‘Not everyone’s gonna like me, but there’s no point hiding’: Speaking to the men and women of the biggest anti-feminist group on Facebook
‘Anti-feminism Australia’ has over 7,000 members from across the world
There are a lot of weird things on Facebook. There are groups with minion memes that you mum loves, there’s the mate who still sends Candy Crush invites. There are people, weirdly, who don’t like dogs. But most sinister of all, there are anti-feminist Facebook groups.
Anti-Feminism Australia is a group of nearly 8,000 like minded people. The stuff that’s posted in there is, as you’d expect, pretty wild.
The group seems at least, like a disjointed collection of bitter people, but I wanted to know whether they could explain why they were there, and why they were anti-feminist. It didn’t seem like a big ask until I actually spoke to them.
Most of the people I spoke to, like Brent weren’t even Australian, they were Americans wanting to get in on the action. Brent found the group through an international network of similar-minded people, and was added by a female friend. Now 43, he says he’s “opposed feminism” since he was a teenager, and identifies as a Men’s Rights Activist.
“I have been accused of statistically ruling the world by women with authority over me for 30 years now”, he tells me.
“I don’t prefer Australians or any other group of MRAs. Continually the same issues come to a head everywhere. The anti free speech stuff seems to happen everywhere, on campuses internationally thanks to feminist hegemony in the student unions. Feminists in every country continue to fight for gender segregated advantages for women and opposing gender segregation when men seem to want it. The divorce court bias and custody issues men face are international, we’re all fighting the same battles. Australia is part of that situation.”
While Brent is open about his views around his family, he admits it’s caused “issues with feminist” in the past. He says: “I was always railroaded and dismissed. I am too old to get into any streetfights. But I am interested in the movement as a mentor for younger guys and just on a philosophical level I am interested in the conversation. I have read politically incendiary anti-feminist poems and speeches in the past in public, but i don’t engage in that sort of thing anymore.”
In his 20’s Brent, who lives in California where he volunteers at a cat rescue, won a poetry slam with a sexist, anti-feminist poem called ‘I wish I was your gynecologist’, which parodied how many slam poems from women were about being raped. “I think I won because I made people laugh”, he says.
“I get too anxious to do that sort of thing anymore. It takes a toll emotionally. I try to be supportive of people who get out there now. Milo is an example of what happens to people who stick their heads out in this respect. Everyone should do it at least once, But not everybody can take the heat on a permanent basis.
“There is a serious backlash against anti-feminists.”
Like Brent, Lindsay Jackel has identified as an anti-feminist for many years, since his marriage break up two decades ago. He’s one of the only people I speak to who actually comes from Australia, in Melbourne, the home of Germaine Greer and in his words “a feminist hotbed”.
He tells me: “I was a fairly hands on dad and didn’t like my second class parent status after the divorce. My ex was a feminist and I had no problem with that and was mostly on board. After the separation I am now anti-feminist because of the misandry (and even misogyny) of feminism. I believe in equality and raised my daughter to have ‘agency’.”
Lindsay worked for a large telecom company, where half of his co-workers are women, and several of his supervisors. But after taking voluntary redundancy he began working in a local community centre which was predominantly female. But Brent says he got on well with women at work, and he’s careful to distinguish anti-feminism from being “anti-women” and overtly misogynistic.
“What I don’t like about some of the anti-feminism forums is that people (blokes) go off-topic and get anti-women. I try not to do that. I see a difference between women – the birth group – and feminism – the political ideology. The former isn’t chosen, it just is, but the latter, is chosen, and typically for a worldview reason. I respect women, as equal people, but I don’t respect what feminism is today because so much of it is about hate of anything male and censorship no control.
“If it’s off-topic anti-women or misogyny material I don’t defend it, I point out that it’s unhelpful and wrong. My experience is that most who are offended because of ideas are there to listen and change but to gather ‘evidence’ to use for criticism and attacks. Sad and sort of explains a lot of the antipathy, on both sides.”
Kitty Khandkar was the first boy I spoke to from members I reached out to in the group. Kitty is 19, from Arlington in Texas, and currently repeating his last year of high school before going to community college to study Psychology next year.
He, unsurprisingly, treats the idea of anti-feminism as a bit of a joke. When I asked him why he joined he said: “I tend to joke in that group and give no actual substantial opinion.
“I only really joined because the memes are funny. Although I disagree with Feminism I don’t actively associate myself with anti-feminists and the like. Some of them are as terrible as the feminists I don’t like. At the same time I have friends (outside of the group) that are either one way or another or right on par with me.”
“I just saw the group and thought, eh, why not.”
Looking at his Facebook page though, and the things he’s posted in the group, it’s clear that Kitty’s politics – he tells me he voted for Trump – run a little deeper than just liking memes.
But when I ask him about it, Kitty, who’s of Indian ethnicity, says: That’s literally just shitposting”. He quotes Martin Luther King to me, before expanding: “They’re just funny. There’s not much to read into. I know people will think I’m a racist for it, but I’m not worried. I’m just not. I’ve dealt with and met people from many walks of life, something I’m grateful to have had happen despite being so young. Not everyone’s going to like me and there’s no point in hiding what I find funny or not. It’s like I’m lying to a person without ever talking to them.”
“Usually I get silently deleted or blocked if that ever happens. I’ll admit I’ve never had a girlfriend in my life. Never viewed it as something to pursue until recently.
“I want to just make sure you let people know that it’s possible to simply find something funny without any motive or meaning behind it.”
There are, bizarrely, women in the group too. A woman named Leah told me: “I came here because I don’t like modern feminism. It’s extremist.”
Another woman, Tanya* went even further. Tanya joined anti-feminism Australia via her boyfriend. She said: “I’ve rarely worked with women and the women in my life have destroyed their lives and tried to blame it on others, but I haven’t had any interest in this because I’ve always kind of avoided seeing it
“I wouldn’t call myself a feminist. I only have two female friends and one sees me as a role model, because how I manage to do what I want to and don’t roll over and the other is my only female co worker and she has a similar view. I have a sister, but she’s a drug addict and we don’t speak. She falsely accused my dad (her stepdad) of molestation, and later admitted she made it all up.
“She’s the shining example of why the feminist idea of rape culture and always believing the victim fully is not acceptable. Rape happens, and is a big issue. It destroys lives, but so does falsely accusing people of rape.”
Apart from hating feminism there wasn’t really any one unifying feature of the members I spoke to – perhaps in a group of over 7,000 people, it’s expected that speaking to a handful of them won’t suddenly explain everything. They range from teenage alt-right memelords refusing to engage with the world around to older men disenfranchised by bad experiences with that same world.
The one thing I took away is that they were all, predictably, fucking weird.
They spoke in verbose, often unintelligible “well-actually” style monologues and none of them seemed particularly at ease with human interaction. The last person I spoke to, another American man, refused the interview but before blocking me said: “Sorry, it’s nothing personal. It’s just that I find women’s voices nauseating.”
Pretty much sums it up.