From Feminism to the Red Pill

Does a liberal feminist movement need to make room for conservative women?

Red PillCredit: Wiki Commons

 

There is a growing divide amongst liberal and conservative women on the subject of feminism and misogyny, and it shows signs of aiding in the political polarisation of Western societies.

Two months ago, New Right Network’s DeAnna Lorraine hosted a podcast based on her book Making Love Great Again, where she shared her recommendations on “how to red pill your girlfriend.” The underlying premise of her argument is that the liberal feminist agenda is ruining the United States and has “brainwashed” women into supporting feminism. The red pill—or “redpilling”— is a metaphor for an individual changing their outlook on society, often to reflect far-right and misogynistic ideologies. Over 270,000 people subscribe to Reddit’s /r/TheRedPill, which describes itself as a “...[d]iscussion of sexual strategy in a culture increasingly lacking a positive identity for men.” It is a prime example of the manosphere—the male-centric and misogynistic presence on the internet. Surprising for many is the fact that there is also a red pill subreddit specifically for women.  

Where /r/TheRedPill focuses on masculinity, subreddits like /r/RedPillWomen and /r/RedPillWives focus on femininity, domesticity, and traditional ways of living for women. For the West’s brainwashed liberal feminist, the red pill undoes all the damage, or so advocates like DeAnna Lorraine would like you to believe. The anti-feminist tone varies across conversations in these groups. Some users seek dating advice or traditional lifestyle tips that seem to demonstrate benign conservative tendencies. Others discuss more insidious ideas, like how “shutting the fuck up,” general submission towards a man, and prioritizing your sexual market value are some of the best ways to guarantee a good relationship. While there are many moderate discussions happening on these forums, the propensity for more extreme rhetoric is a notable feature: recently a discussion thread started debating The Surrendered Wife author Laura Doyle's views on whether or not verbal abuse is merited in relationships.   

Frequently, women in Red Pill Reddit discussions are frustrated with mainstream liberal feminism, encouraging them to seek out like-minded people in fringe social media. Republican commentator Tomi Lahren articulated this exact frustration clearly to a group of young republican women at a leadership conference during the 2016 Presidential election, saying: “we [republicans] really are the Left’s worst nightmare and not because we dress like women, but because we don’t fit into their box...they hold themselves up as the epitome of femininity, which is rather sad [because] they are barely women.” Pew Research Center found that the largest divide amongst American women’s views of male workplace harassment was dependent on their Democrat or Republican leanings; Republican women were less likely to consider men getting away with sexual harassment a problem at work. 

There are clearly signs, online and off, that the portrayal of feminism as the ideological property of the Left makes conservative women feel excluded and marginalized by liberal, feminist rhetoric. The issue isn't necessarily that not all women want to be feminists, it is that their position of opposing it is leading them to seek out misogynistic and, at times, far right communities. Labeling groups such as /r/RedPillWomen as “fringe” is misleading — their number of followers may be small, but they often reflect larger patterns taking place in society. As the subject of inequality and feminism gains more media attention, so too do the arguments of anti-feminists and free-speech advocates such as Jordan Peterson and Janice Fiamengo. Debating ideologies and the prevailing narratives surrounding feminism is an intrinsic part of democracy, but should we really accept that a growing number of women find comfort in ideologies that equate women’s value with their sexual market rating? Peterson’s lectures — available on YouTube — are frequently cited as a source of inspiration in male and female red pill discussions. He does not explicitly endorse red pill views, but his ideas are helping influence these kinds of fringe discussions.

We are in an unprecedented era of polarisation in Western societies where groups with opposing views are feeding off one another’s hatred, making up a distinct process of cumulative radicalisation. The challenge this poses for the feminist movement involves asking to what extent it is willing to forgo exclusively liberal rhetoric in order to include women attracted by the fringes. Further, should it have to?

While not all women are liberal or identify with a movement that often claims to represent all women — Donald Trump was able to secure 41 percent of America’s female vote, despite his history of lewd sexist comments and extensive allegations of sexual harassment – there is an argument to be made as to whether the liberal feminist movement and its followers have a responsibility to consider conservative women as they shape their messaging. Just as the far-right’s Islamophobic rhetoric helps justify extreme Islamism's anti-Western agenda, a hostile and fiercely liberal interpretation of feminism and women's equality may be causing conservative women to align themselves with fringe ideologies that routinely reject mainstream thinking.

The Red Pill is an apt example of this dynamic. Last month, an /r/RedPillWives user expressed their frustration at The Handmaid’s Tale, saying ‘’[t]his show is exactly like an extremely left-wing rape fantasy that they all wish would happen so they can cry about how no one listened to them and it’s all white Christian women’s fault.’’ Far from being frustrated for the women in the show, this user almost did not watch it because they considered it to be leftist propaganda made for “feminazis.”

Too often, these kinds of interactions are dismissed, but if the divide between women continues on the political fault-lines of left vs. right, we will be left with an even worsened schism within our societies.

 

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Nicola is a Research Intern at the Institute for Strategic Dialogue, a London-based counter-extremism think tank. She just completed her MSc in International Security at the University of Glasgow, where she focused on far-right radicalization processes in Britain.