Book: Men Who Hate Women
Author: Laura Bates
Narrator: Laura Bates
BECHDEL TEST: N/A, non-fiction
Content Warnings: Mentions of sexual violence, assault and abuse, online harassment, murder and terrorist violence.
I’ve been meaning to read one of Laura Bates’ books for ages, my sister got me Everyday Sexism for Christmas a couple of years ago (I still haven’t read it, I will soon!) and I’ve seen quite a few of her articles in The Guardian, but till now I’d never read one of her books. Back in September, I attended a virtual event she did in support of this book and thought it sounded like an interesting read. It definitely was, but it’s certainly not an easy one either, Laura was certainly very brave going undercover in these communities that hate women so violently! Here is a short synopsis of the book:
An explosive book examining the rise of secretive, extremist communities who despise women. In this ground-breaking investigation, Laura Bates traces the roots of misogyny across a complex spider’s web of groups extending from Men’s Rights Activists and Pick up Artists to “Men Going their Own Way” trolls and the Incel movement, in the name of which some men have committed terrorist acts.
Drawing parallels with other extremist movements around the world, Bates seeks to understand what attracts men to the movement, how it grooms and radicalizes boys, how it operates, and what can be done to stop it. Most urgently of all, she traces the pathways this extreme ideology has taken from the darkest corners of the internet to emerge covertly in our mainstream media, our playgrounds, and our parliament. Going undercover online and off, Bates provides the first, comprehensive look at this hitherto under-the-radar phenomenon, including fascinating interviews with trolls, former incels, the academics studying this movement, and the men fighting back.
First off, I really enjoyed the narration for this one, I’ve not read many books where authors narrate their own work (this tends to be more of a standard for non-fiction than fiction) and I really liked that, Laura explains everything in a way that is very succinct and easy to understand.
I learned so much from this book! I’d heard of both incels and men’s rights activists before and knew of some of the mass attacks that Laura spoke about in the incel chapters but there was definitely still a lot I didn’t know. I’d never really heard of Pick Up Artists as an organised group, and I had no idea that Men Going Their Own Way was even a thing. It was also horrifying to learn that Incels originally started as an innocent project to help foster a community of single people who were lonely, that was started by a WOMAN and has become so twisted by men who have co-opted it in the years since. I also had no idea the extent of some of these communities, I had definitely assumed that Incels were a far smaller community than they actually are! I’d also never heard of Gamergate before this.
It is very western focused, the cases talked about tend to be from the UK, US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand but this is pretty understandable, trying to cover the entire world of online misogyny would have been a pretty mammoth task.
I did appreciate that she looked at the intersections of race and gender in her discussions of these groups, as so often extreme misogyny and racism are inextricably linked, so it definitely would have been disingenuous if she had only focused on gender without considering how race plays into these communities as well.
I was definitely impressed at the lengths Bates went to to research these communities, I would never have been as brave as she was! The one part that particularly struck me was when she talked about going to a Men’s Rights Activists meeting who had specifically used her in their advertising, incredibly brave to go into a meeting of people who you already know are going to hate you.
The story of the pregnant journalist who ended up having to give up her job because of death threats she received after writing a tongue in cheek article about ways men ruined her year really hit hard for me, I’ve never really worried to much about being threatened because of stories I write, but it did remind me that it can be dangerous to be a journalist even if you’re not actively working in a war zone or something like that. The description of Bates talking about her sexual assault in front of a group of teenagers and them not believing her was quite emotional as well, as was when she described her ordeal trying to report online trolls the police.
As Bates comes from a journalist perspective as well, it was interesting for me to see how she spoke about the media and the role that they play in perpetuating the extreme misogyny agenda, it’s definitely something I want to see how I can help to change as I enter the industry.
From the title, it might seem that Bates is focused on attacking men, but this could not be further from the truth. A lot of her book, as well as talking about the ways these groups hurt women, talks about the damage that they do to men as well, particularly impressionable young men and how they manipulate them for their own gain.
The chapters are quite long, I might have separated them down into smaller sections within the overall topics as 90 minute to 2 hour chapters is quite a lot to listen to in one go. I did particularly like how each section had interviews with people from the groups/who were affected by the groups talked about, it really helped illustrate Bates’ arguments.
I would never have thought of incel attacks as terrorism before and this book certainly made me wonder why: they’re based on an extreme ideology that involves violence and intimidation towards a particular group, if these attacks were carried out by anyone other than white man, they would certainly be considered terrorist actions.
The interview with Ben Hurst at the end was also an interesting addition, it was cool to hear more about the process that Bates went through writing the book and her thoughts on certain topics after its completion.
Overall this was a really enlightening, interesting read and I learned a lot, though it’s definitely not an easy book to read. I definitely look forward to reading more of Bates’ work in the future, will have to push Everyday Sexism up the reading list!
My Rating: 5/5
My next review will be of my latest Netgalley read, The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by VE Schwab, one of my most anticipated reads of the year. I’m hoping to post it tomorrow, if not Monday, because I’m already done, so I just need to write up the review.