Away from the main thoroughfares of r/Showerthoughts and r/mildlyinteresting, far from the light of r/aww, there is Reddit’s “manosphere.” It’s a confederacy of men’s rights subreddits, so named because it’s a place where women are unwelcome. Manosphere members might think of themselves as “involuntarily celibate,” like the man who drove a van into Toronto pedestrians last year, or something more empowered and oblique, like “men going their own way.” In either mode, they are united by their belief that modern men aren’t getting their due, and the usurpers, in their eyes, are women.
Though the communities themselves tend to be relatively small—even big ones have only about 100,000 members—their impact is felt across the web. They incubate predator trolls, they foment harassment campaigns, and, as the Toronto van attack proved, they can inspire real-world violence. Still, neither scientists nor platform policy makers know much about them—how they arrive at their beliefs or how they spread them. Even when they’re taken seriously as a threat, which can be difficult to do with a group that spends as much time spewing hate as discussing sex toys like the vajankle, they’re notoriously anonymous, potentially ironic, and largely uncountable. Misogyny online is more felt than understood.