It has often been reported by internet observers that Tumblr is the starting point for many of the left-wing trends that have taken over academic and administrative institutions (obligatory Default Friend link, but you should also check out Angela Nagle’s Kill All Normies). Likewise, those with an interest in the ROGD social contagion have pointed to TikTok, Twitter, and Tumblr as important vectors in the spread of this disorder and other severe mental ailments. Though it’s been touched upon by some (notably Helena @lacroicsz of Prude Posting), there has yet to be any in-depth look at its relationship to feminism, other than by feminists attempting to obscure its direct connection.
It targets women, it’s made by and for the experiences of young women and girls, but it does work on both sexes, unlike the 4chan analogue which specifically targets men. I confess, however, that I am too much of a soyboy to have been on 4chan for very long. I dabbled here and there, but ultimately, my friends (and especially my high school girlfriend) were on Tumblr so that simply didn’t last. I strongly encourage anyone with experience in the trans ideological fabulations on 4chan or Reddit to write that piece, I think it would be indispensable given how many male transgender Gen Z/Zillennial right-wingers there are, along with their many ideologically compatible “trad” tranny chasers.
For those of you too old or too male to have been a teenager on Tumblr in the early 2010s, consider this a crash course. The simplest way I can put it is, it’s Twitter without the legitimacy as an institution/tool for the legacy corporate media, and with virtually no character limit. It is a microblogging platform; individuals would start their own blogs and follow other blogs that would be organized into a chronological feed. Primarily, you would just like and reblog other people’s content, sort of like Pinterest only completely deranged (if this is not how Pinterest works, I’m sorry, I’m not a woman).
With those simple mechanics, there was a budding ecosystem of thought-policing and crybullying, predominantly managed by other teenagers. There was no moderation whatsoever, in part because there was never much of a budget for it, and in part because that was its allure. Tumblr had been bleeding cash since its inception since it didn’t really have a way to monetize its platform until fairly late in the game, well in the midst of its first major decline. The only thing it really had was user data but couldn’t figure out how to sell space to suitable advertisers. When they eventually did, it was a meme in and of itself; bottom-shelf clickbait that was often hard to differentiate from the high strangeness of the site’s user-generated content. Many of them were dead links or would just send you to the front page of Google or Amazon or Alibaba regardless of what the advertisement was actually for.
Virtually every major distortion, reinterpretation, or redux of postmodern philosophy that has come to define wokeness originated on Tumblr. Anything and everything that you perceive today as left-wing insanity was at some point a seedling in some grad student’s NSFW fanart blog. This is not an exaggeration. Think of any batshit thing you’ve seen on someone’s internet profile recently, and I guarantee that it can be traced back to Tumblr. Everything you’ve read or heard from NPR in the last 3 or so years? It was on Tumblr before it went wide. Fortunately, wokeness is still generally unpopular; unfortunately, it’s endemic in every white-collar position around the country, so what it lacks in popularity it makes up for in political power. Of course, this messiness didn’t come from nowhere. The ideological production of the university had long been workshopping some of these concepts within its own demented halls. But on Tumblr, it reached the masses, and exposed an entire generation of college-bound middle-class teenagers too young and too online to deeply malevolent ideological distortions, infohazards, and methods of discipline that led them to obsessively follow the extremes of every interaction, every line of thought they came across, and to do so not through any careful thought, reasoning, or analysis, but strictly with their feelings first.
Tumblr was a wild west for a long, long time. Furries and witches and communists and LARPers and DIY surgeons and all the rest. A lot of weirdos with a lot of weird niche interests. I remember one time there was a kerfuffle over a teenage witch in New Orleans who, after a summer of intense flooding, stole bones that had washed up in a local graveyard to use in ritual. I’ve seen people claim to actually be fictional characters; not just running a roleplay blog, but actually believing themselves to be a skeleton or a dragon or Sherlock Holmes, who would react with rage and malice if anyone else claimed the same title (and many did). One girl thought Hitler shared a body with her. Yes, that Hitler. She shared all manner of Nazi slogans and aesthetics, but claimed it wasn’t because she herself admired the Nazis, or Hitler, but because Hitler was the one predominantly running her blog. Or something like that, I dunno, I forget a lot about that whole saga. A lot of these accounts very well could have been fake, but there were just as many of them that were deadly serious, which begs the question: Does it even matter if these are fake if they constitute a certain demographic’s entire social reality?
