended conservative Christian events opposing same-sex marriage and abortion. In Spain, the far-right party Vox has adopted a similar basic ideology. And Russian President Vladimir Putin’s annexation speech made a clear reference to gender ideology and accused the West of being unable to uphold traditional gender roles.
These beliefs are echoed by the “manosphere,” the misogynistic websites that often lurk on the dark web advocating for men’s rights, originally a 1970s movement against second-wave feminism. For example, the red pill philosophy takes its name from a plot from the movie “The Matrix” and claims that women are not really oppressed in society. Involuntary celibates, or Incels, blame women for rejecting them and only desiring conventionally attractive sexual partners. And pick-up artists trade dating advice in a way that dehumanizes and demeans women.
What these groups have in common is the belief that the real “victims” of society are white, straight men. Many feel they can no longer be assured of the role of head of the family, and their lives have been ruined by #MeToo, a global movement to denounce sexual violence and harassment against women that took off in 2017 Some also reject feminism to protect the traditional idea. in a nuclear family – characterized by a mother, father and children – the man is the breadwinner of the family and the woman carries out the domestic tasks and care tasks. Some groups oppose women’s activism along with LGBTQ+ rights, particularly in response to the legalization of same-sex marriage in North America and Europe in 2012–2013. Some of these movements claim that gender ideology is a left-wing conspiracy to destroy gender identities. Groups such as the Italian Sentinelle in Piedi (Standing Watchman) and the French Manif Pour Tous (Demo for everyone) are inspired by conservative Christianity. They tend to use social media because of their distrust of mainstream media and may have unconventional ways of protesting. Sentinelle in Piedi, for example, organizes silent demonstrations where people stand in a square reading a book. While the ideology of these groups may seem less misogynistic than the narratives of the manosphere, what they have in common is a rejection of feminist activism in its effort to “protect” traditional heterosexual families.
Anti-feminist and misogynist discourse online can have very damaging consequences outside of digital spaces. In 2014, Elliot Rodger, who identified as an Incel, killed six people and injured 14 others to “punish” women for rejecting him.
Advocating women as submissive partners and accepting motherhood at any cost are also forms of symbolic violence with harmful social consequences. For example, unsafe abortions can be fatal and are more likely to occur when they are banned or restricted.
While the activism that followed the growing visibility of #MeToo made the issue of violence against women increasingly relevant, women’s rights and gender equality do not always progress hand in hand. Several US states banned or restricted abortion in 2022, following the overturning of the court’s Roe v. Wade that protected the right to abortion in the first trimester. Even with the successes of the midterms, not all abortion rights have been restored. Online sexual harassment of women is a growing concern Twenty-one percent of American women aged 18 to 29 report being sexually harassed on the Internet, as do one in ten women in the European Union. Between a fifth and a quarter of women who experienced online abuse were also threatened with physical violence. To end violence against women, it is critical to first publicly denounce all online groups that perpetuate misogynistic and anti-feminist views as hate speech. National governments can prevent them from reverberating offline by mapping them and making them public along with a warning to Internet users about their dangers. Because online violence has often been linked and compared to offline violence, better policies against online hate speech are needed.
Several platforms, such as Meta, have guidelines to protect users from harassment and can step in to block posts and groups, but perpetrators of online hate speech rarely face serious consequences and there needs to be better general control methods. And despite the reaction of some men, the fight for women’s rights continues. International organizations can empower women through activist campaigns and, most importantly, provide safe spaces for women to speak out against violence.
(This story has not been edited by Devdiscourse staff and is automatically generated from a syndicated feed.)
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