Piers Morgan’s campaign for men is straight out of the MRA and incel playbooks

When these beliefs about feminism, men and women are normalised in mainstream entertainment, it legitimises toxic beliefs.

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Lads lads lads, watch out. I don’t know if you’ve heard the news, but feminists have “over-egged the souffle in [their] kitchens”, (that’s where women belong amirite?) and “decided to criminalise the word man”. This is according to Piers Morgan, anyway, who has launched a Good Morning Britain “campaign” for “men to seize back their country.”

Don’t worry, I’m already on to the editors to change the masthead of this website toute suite. You wouldn’t catch a feminist like me writing for a magazine called the “New Statesman”, after all.

Morgan’s latest blustering rant about how feminists have got “carried away” was prompted by Thandie Newton referring to God as “her” during the Emmys.

Enraged by this gender-flipping, Morgan said it’s time to flip “all this sexist nonsense on its head and go the other way” – inventing the terms “Father Nature”, “father tongue”, and “hu-woman”. The “world’s gone nuts”, apparently, and the “future of mankind depends on” this latest campaign.

And they say feminists are the humourless ones. This comic content is about as fresh as the time men guffawed about calling a leading Labour MP “Harriet Harperson”.

Of course, Morgan will dismiss all of these comments as a joke – a great prank to own the libs.

But there is a more serious side to this kind of rhetoric. Ideas about how men need to seize back their country, because feminism has got “carried away”, comes straight from the Men’s Rights Activists and incel playbooks.

First let me be clear: I am in no way saying that Morgan knows about, agrees with or believes in the kind of content shared by MRAs and incels. Instead, I want to explore how these jokes about sexism form the building blocks of a pernicious kind of online misogyny.

Put simply, Men’s Rights Activists believe that women have seized control – of culture, of politics, of family life – in an attack on their white male privilege. Their mission is to take control back, and protect men and boys from “gynocentrism” – ie the idea that women are in charge and oppressing men.

Much of the anger coming from MRAs is that feminism has gone too far – just as Morgan claims “you [feminists] got a little bit carried away”. They argue that the pendulum has swung the other way and it’s men who are now the victims of sexism. They believe that everything from law courts to the media favours women – and the world is worse off because of it. That women will come to realise this soon, is one of their repeated threats.  

On their forums, MRAs claim that “patriarchy is civilisation”, ergo an attack on the status quo of male privilege is an attack on civilised norms. Regarding how men are victimised under the “gynocracy”, commenters argue that complaints of sexual harassment are the “institutional abuse of men for money”. They believe that “feminism has been waging a huge war against men”, and argue that the success of feminism means men “become marginalised and disadvantaged in every aspect of life and this is exactly what has happened to any and all countries where feminism has become institutionalised.”

While Morgan says the future of mankind depends on ending this “sexist nonsense”, men’s rights activists are also keen on the idea that men’s survival depends on ridding the world of feminist thought. On their forums, they write how “gynocentric laws dissuade guys from participating in reproduction” – ie women asking for rights is putting men off wanting to have babies. Feminism, in short, is causing humanity to die out.

The belief that women have got carried away with their rights, and men are the real victims now, underpins much of MRA thinking. And this is when we go into the darkest corners of the men’s rights movements – the incels and the MGTOWs (which stands for men go their own way – men who choose not to have sex with, or even any contact with, women).

The idea that men need to seize control is perhaps most strong in these internet subcultures. Members believe that women have taken control of the “sexual marketplace” and men are disadvantaged as a result. Incels argue women “get such a big advantage due to their inflated sexual marketplace value”, that now “women are much better off than men”.

They even believe that women use accusations of sexual assault to seize and cement their control over men. In one thread, commenters discuss how women turn their “advantage” into claims of “harassment and sexual assault”, and accuse women of “exaggerat[ing] their abuse in order to get sweet sweet attention”. They write: ”all female abuse claims are made because [women] can gain status from it.”

Some in the incel movement advocate that men need to take back control from women in the most violent ways. They argue that there’s nothing wrong with rape, or that ISIS’s mass rape of “sex slaves” is a legitimate way to regain men’s dominance over women.

Of course, this is on the extreme end of those who believe that “men need to seize control” because feminism has got “carried away”. As I say, I am not for one second suggesting that Morgan believes in or agrees with the hateful rhetoric demonstrated above. I doubt he is even aware of what goes on in the dark corners of the man-o-sphere.

And I’m sure by even writing this article I’ll be mocked for rising to Morgan’s bait – the “snowflake” feminist who is “getting really offended by things which are not remotely offendable” – ie a joke campaign from Good Morning Britain.

But in those dark online corners, the idea that feminism has gone too far and women get offended by ridiculous things; the jokes that “you decided to criminalise the word man”, and the command for men to seize control, is mixed up with extreme misogyny and hate speech. These ideas are repeated, and built upon in online spaces where mostly young, mostly white men are radicalised to hate women and other oppressed groups. When these beliefs about feminism, men and women are normalised in mainstream entertainment, it legitimises the grievances of MRAs and incels, and their toxic beliefs.

You only have to spend five minutes on an incel forum to see how Piers’s joke really isn’t very funny.

Sian Norris is a writer and journalist. She is the Founder and Director of the Bristol Women's Literature Festival. She is currently the Ben Pimlott writer-in-residence at Birkbeck University's politics department.