I remember countless instances of drama over personal beefs that became social justice touchstones, people accusing each other of heinously violent acts, who had never actually met in person. I remember teenagers accusing each other of pedophilia because they had dated each other, and likewise, many actual pedophiles insisting that even if they were pedophiles, there was nothing wrong with it anyway. I’ve seen pride flags that were created as a riff on the ever-growing number of LGBT identities be adopted unironically, and deeply held by those who then themed their blogs around them. Some of them were pride flags for actual mental illness. I’ve seen people of all ages claim that extreme BDSM was a necessary and healthy part of anyone’s sexual appetite, that it could literally save failing relationships, and that if you weren’t at least willing to try, say, carving your name into your lover’s thigh with a switchblade if asked, you were a self-centered narcissist for refusing that simple request. It was an unhinged place, and almost all of these situations had justifications in queer theory, or feminism, or antiracism, or trans rights.
Oh, and porn. A lot of porn. You almost had to go out of your way to avoid it. Any random artist you came across almost certainly also drew smutty versions of the same characters. Some blogs were dedicated to finding the strangest pairings possible, as a joke, and sexualizing the hell out of them. Some of the art I remember seeing was, in hindsight, definitely porn, but a normal person wouldn’t have been able to register it as such. A pregnant Sonic the Hedgehog getting kissed passionately on the lips by Shrek, Mr. Clean getting shrunken into a bowl of cereal and eaten by a furry domme the size of a room, children’s cartoon characters being force-fed until they exploded but with faces that express a bashful sexual ecstasy. These are just the images; many millions of words of fanfiction has been written to the same effect, with the cuddling and romanticism providing little more than cheap perfume on lurid and disturbing fantasies that would be a bit much even for adults to handle, let alone children who are still developing. All of this is, of course, the extreme and logical conclusion of a site on which early camgirls, NSFW gif curators, and comparatively normal bot-managed fetish blogs proliferated wildly. The people writing and drawing and documenting these horrible things for a wide, unrestricted, unmoderated audience were themselves fairly young and mostly women, but had already spent the better part of a decade staring at the normie shit without a real sex life to speak of (outside of being abused) and were now getting freaky with it, not unlike the guy in the coomer meme.
The social justice portions and the pornographic elements cannot be separated here. The sexual politics of the site and the sexual perversions of its communities are one and the same, in much the same way that Michel Foucault’s defense of pederasty came from his own predilection for underage Algerian boys. The same is true of Sartre and de Beauvoir, whose entire philosophies rested on critiquing and dismantling all existing social taboos to sate their own carnal pleasures and institutional interests, building directly atop of Marcuse’s cultural theoretical subversion of Marxism. It is important to note that even for those post-structuralist philosophers of the time who weren’t shameless pedophiles, they shamelessly advocated for pedophilia using the same reasoning as their colleagues. The 1968 student revolts in Paris, which formed its ideology around these thinkers and other libertarian Marxists (these students’ professors essentially), carried slogans such as “It is forbidden to forbid,” “Enjoy without hindrance,” and “Marx, Mao, and Marcuse.”
My own communist radicalization began when I became enamored with the aesthetics of the Situationist International, a French left-wing group prominent during the Paris riots of 1968. I obsessively consumed whatever literature I could from Guy Debord, Theodor Adorno, and (of course) Herbert Marcuse, some of the fathers of the movement. And where, pray tell, did I first see the silk-screened posters, the chalk-graffiti slogans, the romantic depictions of riots, and the avant-garde postmodern collages of literal, actual trash passing themselves off as great works of anticapitalist art and propaganda rolled into one? Well, I’ll give you three guesses. I know others who fell down similar political rabbit-holes, but through North Korean aesthetics, Nazi aesthetics, USSR aesthetics (I was eventually this person too), and practically any other ideological movement, no matter how fringe or how historically insignificant, based almost entirely around how slick they look in high-res on a competently designed HTML site. Even today, the propaganda of the past, designed for a time that has long since passed, has a hold on people with too much time on their hands. Having been very sheltered throughout my life, both in New York and New England, the libertinism of the Old New Left and the rising prominence of the New New Left (really the same thing) in the form of Occupy Wall Street and Black Lives Matter was exciting for someone so bored, naïve, and angsty.
