Bros v. Hos: Postfeminism, Anti-feminism and the Toxic Turn in Digital Gender Politics
In recent years, digital media have facilitated a revival of feminist ideas and campaigns, as well as a virulent and especially toxic new strand of anti-feminism. The new anti-feminism has been attributed to a number of factors, including the technological affordances of social media, the changing socio-cultural realities of men’s lives and the affective potency of a new “cultural politics of emotion” (Ahmed 2013). While acknowledging the validity of these explanations, this chapter argues that the role of postfeminism has been largely overlooked, both in the rise of men’s rights activists and in the shaping of digital gender politics more generally. I contend that the dominance of a postfeminist cultural sensibility in Western society for the past decade or more has functioned as a logical precursor to the emergence and shaping of toxic masculinity politics. This, in turn, has provoked feminist responses that, while often impressive and sometimes effective, are also potentially constrained by the mutually synergetic dynamics of individualism, neoliberal capitalism and the algorithmic politics of social media. In 2015, Rachel O’Neill asked, “Can the logic of postfeminism be mobilized by men to (re)secure male power and privilege?” This chapter responds to O’Neill’s question, using digital men’s rights to demonstrate how this is happening.
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