Self-Declared Alpha Males Will Destroy Us All: The Dangerous Rise of Hypermasculinity in Social Media
The rise of hypermasculinity has taken over social media in the last years, with “alpha-male” podcasts and “mentors” like Andrew Tate propagating traditional (yet harmful) male traits to millions of susceptible listeners. Most of us come across their messages every once in a while, even if we don’t intend to, and, when this occurs, we may sigh with exasperation, shake our heads, and try to forget what we just read, going on with our day. But some headlines are harder to ignore than others, and perhaps reading that half of Gen Z believes that “feminism has gone too far” may be the last straw for many of us.
The news were recently published by the Sociological Research Centre of Spain (CIS). As it comes out, 44% of Spanish men believe that feminism has gone too far, to the point that “men are now being discriminated”, they claim. Although this might come as a surprise for many, the worst numbers are found among the youngest population: 52% of male-respondents between the ages of 16 and 29 agree with this statement. Ironically so, these convictions exist in the same country where 2023 saw the highest number of femicides in the last four years, the number rising to 110 victims; or, to give another example, the same country where women dedicate in average four daily hours more to domestic labor than men.
Sadly, Spain is not an exception, but rather just one more country where this phenomenon has been observed. The same ideas about feminism have become popular in the last decade in much of the world: a quick search in Google can lead us to dozens of articles and studies from different countries exposing the population’s negative thoughts. This may come as a shock to all of us who believed that we were more advanced than ever regarding gender equality and women’s rights: but progress is not linear, and these popular convictions and backlash against feminism are proof of it.
While it is not considered especially weird to experience or witness misogyny from older generations, who, after all, grew up in different social circumstances, it is certainly odd to see it happen among the people born in the 90s and beyond, considering the new millennium has brought forward a lot of social, cultural, and political advances. So, how did this happen? Many experts have pointed, indeed, to the rise of hypermasculinity and anti-feminism on social media. The myth of the alpha male, the popularization of masculinity podcasts and “mentors” like Andrew Tate have invaded the phones, and therefore the lives, of Gen Z. Back in the day, when they started to gain popularity, these platforms and messages used to be underestimated by many, being deemed as “too exaggerated” or “just for clout”. However, their audience has tremendously grown since then, and now, a preoccupying number of young boys and men are publicly declaring themselves “high value males” and confidently asking, “what do women bring to the table?”. The consequences of this alpha-male culture go beyond a new wave of hate and discrimination against women (which is already bad enough): the new generations, especially men, are starting to see romantic relationships as transactions, while, at the same time, very harsh and toxic standards are being imposed on them by their own community. This is an additional byproduct of hustle culture and the competitive individualism brought forward by neo-liberalism: an unhealthy obsession with success measured in terms of money, power, and (apparently) how much weight can one bench press.
Looking at the bigger picture, how can these developments affect transnational politics and the global community? Well, policy outcomes do not come from nowhere: many scholars have studied the close relationship between masculinity and politics, asserting that masculine identities founded on ideas of power, honor, and violence, affect mostly negatively and to a great extent how our world works. Moreover, the young people embracing this set of ideas may be “just” voters today (which can already have a quite detrimental impact on everything that feminism has worked for), but tomorrow they may be statesmen or CEOs, people in control of resources or holding the lives of millions in their hands; or they could be fathers and teachers, in charge of educating the next generations.
So, what can we do? Well, big actions and policy outcomes do not depend on most of us, but we are certainly capable of acting local, within our own community. This may start with calling out unacceptable behaviors (yes, even if they are our friends; in fact, especially if they are our friends). We shall also be weary of everything that we see on social media, try to raise awareness within our own circle, stop supporting platforms that encourage this kind of ideas, and, to those in charge of educating young kids or teenagers, be careful with the content they access online. As it has been stated before, progress is not linear, and this backlash against feminism may just be part of the greater process of achieving an equal and just society. This is why, above everything else, the last thing we shall do is lose hope.
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