The same was true for those proclaiming their affinity for the new feminism that had begun to emerge in an unbroken line from Butler to Tumblr. Thousands upon thousands of young women spoke at length about the humiliations and abuses of their childhoods, frothing themselves up into a frenzy about how awful and evil men were. The feelings-first interactions of the site fed a black-and-white culture, making it so that any negative personal experiences with boys in youth were hyperbolized, misunderstood, inflated, or fabricated from whole cloth so as to attract attention and sympathy. Many of the women who would catastrophize about their experiences were themselves craven sex addicts with violent fetishes, projecting the rapacity of their desires onto every man they came into contact with. Were anyone to call attention to this fairly obvious dynamic, especially a man, they’d immediately get hounded and smeared as a rape apologist, misogynist, victim-blamer, and perhaps even as a rapist themselves. Funnily enough, the same thing would happen if anyone spoke badly about the proliferation of porn and sex work on the site. Posts and interactions like these are primarily what ended up forming the basis of that new ideology and its mechanisms, which would become (and still is) the state ideology of Tumblr.
I say many, but not most; obviously, women are more vulnerable to sexual assault and harassment than men are, and a young girl’s development at an early age unfortunately invites a lot of unwanted attention that they may struggle to deal with. Boys at similar ages certainly can and do make young women uncomfortable with clumsy sexual advances, urges, and interests that they themselves also struggle to understand and to manage. Older men who show their interest, on the other hand, are especially threatening, and when a young girl comes into contact with them in a dangerous context, it can be scarring. I don’t disbelieve every story that I’ve read online of situations like this, nor do I disbelieve my own friends who have their own stories; some are quite horrifying, and I know that they do happen.
However, on Tumblr, there is genuinely no reason to trust a single person who says anything about anything. All of these people are strangers, many of them are deeply mentally ill (and proud to be), and most of them are craven perverts in their own right. It is a place where narcissists and borderlines are incredibly successful at drawing in devoted audiences and cultivating deranged fandoms who will inoculate them from any criticism or negative thought. Any attempt at rationalizing the behavior of accused perpetrators or at calming the hysteria of certain users or explaining to the posters that they have their own agency and control over their actions and decision-making is taken to be rape apologia. Every sexual depiction of a woman in media — any media, be it ancient or modern — is misogynistic propaganda to prop up patriarchy, except when it’s empowering and brave, the line between the two often only amounting to the tone of the initial poster. Knowing that many people exaggerate, or even just straight up lie for attention (oppa homeless style!), doesn’t necessarily inoculate sheltered, inexperienced adolescents from taking what they see to be true, especially when slathered in the heavy pathos of a visibly scared teenager or the smug ethos of a grad student several years older than the site’s primary demographic.
Media studies were a constant on this website, as this was where fandom was born in earnest. Most of the time, if a show dabbled in alleged misogyny, it was above reproach from the social justice warriors in the fandom, but it depended on whether the viewer in question was more of a member of their favorite media’s fandom or of the social justice fandom. Many a Tumblr feminist has quit watching more than one of their favorite shows over a few lines of dialogue, or one scene in particular that didn’t cater to their worldview or resembled allegedly sexist tropes in media, and in turn become a rabid crusader against said piece of media within the same fandom space, picking it apart and stripping it down, getting mad at anybody who dare enjoy it. This in itself is crazy, but it gets even crazier when you realize that half of the media they’re doing this to (and drawing porn of) are children’s cartoons like Gravity Falls, Steven Universe, The Amazing World of Gumball, Voltron, and others. Their subjective opinions about a piece of media’s quality can only be filtered through this ideological lens, which itself is founded upon a highly reactive, emotional method of reasoning. Even the simple damsel-in-distress trope, an ancient archetype used across cultures and mediums, was linked to the supposed rape crisis on university campuses, with allegations that 1 in 3, or up to half of all women in college are sexually assaulted by the time they graduate. The connection between media tropes, “mansplaining,” “manspreading,” and other otherwise disconnected concepts to extreme acts of violence was drawn deliberately and consistently. Again, this kind of thing did not originate on Tumblr, but Tumblr was where it first met a mass of internet-addicted children on a site that carried terabytes worth of disturbing pornography side-by-side with queer feminist critical theory. When conservatives claim that teachers who proffer these kinds of ideas are grooming children, it is not an exaggeration.
What this rape hysteria does to young teenagers midway through puberty, especially those that are already socially isolated and afraid of their own bodies, is incredibly damaging. For young women, it teaches them to fear every single man they come across, and to hate them for the innocuous traits of their sex that they may struggle to understand as they go through their own disconcerting bodily changes. The reply to “Not all men are rapists,” back in the early 2010s, was a resounding “But all women have been harassed or assaulted,” which of course demands that all men change their tune even though it’s proportionally only a small demographic of serial offenders responsible for most serious sex crimes. This fear, merged with the extreme pornography found on the site, becomes a toxic cocktail of self-hatred, shame, and panic, especially for heterosexual women, who may in turn decide that they are in fact, not heterosexual at all. For some, this is how they realized they were actually gay (which in itself is not a great way to discover this), and for others (most), “being gay” was little more than an attempt at escaping this incredibly complex, largely conditioned fear response and disgust towards the sex they were attracted to.
