This, by Katie J.M. Baker in Lux magazine, is a good analysis of how an apparently benign website, Mumsnet, became a hotbed of anti-trans radicalism. Baker has previously reported on misogynist men online including incels and self-proclaimed Men’s Rights activists.
I think Baker is right in her judgement that women’s genuine anger and trauma – from abusive men, from a healthcare system that doesn’t care about them, from all the bullshit women endure in this deeply broken society – is weaponised by bad actors in exactly the same way the far right recruits angry young men.
The more I learned about Mumsnet, the more the forum reminded me of my past reporting on the ways men are radicalized by the toxic online “manosphere,” where pick-up artists (PUAs) and men’s rights activists (MRAs) recruit followers by exploiting real fears (such as economic anxiety) and blaming marginalized outgroups (women, people of color, Jews) for societal failures. As people get drawn into these communities, they become obsessed with a misguided sense of victimization and start to focus single-mindedly on their newfound worldview.
It seemed to me that was exactly what was happening on Mumsnet: some of these newly “gender critical” Mumsnetters were relatively privileged women who had never felt marginalized until they gave birth and came to feel isolated in their nuclear households and (rightfully!) outraged at the lack of support for mothers in the U.K. They turned to Mumsnet for solidarity, and somehow became fixated on trans women in the process. It was so textbook that Mumsnetters even had their own vernacular, just like MRAs who famously use being “red pilled” as slang for choosing to see the ugly truth.
…Mumsnet’s women’s rights forum didn’t just offer women a safe space to organize. By providing a platform that tolerated TERFism, it had also handed users a convenient scapegoat for all of their problems — not austerity, not misogyny, but the relatively tiny and extremely marginalized and oppressed trans population.