Gen Z are increasingly getting further apart in their ideological opinions, polls keep showing.
While women aged 18 and 29 have gotten more liberal in their beliefs every year, young men haven’t and are less likely to care about political issues or participate in protests, according to an analysis by Daniel Cox, the director of the Survey Center on American Life.
Half of young men also believe they face some kind of discrimination, and less than half identify as feminists. Only half support the #MeToo movement, compared to nearly three-quarters of women.
Sharing the data, journalist and lawyer Imani Gandy commented on the pattern, saying: “YouTube algorithms are turning young men into sociopaths.”
She might have a point.
While the political landscape, former president Trump, and the worldwide campaign against sexual abuse and harassment have all been cited as contributors to this trend, another factor cannot be ignored: Manosphere podcasters.
The term “manosphere” dates back to circa-2013 when the idea of the “red pill” started circulating on Reddit and forums. It encompassed the philosophy that women had it easy, and it was men who were suffering as a result of feminism. It argued that women chose who to sleep with, and thus held all the power in society.
Since then, incel, or involuntarily celibate, culture has bubbled away behind the scenes forming a niche but strong community of men who feel women not being attracted to them is the cause of many of their issues in society.
This stuff matters —The impact has ranged from misdirected anger toward the opposite sex through to trolling and online harassment, to more extreme acts of violence, including mass shootings.
Not everyone who subscribes to the manosphere’s ideas will be violent toward women, but many experts have linked “men’s rights activists” with a risk to women’s safety, both on and offline.
Podcasts specifically tailored to men, covering some of the manosphere’s ideologies, have been cropping up over the internet over the past couple of years and gained immense popularity.
Some notable figures include Andrew Tate, a misogynistic influencer and former boxing champion who was arrested on suspicion of rape and sex trafficking in 2022, Pearl Davis, a woman who spouts many similar ideas to Tate’s including that women should not vote, and Myron Gaines, cohost of the YouTube show “Fresh & Fit.”
Gaines wrote “Why Women Deserve Less,” a book in which he argues that modern women are unfairly benefiting from feminism at men’s expense. It’s a common theme on “Fresh & Fit,” which often features Gaines and Weekes shaming and objectifying a female guest.
Davis has made a name for herself by sharing her thoughts about modern society, including that it’s a woman’s fault if her male partner cheats, that men should be able to hit women back, and that women don’t deserve a man “who makes 6 figures” if they are obese.
Their influence is greater than you think
Tate, who arguably was instrumental in this wave of anti-feminist creators becoming so popular, has said publicly, among other things, that women are a man’s property, and those who have been raped should “bear responsibility.”
His influence spread so far and wide that children as young as 11 look up to him as their “god,” and quote him in class, parents and teachers previously told Business Insider.
Krysten Stein, a PhD candidate at the University of Chicago in communication and media studies, focusing on women and race, told Business Insider that anti-feminist ideas have been around for a long time, but the internet has amplified them.
Before, communities of like-minded people could come together and its reach was more limited.
“But now since we have the internet, it’s like, OK, you might’ve always felt like that, but now you have this giant platform where basically it can go pretty unregulated,” she said. “They can connect with one another to create a power-in-numbers type of thing.”
As the echo chamber forms, the views can get more and more extreme, without room for nuance.
“If you’re a liberal, you’re a pussy, or things like that,” Stein said. “Not only do you need to be conservative, but you need to be ultra-masculine and perform in these ways and be this type of man. And if you’re not, then it’s a problem.”
What’s behind the trend
The genesis of the manosphere was based on fear, Stein said, and how men wanted to maintain power and control in society when women’s rights movements were on the up.
The tactic was to enlist men into believing women were going to take over the world and leave them behind, meaning their rights should be stamped out, lest they get too big for their boots.
“Women are going to rise up and women are going to take over everything and feminism is awful and women hate us,” Stein said. “I think they frame it as a rhetorical fear tactic too.”
The manosphere has also exploded in tandem with traditional views about the roles of women and men in society — the binary of men being the breadwinners and women being the homemakers.
While society has seen these become more fluid, the manosphere is advocating for a rigid return to the old-fashioned idea that men and women have their specific places.
“It’s like, if you’re not playing into these traditional gender norms and something’s wrong with you,” Stein said.
“If I’m around my bros and we are talking about this, even if I really like to do the cooking at home, or maybe I want to be a stay-at-home dad, how much would I feel comfortable sharing that?”
Social media algorithms reward extreme views because they get clicks, both from those who believe in what’s being said and those criticizing it.
The only answer to that, Stein said, is more diverse hiring, and “people with various worldviews in these spaces.”
Otherwise, the divide is only likely to widen.
“If you’re being rewarded by the algorithm and by the platform you’re creating on, you’re going to probably keep doing it,” she said.
“The way it’s designed is set up to polarize us more. So shouldn’t the platform then be held accountable?”
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