For men, this ideological conditioning can lead to one of two outcomes, which are remarkably similar in substance even if superficially they are quite different. On the one hand, this can drive them towards right-wing antifeminist radicalization; they may obsess over the nasty rhetoric against men, they may craft their own feelings-first ideological response to Tumblr feminism, etc. They may become “incels,” in the ideological sense, rather than the “involuntarily celibate” sense (though both are likely). On the flipside, and this is the path I ended up on, they may fall under the spell of the conditioning, begin to blame themselves for their maleness, begin to obsess over the commission of allegedly misogynistic harms, and begin to blame men for the world’s problems. In other words, they become male feminists. What binds these outcomes together is a profound insecurity in being male and a deeply internalized self-hatred that gets projected outward, in much the same way that Tumblr feminists’ anxieties over their own fantasies are projected. For the antifeminist men this gets projected onto women, for the feminist men, onto other men while elevating women to a dehumanizing pedestal. In neither case are these men willing to take responsibility for their own lot in life and make do with what they have, accept the new terms of the game, and move on with their lives (and for that matter, neither are the women). In neither case are these men adequately able to confront the shame and disgust that is biologically part and parcel with male sexuality, nor are they truly willing or able to combat the left-wing agenda that is telling them that they should be ashamed for existing. Both are unconscious coping mechanisms for living in a world where the existing social rules, norms, and relations between the sexes have begun to break down and are in the process of being rewritten.
Only, it’s important to note that it’s not just relations between the sexes that were breaking down at this time, it was social relations in general, a process which is still ongoing and may now be a permanent feature of our modern lives (see Liquid Modernity by Zygmunt Bauman). The arrival of the internet in our pockets has left deep scars that continue to be endlessly exploited, forever leaving our social lives in a cycle of surveillance, liquefaction, isolation, and recomposition. The battle of the sexes is just one symptom of it, and is a necessary feature of the bourgeois elite’s social agenda following the 2008 financial crisis.
I cannot speak to the incel’s experience as that was not my own; I was in a stable (if toxic) relationship for the entire duration of my trans identification. I believe inceldom to be more common than my own route, since there weren’t that many boys on Tumblr (though enough that I’m sure I will get messages about it). I once again strongly encourage anyone who went down this particular radicalization rabbit-hole to explain their perspective and how they managed to transition within a predominantly right-wing environment. While I do know for a fact that many right-wing incels did become trans, I also know that my personal account of going steady with an ardent feminist and “lesbian” is not an uncommon one either.
The male Tumblr feminist is a sad, pathetic little creature who has no agency and is unwilling or afraid to take advantage for himself the many advantages being male has to offer for fear of doing a misogyny. In order to make up for the patriarchy demon inside of himself which he must constantly guard against, a male feminist must take all of those advantages and use them only for the benefit of women, while also transforming himself into a feminized male. It is not enough that men and women should be politically equal but socially complementary to one another; in fact, this reality in itself is evidence of patriarchal conditioning and violence.
No, the male feminist must use his God-given privileges to elevate women above human expectations, while simultaneously erasing any facet of his personality that does not resemble or cater to a female. He must make himself extremely servile to women’s every want and need, regardless of how ridiculous or fluid or contradictory those wants and needs may be. He must fashion himself into the dream version of the man that a woman might conceivably want while consistently being reminded that all men are one drink away from raping an entire harem, then rid himself of any of the hard edges that come with being a man. He cannot talk about his own interests (this is mansplaining), he cannot have his own sexual needs or desires (this is rape culture), he cannot have any propensity for confrontation, be it verbal or physical, or even in his own defense (this is toxic masculinity). He must only talk about things from a woman’s perspective, only consider women’s sexual desires (up to and including rape fantasies; refusal to oblige is akin to assault in itself), and join the consensus view on whatever it is that’s happening, no matter how grotesque or absurd. If he can’t hold himself back, then he still must seek to wrap his criticisms in bubble wrap before dumping them at the recipient’s feet with a passive aggressive flourish. If the intended recipient is a woman however, then paying compliment and compromising is a must – he cannot be seen challenging a woman’s authoritative and emotive intuition, no matter how delusionally wrong or devastatingly cruel she might be. Men though? Open season – so long as he emulates a woman in order to win over the femdom mob.
