Why Are Members Of The Alt-Right Sending Me Pictures Of Empty Egg Boxes?

A few weeks ago, I wrote an article about so-called 'men's rights' activism feeding into the far right following actor Laurence Fox’s comments about not dating politically engaged women.
Afterwards, notifications flashed up on my phone thick and fast. DMs and replies on Twitter, comments and message requests on Instagram, emails. Many of them contained insults: My eyes are apparently "too far apart" for me to be shaggable, my vagina is "probably like a woodcutter" anyway and nobody wants to be in a relationship with me so I’m just a "bitter feminazi".
But beyond the senseless bile, there was a recurring theme: my fertility. 
Of all the messages I was sent by this group of complete strangers, these were the ones that stood out. Some of them were simple, effective and visual, containing no more than a photograph of an empty egg carton. 
Others laboured their point: 
"At age 31, #Victoria_Spratt only has 12% of her eggs left and only 50% of those are considered 'viable and healthy'. Like most feminists, she wasted her youth, beauty, and fertility on the cock carousel, with silly college degrees and establishing her dumb 'career'." 

It seems that any woman who dares to raise her head above the parapet and do something other than have children in a public sphere has, whether she realises it or not, made her womb other people's property. 

Now, I’m not sure where the 'cock carousel' is but I’d love to know if anyone’s seen it. For all the male tweeter in question knows, I’m married with three kids; I’ve just chosen not to put them on Instagram because I value my privacy. In any case, why does he care so much? Why does the idea that I – someone he has never and will likely never meet – might be childless at 31 provoke such vitriol in him and the hundreds of others like him in my mentions?
The enmity isn’t reserved only for me. It seems that any woman who dares to raise her head above the parapet and do something other than have children in a public sphere has, whether she realises it or not, made her womb other people’s property. 
In December last year, Stefan Molyneux, who is a leading figure of the alt-right as a result of his far-right and white nationalist views, went viral after tweeting something similar about Taylor Swift. He wrote:
"I can’t believe Taylor Swift is about to turn 30 – she still looks so young!
It’s strange to think that 90% of her eggs are already gone – 97% by the time she turns 40 – so I hope she thinks about having kids before it’s too late!
She’d be a fun mom. :)" 
It’s true that women’s fertility declines with age but the statistics used here, as in the tweet directed at my ovaries, are cod science. Like so much fake news, they are designed to sound authoritative, to scare and to mislead. 
Tempting as it is to dismiss these men and the retrograde comments they make while hiding behind their phone and laptop screens, we must pay attention. In fact, I’d argue, we ought to take them more seriously. Across the internet in a misogynist community often referred to as the 'manosphere' there is a 'men's rights' movement which is not only anti-women but openly racist and xenophobic. We’ve got pick-up artists (PUAs) who want to manipulate women into having sex with them, the MGTOW (Men Go Their Own Way) anti-marriage set who advocate that men stop caring about women altogether despite posting about us 24/7, and the vindictive 'incel' (involuntary celibacy) movement who take out their frustrations on women. 
These groups are distinct and distinctively different but they form a network which seeks to reclaim male power in a world where, as they see it, men are being short-changed and overlooked. What unites them is a hostility towards feminism, liberal thinking and the reshaping of gender roles. You’ll find them invoking familiar feminist phrases like "my body, my choice" or "Me Too" to claim that they are the ones on the sharp end of gendered injustice. 
One of the core ideas they all share is that women – specifically white women – need to have more children. These men measure women by two metrics: how sexually attractive we are and how capable we are of bearing children. 

None of this is really about sex at all. It's about power. These men aren't looking for women to have sex with or start a family with – they're chasing a nostalgic and patriarchal form of male supremacy.

