The Arab Manosphere: a New Wave of Western Misogyny in the MENA Region

This article explores the manosphere and some of the recent trends taking place in it, namely the gender backlash that has arisen among men disillusioned with their current social and economic roles under neoliberalism.

“There’s a beautiful poem, I think it’s in Arabic. I don’t know who wrote it. He says something like: Stress is mine, peace is yours. Sadness is mine, happiness is yours. But you are mine. He’s writing to his woman and he’s saying: My life is not fun. My life is stress and pain and it’s hard and difficult. You have a great life. I give it to you, but I get you by extension and that’s why it’s worth it for me.” - Andrew Tate

It is almost impossible to be an avid internet user without bumping into Andrew Tate’s content. He is one of the many cishet men who have microphones, and who are constantly engaged in discussions and live streams about women, their bodies, their gender roles, and relationships within the “Manosphere”. In this article, I discuss this manosphere and some of the recent trends taking place in it, namely the gender backlash that has arisen among men disillusioned with their current social and economic roles under neoliberalism.

The Manosphere

The manosphere is a collection of blogs, channels, forums, content creators, influencers, and subcultures cultivated by men, for men, online. This content is diverse in both form and ideology. Some creators identify as “Involuntarily-Celibates” (INCELs) (as in, they are doomed to be alone and celibate due to their physical unattractiveness), some as oppressed single fathers, and others as gender-separatists (or men who want to go their own way, without women).

The most common ideology in this digital space is based on the metaphor of the “Red Pill”, a motif borrowed from the movie The Matrix. Subscribers to this ideology claim that the world they were raised to believe in is actually far from real. According to “redpillers”, men are not actually privileged, and there is no patriarchy. Instead, women control everything by using sex as a tool for manipulation to get what they want. Women have the real power. Adherents of this ideology claim that they have chosen to take the “Red Pill” to become fully awakened to this truth. Those who refuse to accept this truth are called “bluepillers”. They, like most of society, allow themselves to succumb to false consciousness, holding on to a false reality.

The manosphere operates on economic and emotional exploitation. The so-called “thought leaders” of these spaces, such as Andrew Tate, exploit men’s real anxieties about economic uncertainty and pander to their desire for easy access solutions. At a time of rising right-wing governments and factions - and amidst the adoption of extremely harsh neoliberal austerity policies all over the world - young men find themselves unable to fulfill their socially prescribed “masculine” roles, which require them to be successfully employed, self-reliant, and able to provide for a family. Instead of directing this frustration and anger towards the political root causes of economic injustice – such as exploitative policies - manosphere influencers scapegoat feminism for their failures, and promote individualistic ideas of success among redpillers.

The redpiller recipe for becoming a successful man has two steps: one must first separate himself from feminist, promiscuous and “masculine” women, and then he must focus on pursuing capitalist ambitions. The first step is easy to accomplish. There is no shortage of misogyny in the world, and it is easy for the thought leaders in the manosphere to steer readers to interpret rejection from potential romantic or sexual partners as part of a larger conspiracy against men. The second step is much more challenging, and for men, futile, because the anger directed toward women does nothing to deal with the barriers that stand in the way of economic success.

This second step, from my perspective, is also remarkably deceitful. Manosphere influencers, who earn their money through polarized, controversial content that generates engagement, are also selling courses on business development and economic success. Andrew Tate’s online course, Hustlers University, has around 240,000 students, and generates an estimated 5 million dollars on a monthly basis. He is telling young men that they can make money and become millionaires; meanwhile, most of his wealth is made from selling pipe dreams.

The Arab Manosphere and Male Podcast Culture

Feminism in the Arab and Arabic-speaking region is often portrayed as a Western import by anti-feminists, who ignore the indigenous roots of the decolonial feminist struggle in the region. Yet the intrusion of the manosphere into the Arab digital sphere is a clear example of Western misogyny being imported to the region. And it does so by adopting language, motifs, and arguments made to fit our local contexts. That is not to deny that there has long been misogyny and sexism in the Arab World, but rather to point out that the sexism of the manosphere is itself a form of intellectual colonization.

The West, according to Arab anti-feminists, was always a space of promiscuity, and its liberalism an intrusive cancer to the region. But ironically, it is the increasingly famous manosphere content creators from the West who have become idols and sources of inspiration for Arab anti-feminists. We are witnessing the birth of content creators imitating the language and mannerisms of Andrew Tate, and preaching about the pill of truth to access inner success, achieve masculinity, and subjugate the women in one’s life. Whether they call themselves redpillers or just host podcasts to discuss the disasters of feminism, they are selling a modern-flavored misogyny that appeals to the young, socially-reclusive and financially-unstable.

Manosphere podcasters peddle in Social Darwinism, determinist biology, and de-contextualized social psychology to serve their arguments in favor of  inequality and the subjugation of women. They pick and choose excerpts from philosophers and thinkers like Aristotle and Carl Jung to rationalize the misogyny upon which they rely for followers. Even the language they use is manipulative, like Adnan Maatouk’s interview on Finjan, in which he insists that there is a biological basis to the Islamic precept that men can marry four wives. However, when he mentions pre-Islamic practices of women marrying multiple men, he subordinates women behind as the object of the verb, giving the agency to the “four men who marry a woman”.

