Women Battle Online Anti-Women Hate From the 'Manosphere'

Men are using the Internet to vent their rage against women.

ByABC News
October 15, 2013, 3:25 PM

Oct. 16, 2013— -- Deep in the underbelly of the Internet is a hidden corner known as the "Manosphere"— a collection of websites, Facebook pages and chat rooms where men vent their rage and spew anti-women rhetoric.

Protected by the anonymity of the Internet, men feel free to post hateful and violent comments. Posts such as "I really wouldn't mind shooting a [expletive] dead in the face, they are evil, all of them," and "Women are the natural enemies of men" are commonplace on sites like "A Voice for Men," a Manosphere blog run by Paul Elam.

Elam told ABC News' "20/20" that while he may not agree with some of the comments that are made on his site, he believes men are society's victims and need a forum to vent.

"There has been a change in the world, especially in the last 50 years. Women's roles have changed drastically," he told "20/20." "What a lot of us in this area find is that men's roles have not changed very much. Many find now that they have to react."

Elam explained that men leave these comments in the Manosphere to get people to listen.

"It's ... very much designed to get someone like you to sit down and ask me questions," he told 20/20's Elizabeth Vargas. "We are addressing a group of problems that this society ignores."

Elam said institutions like marriage and corrupt family courts have become dangerous for men.

"Marriage has become unsafe ground for men, because we have corrupt family courts that practice bias against men and fathers routinely," he told 20/20. "And men are waking up to this, that they don't get a fair deal."

While Elam told "20/20" that his site does not promote violence or hate toward women, some of his writing appears otherwise. In a post on his website, Elam wrote that women on welfare are "little more than thinly disguised layabouts."

Elam claimed it's not anger but satire and social commentary. "What I do is reflect and study what the attitude is in the culture," he told "20/20." "I am not creating the problem, I am documenting some of it."

But experts like Mark Potok, from the Southern Poverty Law Center, believe this rhetoric is problematic. "The Manosphere is an underworld of so-called men's rights groups and individuals on the Internet, which is just fraught with really hard-line anti-woman misogyny," Potok told "20/20."

And when a woman is on the receiving end of this misogyny, the Manosphere is unflinching in its attacks.

"Women who are targeted by these sites get a tidal wave of hate mail with rape threats and death threats," Jaclyn Friedman, founder of Women, Action & the Media, told "20/20."

Anita Sarkeesian, a media critic and blogger, learned this the hard way after campaigning on Kickstarter to raise funds for a web series on the roles of women in video games. The attacks from the Manosphere were swift.

"It was ... thousands of people coming after me," Sarkeesian told "20/20." "Threats of rape, threats of death, threats of violence," she said.

"They would Photoshop and manipulate pornographic images and put my face on them," Sarkeesian said. Her fellow gamers even designed a special video game about her named "Beat the [expletive] Up."

"Players were invited to click on the screen, and an image of me would become increasingly battered and bruised," Sarkeesian said.

Friedman was also the subject of a cyber attack after campaigning on Facebook to remove photos and groups that promoted hate speech toward women.

Editor's Note: ABC News wants to clarify that the two passages quoted in the second paragraph of this story, which were originally part of a comment posted several years ago by a user on the “A Voice for Men” website, were removed by Mr. Elam shortly after they were posted and that he posted a warning to contributors that such comments “would not be tolerated” on the website. Mr. Elam, who contacted ABC News to point this out, also said in his message that “as our five year online history reflects, such comments are exceptionally rare, but when they do occur they are treated with zero tolerance.” The editorial and comment policy of the website states that “A Voice for Men” is “anti-violent” and that it “supports only peaceful change on all levels of human interaction; social, political and otherwise.”