Of course, none of this is really about sex at all. It’s about power. These men aren’t looking for women to have sex with, to share a life or start a family with; they’re chasing a nostalgic and patriarchal form of male supremacy. They long for the halcyon days of male dominance in the boardroom and the bedroom. 
Sex, for those who post within the manosphere, is not something that two equals partake in for pleasure but a way of colonising women’s bodies, of invading and asserting their dominance. By extension, motherhood is not something men and women enter into together but, rather, a way of taking a woman out of action, of removing her from the battlefield, of neutralising her. 
As the charity Hope Not Hate has warned, anti-feminist ideas like these are feeding and fuelling the far right. 
Too often, we diminish the significance of things which happen online. We do this as though the internet isn’t real. As though what takes place in cyberspace is, somehow, not perpetuated by actual humans physically sitting somewhere and typing with their fingertips. We belittle the pain caused by ghosting in online dating and we denigrate the severity of a rape threat made to a woman MP on Twitter. But in truth, these are human behaviours and because we spend so much time on the internet, what takes place there is as real as any other interaction we have in our day-to-day lives. 
In her new book Going Dark: The Secret Social Lives Of Extremists, Julia Ebner unpicks how extremist far-right groups are using technology to spread their ideologies. She looks at how radicalisation and recruitment take place online and her writing serves as a warning: The threat of the far right and its ability to destabilise our democracy is severely underestimated. 
You don’t have to do any particularly magical thinking to see how this is manifesting offline. Sex and power go hand in hand. Extreme right-wing referrals to the British government’s deradicalisation scheme Prevent jumped by 36% in 2017/18. In politics, populism is on the rise and there has been a lurch to the right globally. The Labour party just suffered its worst election defeat in Britain since 1935. And a few weeks ago, it emerged that Number 10 had hired Andrew Sabisky – someone who espouses abhorrent alt-right views about race and intelligence which would once have been confined to shady corners of the internet – as a special advisor.
Elsewhere, right-wing politicians like Viktor Orbán in Hungary, Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Turkey, Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil and Donald Trump in the US are winning power and espousing ideas which police women’s fertility – whether that’s pronatalist policies which incentivise childbearing or attempts to restrict abortion. This is not a hypothetical threat. 
Like those who inhabit men’s rights threads and forums, most far-right politicians take a traditional view of gender which sees women above all as mothers. This is often dressed up as benevolence: Women are silly, weak and vulnerable so they need strong, smart men to look out for them and stop them 'wasting' their youth, beauty and eggs on fripperies such as a career or a university education.
If you were born in the '80s or '90s, you’ve been able to ride the wave of fourth wave feminism, which has focused – sometimes to its own detriment – on the empowerment of women as individuals and not as a collective. We grew up being told that we could be whatever we wanted to be, we were encouraged to prioritise an education. It was never a question – as it had been for our mothers and grandmothers – that we would see a career, not a wedding certificate, as aspiration. 

In her new book Going Dark: The Secret Social Lives Of Extremists, Julia Ebner reveals how extremist far-right groups are using technology to spread their ideologies.

Feminism (at its best) has facilitated the awakening of generations of women. What it means to be a woman has been thrown back into the fire and forcibly reformed. More of us than ever have entered workplaces around the world, gaining the economic and cultural power that has long belonged to men as we go. All of this has allowed many (though not all) of us to make choices: about what we want to do, what sort of people we want to be and who we would like to have as our partners. 
At the same time, instead of redefining what it means to be a man in relation to all of this, some men have developed ideas about women’s evolving position in the world which are retrograde, angry and sometimes violent. 
In 2018, Alek Minassian was arrested after driving a van onto a Toronto sidewalk and killing 10 people. Afterwards, he said he drew the inspiration to use violence as retribution for "being unable to get laid" from the incel community online.
Since the abuse started pouring into my world via my social channels, I have been reading messages. I have spent time on MGTOW message boards. I have tried to understand what makes these people so angry. 
One man – let’s call him Jim – slid into my DMs to tell me that he was "raped" [financially not physically] in his divorce, that he now thinks we (women) have it all and that we have become crueler as a result. But the more I read, the more I realised that it is men and not women who are constrained by conventional ideas of masculinity. 
"Feminism," Jim wrote to me, "many in my community believe, has gone way past equality and is now a supremacy."
"Men genuinely believe a war has been started against them here in the west by our own people," he added. 
But wasn't it men who said that a man’s worth is defined by how attractive the woman he can acquire to stand beside and have sex with him is, not women, not feminists? Wasn't it men who said that we must turn all of human existence into a free market of sexual economics in which our value is defined by our ability to exert sexual power over others, not women, not feminists?
If anything, as time goes by, it is women, it is feminists, who are trying to redistribute that wealth – to open up conversations about different sexualities, genders and ways of being together, not close them down. 
Only yesterday did the UN Development Programme publish its first gender social norm index, finding that nine in 10 people globally are biased against women. This provides confirmation, as if it were needed, that we still live in a male-dominated world with pervasive anti-women prejudices.
The more visible feminism becomes – not just in hashtags or on T-shirts but through the shifting roles, behaviour and expectations of women around the world – the more the backlash against it intensifies. As ever, what women do or do not do with their wombs remains its focal point. Yet for all the chatter about a 'feminist supremacy' in which men have been sidelined, it strikes me that women's key role is, somehow, still trying to talk, to understand, to bridge the gap and to create a fairer society – not just for ourselves but for everyone. 

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