Written by David Williams
Andrew Tate – Chances are if you’re under 35 and not living under a rock, you will have come across this name. The Times reported that Tate gathered more than 13 billion views in 2022, making him a hugely influential figure on the internet teaching young men about women and how to become ‘Top G.’ And while at first sight, this figure has little to do with the invention and politicisation of identity, a closer investigation finds that Tate is only the tip of the iceberg. In this article, I link Tate to an emerging and expanding internet subculture called the manosphere. The manosphere is a collection of websites, blogs, and message boards. For those of you who do not know who Tate is, here a little compilation of his views on women. For the manosphere, another compilation here.
In these short clips we see the tremendous importance of women as the invented other, which Tate and the manosphere heavily rely on to construct the male self. Unfortunately, the consequences of this difference are not limited to a couple of incels venting their grievances about not being ‘Alpha’ or ‘Chad’ on reddit. This article argues that Tate and the manosphere’s construction of identity is leading young men to be consumed by alt-right movements online, and can also be directly linked to cases of direct physical violence offline.
Two of the most important discourses which pervade in the manosphere are the red pill and incel (Involuntary celibate). The red pill was created in October 2012 by the Reddit user ‘pk_atheist.’ It adopted the terminology from the movie the Matrix, in which Neo was offered the choice between taking the red pill or the blue pill. The red pill stood for truth and enlightenment while the blue pill refers to the lies you’ve been fed by society – in the case of the manosphere, the lies of feminism. Red pill users see themselves as the enlightened few of society which broke loose of the shackles of the matrix, and of feminism specifically. A terminology continuously used also by Tate.
While initially created as a message board aiming at getting men laid via the help of pick-up artists and other reddit elites, it quickly turned into a political movement that identified feminism as the origin of ‘masculine decline.’ Dignam argues that the red pill went as far as constructing a collective masculine identity that fought for men’s rights in divorce courts, to helping Trump get elected as president of the United States of America. Trump was seen by red pill users as impersonating core tenants of their discourse, such as sexual prowess and economic success. ‘An attack against Trump equated an attack against the Red Pill identity.’ Trump was indeed seen as the first president validating their ideas, as a man who ‘understood’ what really was at stake, and how this ‘other’ corrupted a natural hierarchy between men and women. The red pill went beyond its initial idea and became an unofficial political project in which young men heavily identified themselves to a political subject, here Trump. In practice, these participants became hardcore Trump fans endorsing him as the man that could save America, and more importantly, masculinity from its perceived decline.
On incel, another reddit message board, the difference between male and female was taken even further. Most incels evoked ideas of stripping females of their rights as their natural place resides beneath men. This difference was often brought back to nature or gender essentialism. See for example this post on reddit: ‘Females are toxic assholes who are filled with cancer & endless lust for superior males. Revoke all female rights. Look at how fucking cancerous and greedy females have become in less than 100 years of feminism. So toxic & evil. Down with feminism, down with female rights!’
Commentators on incel often sought out pseudo-scientific language to justify their invented hierarchies, arguing ‘it’s all evolutionary biology, bro.’ Furthermore, the female other is often referred to in slurs such as ‘slut’, ‘bitch’ or ‘femoid’ for female humanoid. Both the red pill and incel reduce women to literal sex objects. While on the red pill the female body is spoken about as a commodity to be won, Incels argue that their male self is entitled to the female body by nature. In incel rhetoric we therefore bear witness to the manosphere’s direct link to other far right discourses, which distribute rights based on an apparent identity. This is an exact reflection of nationalism’s relationship between identity and rights. It also goes to demonstrate just how important an investigation of this corner of the internet is.
While linking Tate to the manosphere might be seen as overly ambitious, I see a construction of identity as elementary across all forums. In these echo chambers, the difference between male and female is often amplified and escalated to become even more sexist and misogynist. Women’s and men’s grievances around difference are being exploited and politicised with real life consequences. Research done by several authors such as Brenna Helm or Sophie Bjork Jones found that the manosphere’s anti-feminist rhetoric intersects at several points with other alt-right movements such as white nationalism. Young men navigating the echo-chambers of the manosphere whether Tate, the red pill or incel, often amplify hatred and spill over into xenophobia, homophobia and antisemitism. See for example the case of this man on CNN. In the case of some incels such as Elliot Rodger or Alex Minassian, the hatred on these online forums led to offline violence. Rodger, age 22 posted a manifesto online before going on a shooting rampage killing six in 2014. His intent behind shooting up a sorority house was to punish women for not sleeping with him as well as ‘Chads’ due to jealousy. Indeed, some researchers denote incel as emerging as a prime domestic security threat in the United States.
Tate, the red pill and incel however, fail to acknowledge that by projecting these inscriptions onto each other, they are constituting a difference which is perpetuated as a struggle for survival between females and males. More specifically between, an idealised form of man and an empowered autonomous woman. At best, their rhetoric is encouraging hostility between men and women, at worst, it instigates cases of direct physical violence. Furthermore, research shows that the traditional masculine identity that the manosphere and Tate propagate lead to depression, anxiety and isolation over failure to meet the invented standard as well as leading to violence and abuse in relationships between men and women.
In conclusion, this article has investigated the invention of an identity across the language of Tate and the manosphere and its two main discourses, the red pill and Incel. The identity that is being constituted is denying agency on both sides, as it precisely makes use of an idealised version of man. Women are seen as an object to be possessed. In fact, women are the core vehicle in their discourse to conclude whether a man has become this ideal – the ‘Top G,’ Chad or Alpha. The boundaries between Tate and the manosphere are fluid, with participants varying in their scale of radicalisation. However, given the increasing use of the internet by young men, whether TikTok or Reddit, the political consequences of this invented identity matter more than ever.
Featured Imagery: Courtesy of Warner Bros. found on Vulture.