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The Red Pill movement: How vulnerability draws young men into misogynist extremism

By Josie Simon, November 27 2023—

The Red Pill (TRP) movement is a loosely connected network of men’s rights activists who adhere to antifeminist beliefs promoting male supremacy. In a new study published in the Journal of Gender Studies, Matteo Botto and Lucas Gottzén shed light on the pathways of young men into and out of the movement, as well as the role of vulnerability in their experiences.  

Botto and Gottzén analyzed 30 written narratives shared on a Reddit community of former Redpillers. Their findings emphasize the role of vulnerability in young men’s decision to join and leave the movement. Specifically, the study revealed that young men are initially drawn to TRP due to feelings of inadequacy related to society’s expectations of heterosexual masculinity and their perceived lack of sexual success.

Further, the anonymous and self-help nature of social media and the internet plays a vital role in promoting TRP ideology. By allowing members to express their views freely and reinforcing their beliefs, online platforms contribute to the movement’s growth. Notably, young men struggling to develop social connections in the real world are drawn to TRP’s self-help approach, seeking the community’s support and guidance. 

The study outlines a three-stage process that characterizes the pathway of young men into the TRP movement. Initially, they experience vulnerability, low self-esteem, and relationship issues. In the second stage, they are drawn to the manosphere and TRP ideology as a solution to their vulnerabilities. Finally, adherence to TRP ideology leads to a belief in male superiority and a sense of paranoia towards women.  

Adhering to TRP ideology creates a toxic cycle of vulnerability and paranoia that hinders young men’s ability to establish intimate relationships. The movement’s core tenet that women are manipulative and out to exploit men can lead to a sense of mistrust and paranoia that only reinforces the feeling of vulnerability. This can make it challenging for young men to build healthy relationships with women, perpetuating their sense of isolation and vulnerability. 

Leaving the TRP movement can be a difficult and isolating experience for young men who have developed a strong attachment to its ideology. Even after leaving, feelings of vulnerability can persist, leading some to continue to believe in the movement’s core tenets, such as traditional gender roles and a mistrust of women. 

Former so-called Redpillers undergo a process of deradicalization, which involves rejecting some or all of the movement’s ideology. Deradicalization can occur in various ways, such as exposure to alternative ideas and perspectives, experiencing personal growth, or leaving online communities altogether. 

Despite the challenges of leaving TRP,  the deradicalization process can promote personal growth and a sense of empowerment. Many former Redpillers spoke about feeling a sense of relief and liberation upon realizing the harmful nature of the movement’s ideology. They also gained a better understanding of the underlying social and psychological dynamics that contributed to their attraction to TRP in the first place. 

TRP and similar movements are symptoms of deep-rooted societal issues related to toxic masculinity and the need for young men to feel validated and accepted. By having honest discussions about masculinity, we can demystify societal expectations and empower young men to embrace vulnerabilities, build healthier relationships, and break the cycle of isolation that leads to harmful ideologies.

This article is a part of our Opinions section and does not necessarily reflect the views of the Gauntlet editorial board.

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