MRAs are Everywhere: Bigotry and Hate Exposed on ExperienceProject

By Daniela Meza

I became a member of the close to two months ago and joined the “I am a feminist” group within it. The Experience Project (EP) is a social networking site intended for people to virtually meet, chat, and share stories with other people that have had one common experience. The groups can range from educational interests, to film and TV shows, and sometimes, even serious experiences like eating disorder recovery or breast cancer survivors. EP professes to be a “community where you can truly be yourself, share the things that matter to you, and connect with other passionate people that really understand you,” a statement which I found to be in line with most feminist thought and politics.

I was interested in finding out whether or not EP, and more specifically the “I am a feminist” group, a space that was designated as a feminist space, upheld the principles of feminism and how feminism functioned as something you experience rather than only a political statement. My actual experience did not in any way resemble what I expected to find.

As I read through posts, stories, and comments by members I came across a lot of the expected topics: job/wage equality, rape culture, domestic abuse, etc. I did find one thing interesting about the topics and it was how race came to play within the group. The only times race came into the conversation was in reference to Middle Eastern culture and predominantly Muslim countries and these conversations often dealt with conflicts over what feminism meant to difference cultures. The story on the hijab as an empowerment to women in the Middle East specifically stimulated heated discussion.

And then I came across the infamous knightrunner on EP, a self proclaimed MRA (Men’s Rights Advocate) who continuously posts comments filled with misogynistic, antifeminist rhetoric and outright false information, often citing incorrect high percentages of false rape accusations and women’s domestic abuse of men. This member has gotten other people of his MRA group to also join the feminist group and they also participate in feminist hating on the site.
When I asked him what he was trying to accomplish, he said, “Fifty years feminist have been speaking without opposition. No one has ever questioned anything feminism has ever done or said. This has lead to a situation where feminist feel like they are entitled to say and do anything they want. Society assumes that they must be correct in what ever they say and do because no one speaks against them.
MRAs are here to change that.”

Frankly, I’d really like to know what world he’s living in if he says feminism has had no opposition for fifty years because I’d really like to live there, too.

The other members of the site initially try to combat and argue his false data and generalizations about man-hating feminists but often become exhausted and frustrated with their denial of anything they argue. Most of the time members like ladyblue848 say, “please don’t let the MRA, anti-feminist trolls get you down.  If they start climbing all over everything you write and attacking you just flag them and then block them,” as she once told me. However, this has just created a community of self-identified feminists who are either too afraid of sharing their own stories for fear of the MRA hate or are too exhausted from defending themselves to keep trying.

Sadly, EP does not offer a solution to the problem. The groups cannot filter out/block disruptive members. A member WeaknessIsOurStrength said it best, “EP is a moderated site that you can more or less not expect an empathetic response from. Here works, but EP is moderated but UNFORNUATELY speakiing The moderation staff is slow to the draw and relucant to take extreme measures against anyone. Very conservative because they want people to have a free speech space” (sic). It seems that EP moderators are not willing to get threatened with a possible free speech lawsuit from its more conservative and argumentative members and therefore do not take any serious action.

Unfortunately for the “I am a feminist” group, this means that members will continue to get attacked with ignorant and false information from members like knighrunner who are actively seeking to destroy feminist community. According to him, “MRAs are everywhere. We have infiltrated every feminist group on the net. We monitor all feminist activity. We make sure that all feminist bigotry and hate is recorded and exposed. From now on there shall be no “feminist safe space” ever.” And despite how wrong he is, it is unfortunately true about EP.

7 Comments on “MRAs are Everywhere: Bigotry and Hate Exposed on ExperienceProject”

  1. The MRA is really really disturbing to me. I’ve never come across it, or anyone who has referenced distinctly anti-feminist/pro-masculine communities. At the same time, I don’t spend a lot of time in forums. When he said that the MRA has infiltrated every feminist group, I got really paranoid, even though it’s probably not true. His tactic of intimidation actually worked to make me question the spaces that I do spend time in online.

  2. I’m truly saddened to read about the unfortunate and pervasive ignorance you experienced while exploring your site. It brings up yet another exploitation of ‘free speech’ and it’s sad that this ammendment is being used for subjugation rather than unification. I’m also curious as to why more participants in the feminist group didn’t stand up to knightrunner. Maybe they thought it was a futile effort which is, again, a testament to how unsafe this space is. One question I have pertains to the use of the phrase ‘rape culture.’ I hear the term thrown around here and there but I was wondering if I could get a definition. Thanks Daniela!

  3. As I have been talking to my friends about what we do in the class, your experience on your online space has been one my favorite to share. People think I am exaggerating when I say a group of mens rights activists troll the internet harassing people engaging in feminist discussion with their ridiculous ideology and lies, but clearly, it is a very real issue. It is sad to hear that this leads to a feminist community that is either afraid to speak up or tired of defending themselves, which shouldn’t be the case in a space created for people to productively engage with others who also identify as feminists about feminist issues. Although I see that censorship is a slippery slope, but the internet needs to divise a system to actively identify and remove people who are essentially online community terrorists.

  4. I find it appalling that men can actually believe they are being oppressed by feminists in anyway. I’ve read numerous internet accounts of MRA’s but in other communities, you can filter out the unwanted voices. Its so sad that you have no control over that on EP. How do you create a safe space for yourself then?

  5. It’s interesting to see how members of the “I am a feminist” community join and automatically assume that this is going to be THEIR safe space to share whatever feminist thoughts they would desire. It seems to me like seeing the word, “feminist,” on the title automatically puts their guards down and ultimately has them participate and perpetuate these non-feminist thoughts that are already taking place on the site simply because the words “feminist” exist in this space. It is not until they have direct attacks that many of these participants can begin to recognize that the site is in fact a non-feminist/racist space. As with Cosmopolitan, many women don’t see the subtle non-feminist content that exist within the site because there is no one in the space to directly attack them as feminist. It is not until you get to the forums and begin the discussion that you begin to see more direct attacks and the truths of the non-feminist content.

  6. My favorite line in your piece is your idea that “feminism is something you experience rather than only a political statement.” That is a wonderful rubric, and one that allows us to understand, efficiently, that this place can not be feminist, even though feminists come there. Structures of conversation and interaction are part of this puzzle to be sure.

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