Inside the Subreddit /r/RedPillWomen, the Community for Female Men's Rights Activists
"We don't not stand for women," Rachel*, 32, told Mic. "We stand for reclaiming the femininity in culture that has been lost." Over the phone, Rachel's voice sounded sharp with aggression. It sounded as if she had defended this position many times before.
Rachel is a Red Pill Woman, or a member of the /r/RedPillWomen subreddit, the female version of the highly active men's rights subreddit /r/TheRedPill. A Red Pill Woman is a woman who rejects the feminist movement and attempts to reclaim her femininity by teaching other women to be submissive to men and actively fight mainstream ideas of gender equality.
"Feminism has permeated mainstream society to the point where myths of equality, empowerment and entitlement shape even the self-improvement resources available to women. Rarely are women encouraged to embrace their nature," the 101 information page on /r/RedPillWomen, reads.
Olivia* is a 36-year-old lawyer and mother of four who was raised a religious Baptist and currently lives in South Dakota. An active member of /r/RedPillWomen, she believes that women's rights have gone too far in this country.
"Men are the dominant sex. They're the ones who are strong enough to go into battle and protect this country, they're the ones who are making the most money. We need them," she told Mic. "So it pisses me off when we have this huge movement to emasculate them. Women have so much. We need to let men have their place in society too."
Although it might sound odd that women like Olivia and Rachel would join the fray of men's rights activists, a group that continuously rails against the rights of women, the idea of a female men's rights activist is not necessarily new. Women who support's the men's rights movement have also been called Honey Badgers, according to an in-depth Marie Claire profile of the group from Oct. 2015.
"The idea that the movement is comprised of a lot of angry white men who can't get laid is just simply not true," Janet Bloomfield, a 36-year-old woman known as one of the prominent faces of the Honey Badger movement, told Marie Claire. Bloomfield estimates that approximately 10 to 15% of the readers of her men's rights blog are female.
On /r/RedPillWomen, which has almost 13,000 subscribers, such women have a safe space to share their views about feminism, which they almost uniformly believe has been a radical failure. Mainstream feminism, one poster writes, is "the Munchhausen by proxy of ideologies... Mainstream feminism sets out looking for illness, makes it up or creates it when it fails to find it and presents itself as the cure to these ailments."
Yet the forum also invites women to come together to discuss everything from recipes, to cleaning tips, to how they should make friends with men without upsetting their husbands.
Caroline* is a 45-year-old mother of three who has been an active member of the subreddit for more than a year. She says the forum is a way for women "to come together and recapture the beauty of being a woman."
The most important part about being a woman, Caroline said, is simply "knowing how each gender is created differently, that is all. I wouldn't expect a man to constantly be the homemaker when I'm better suited for it. Just like I would hope he wouldn't expect me to do all the manual labor when it comes to fixing things. It is about playing to your strengths."
It's important to note that Red Pill Women — and female men's rights activists in general — don't necessarily believe that women are inferior to men. Instead, they say they just believe that women and men play different roles. Rachel told Mic that this staunch belief stemmed from her religious upbringing.
"I was raised in a very staunchly Catholic family. I was raised with the ideology that a wife was her husband's dutiful servant, and that the man always came first," Rachel said. "It is how my parents did it, how theirs did it, and it is how I'm doing it."
Similarly, Caroline told Mic she was raised a religious Protestant, which informed the gender dynamics of her parents. But after her first divorce, she said, she married a man who didn't give much thought to religion at all. For her, the idea of being anti-feminist has less to do with being religious and more to do with the sense of comfort it gives her.
"We have people telling other women how to be a good feminist and a bad feminist all the time," she told Mic. "I expect men to make more than women because men are supposed to be the providers. It is how it has always been and always will be."
And while feminists around the world might roll their eyes at Caroline's statements, she also claims that the forum has given her a strong support system.
"I have made some really good friends through that forum. We have great discussions about our roles as mothers, wives, housekeepers. It keeps me from feeling lonely," Caroline said.
That loneliness, Caroline told Mic, stems from the media, which she says is constantly trying to promote pro-feminist messages. "I sometimes wonder where the rest of the country's mind went. I'm here just trying to be the best mother and wife I can be," she told Mic. "That is what makes me happy. But every time I turn on the TV I have Taylor Swift or someone telling me I hate women."
Of course, even if MRAs don't actively hate women, statistics show that their argument that women have more power than men in this country is inherently deeply flawed. In 2013, for instance, Latina and Hispanic women were paid only 54% of what white men were paid, a discrepancy that's representative of the lingering wage gap between men and women.
The pay gap is a massive problem, but it only scratches the surface in terms of the general issue of systemic inequality. Consider, for instance, the issue of sexual assault: more than 60% of sexual assault cases go unreported, and the vast majority of sexual assault survivors are women.
These statistics notwithstanding, MRAs continue to believe that women receive unfair advantages in society, while men receive the short end of the stick. They consider false rape accusations in particular an enormous issue in the community, and in /r/redpillwomen there is a lot of discussion about rape laws, particularly how we should define "sexual activity" and what constitutes rape.
When I asked Olivia how she felt about sexual assault, she said while the discussion over what constitutes assault is "tricky," she believes that the onus is largely on women to protect themselves from sexual assault.
"I stand my ground when it comes to women protecting their own bodies. If they don't want to be leered at, they need to cover themselves up," she said. "And don't get me started on spousal rape..."
The reality is that women like Olivia, Rachel and Caroline come together on /r/redpillwomen because they're seeking out a community for their beliefs, especially because their beliefs are not currently accepted by the masses. For Caroline, her anti-feminism stems more from ideas about what makes someone a good wife and mother. For Olivia, it's about trying to reclaim a world that existed when women were more subordinate to men. And for Rachel, it's a matter of allowing men to be men, maintaining the status quo and not forcing a sense of equality that she claims will never happen.
"Men and women can just do different things," Rachel told Mic. "People need to let men be in charge because they've been doing it for hundreds of years!"
In fact, when Mic asked all three women if they felt they were working against women's better interests, they responding with a resounding, "no."
"I live my life the way I want it. It works for me," Rachel told Mic. "For women out there fighting for better wages, that is your own fight. I respect men too much to actively work against them."
*First names have been changed to allow subjects to speak freely on private matters.