Just like their Western counterparts, many manosphere thought leaders make money off the financial anxieties of their listeners. The “Red Pill Arabic” streamer on YouTube, for example, encourages his viewers in every video to purchase coaching lessons with him in order to unlock their masculine potential, become leaders, and keep their women on track. In one video, he even taunts his potential clients by saying they should be manly enough to figure out a way to pay, whether by credit or bitcoin. If not, the YouTube streamer implies that he can’t carry forward with his heroic mission of making money on behalf of his clients. At the end of the day, the most manly thing one can do is make money – to be an alpha entrepreneur in a sea of beta employees.

Another form of gender inequality emerges in the wake of the Arab manosphere. With more “democratized” access to the internet, in a context in which there is no material gender equality, it is mostly men who feel free to perpetuate their ideas online, as they have much less to lose than women. This means that more content is made by men preaching misogyny, and less content is made by women fighting back.

The Family Unit under Neoliberalism

“ِA woman said to me: O people! Feminism has come between a mother and her children’s relationships. A mother might even say to her kids: “I gave you a lot. What am I getting in return?” Since when is the family unit built like this? We turned the family from a compassionate legal entity to a contract built on transactions between its members. The world is lost.” Dr Alaa Nassif on Murabba Podcast

The nuclear, heterosexual family, with its sexual division of labor is the safest net for survival when economic crises are at an all-time high. The Right Wing knows this, and so do the manosphere content creators. This is why they constantly invoke family nostalgia in their discourse. They always rise to the occasion by giving a packaged solution to all financial anxiety: want to attain your “masculine” role (read: financially stable provider)? Bring back the good old days. Bring back the family.

Thought-leaders of the manosphere become preachers of neoliberalism because, in the absence of welfare states and formal social protection systems, people have to fall back on their families for support. We witnessed this acutely in the first few years of the Covid-19 pandemic, and we continue to witness it in places where unemployment and poverty rates are increasing. The more privatized and costly essentials like healthcare, education, retirement, and elderly care become, the lesser the responsibility the state has towards its citizens.  This is where the role of the nostalgic nuclear family and its sexual division of labor comes into focus most clearly. Women are sent “back” to the kitchen, taking care of the welfare of the family through reproductive and sexual labor. Men, meanwhile, can fulfill their role of “providing”. An illusion of attaining the more affordable lifestyle of older generations is achieved. This stability is only restored by maintaining patriarchal norms and traditions, and fighting the “gender ideology” that is supposedly penetrating our societies.

Men in the manosphere are encouraged to blame their disenchantment with their economic conditions on the feminist gains of the last few decades. Unemployment is seen as a symptom of women’s inclusion in the labor market. Male loneliness is seen as a result of women having access to divorce, or choosing to marry late. Women’s access to contraception and abortion is seen as depriving men of the joys of fatherhood. Women’s standards for dating are getting higher as they have more access to financial security and independence. Men can’t even flirt or pursue women “naturally” anymore, because the #metoo movement criminalized men’s natural instincts. All of these little wins for women have caused immense losses for men. Men see themselves as the victims of gender mainstreaming, although this victimhood is devoid of any structural understanding of oppression.

Arab men relate to these sentiments of victimhood because they perceive certain changes in the region to be threatening to traditional norms and masculinity. These changes are quite small and slow. Certain representations of queer people on social media are exaggerated and perceived as a threat. Women entering the labor market are seen as competition, but their double exploitation is not acknowledged. Activist groups, civil society, and non-governmental organizations advocating or raising awareness on issues like child-marriage, domestic violence, and sexual and reproductive health are seen as intruders to a local culture. Although there is a very legitimate critique to foreign funding, anti-feminists do not ground their arguments in a decolonial perspective. Rather, it is an attempt at painting regressive, abusive behavior as a sacred cultural practice that is being destroyed by feminists. In the face of this destruction, men in the manosphere fight back to reclaim power, even if this power never left their hands.

Content creators of the Arab manosphere are part of a gender backlash that is sweeping the world, a backlash which we have to fight against as feminists. The economic anxieties embedded within this masculinist movement are worth examining and integrating into our understanding of modern forms of misogyny. We need to reclaim the crises from the Right Wing (and its thought-leaders, manosphere content creators, podcast bros, etc.), and frame it within an anti-capitalist, feminist, antiracist politics. Manhood, men’s roles, and anxieties about loneliness cannot be simply ridiculed and discarded as non-issues, not when they are impacting a generation whose main source of information about the world is everything online. This impact is not limited to engaging with misogyny online, but extends to young men’s interactions with the women in their lives, whether they’re family, friends, partners or strangers. For these violent digitally-mediated discourses, it only makes sense that we, as feminists, utilize digital tools to not only counter this wave, but to also produce our own content, research, and knowledge that challenges the easy, misogynist answers to these socioeconomic anxieties.

Sarah Kaddoura is a Palestinian feminist activist and researcher, passionate about social justice, video games and cyber cultures. She makes videos on everything feminism on her "Haki Nasawi" channel.

The views expressed in this article are not necessarily those of the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung.


Gender and Feminism Office

+961 1 202491
+961 1 338986

About us

Join our Newsletter