However, at the same time, he is still expected to fill in all the gaps that women cannot fill themselves, and if he fails to, in part because of this femdommed conditioning, then this simply proves the uselessness of men. He must be the eroticized, anime version of a man, without the smell, roughness, or agency that a real man has, in much the same way that many men expect women to be hairless, childlike, and bordering on braindead. He is merely an animal to be domesticated and tamed, too stupid and savage to be left to his own devices in any scenario, and yet at the same time, is not the responsibility of the women in his life and can be disposed of the second that any tensions begin to emerge – after all, it’s his fault anyway. “Kill all men,” Tumblrites claim, is just a funny ha-ha joke, and for the most part it is, but it is rarely ever used jokingly. I watched firsthand as the replies to posts about dangerous child predators morphed from “kill all pedophiles” to “kill all men.” I watched as everybody who had a problem with that — including many women — was dogpiled, threatened, and even in some cases, doxxed. Then, once the trans wave really took off and half the site was claiming to be a faeromantic sappho-asexual demiboy, they quit saying it, not because of its effect on the actual boys or men in their lives, not because they stopped hating real men or wishing they would all just die, but to cater to the sensibilities of their fellow delusional smol beans who now thought they were men.
I’ve heard many a Tumblr feminist claim that they actually love men, that they read all kinds of romantic fiction about men, that they daydream about men and think about being with men and raising families with men, they just can’t stand men in real life because men don’t understand how women like to be loved. I sympathize with some of these women; they were radicalized into an ideology that went against their base instincts and desires in order to squeeze about a decade’s worth of childless corporate productivity out of them and now feel utterly disconnected from other people. However, the more I consider that line of reasoning, the more I compare it to the things I’ve seen and experienced, the more it sounds like they’re resentful that in the real world, men exist outside of their idea of what being a man is. It is no surprise then that many of these girls become trans men, since it is precisely the same dynamic that the incellish trans women have with actual women. A romantic ideal, brimming with immense power, a protective cloak from the harsh reality of being open and vulnerable with another living, breathing person who doesn’t, and moreover can’t live up to a fictitious ideal designed to be sold as a commodity. So why not take T? BYOB, be your own boyfriend.
The dynamics of white supremacist cisheteropatriarchal capitalism, according to these intrepid revolutionaries, are mostly cultural and down to social conditioning. The only way the revolution can happen is culturally, and it starts with you, not just on an interpersonal level, but inside of yourself. You need to “kill the cop in your head,” as some anarchists like to say, only in this case you need to kill the white person in your head, the man in your head, the liberal in your head, and so on. You need to kill off any part of yourself that you didn’t put there, that existed before you knew you did, and replace it all with radical new doctrines which you obsess over and allow them to alter your behavior to the point that you are completely unrecognizable even to your own instincts. Then you have to go out and expect others to do the same, or else they’re literally killing you(r imaginary self-image). The weak and isolated will follow, especially as you become more adept at convincing others of the urgency of this multifaceted “intersectional” project through its many eschatological fear campaigns, using the threat of imminent annihilation to browbeat people into joining your cause. The strong will rebuff you, and only strengthen your belief that everyone who doesn’t bend to your demented will to power is a fascist, because for an individual to show strength is a sign that one might use it.
All of the ills of patriarchal behavior can be traced back to social conditioning, according to the Tumblr feminist. Men are simply conditioned to act in the ways that they do, emboldened through positive reinforcement to become beastly threats to womankind, and women are conditioned to act in precisely the opposite way, servile and domestic. Achieving social equality, therefore, requires the extermination of these social expectations altogether, and insists – contrary to all existing evidence – that they have no basis in material reality whatsoever. Upending the stereotypes, getting everyone to be gender nonconforming (or more accurately, totally neutered, atomized, and homogenous) is key. The reality that the vast majority of people do conform to sex stereotypes most of the time, that all people breach them in the appropriate contexts throughout their lives, and that this remains true even if you change the expectations embedded within those stereotypes does not occur to them. To the postmodern feminist, anything and everything can be achieved through behavioral reconditioning and social pressure. Foucault would be proud.
Of course, there is then also the pesky reality that men and women are physically very different and perform extraordinarily different roles in the reproduction of life. Many feminists argue that the root of female oppression stems from female biology, that because the female sex is, on average, weaker, experiences menstruation, goes through menopause, experiences pregnancy and childbirth, etc., males have taken advantage of this weakness for their own benefit. Even those that aren’t transhumanists make arguments to this effect, and while there is a truth to the idea that women lack the physical force necessary to defeat men in combat, they more than make up for it through their unique strengths in social coercion. Likewise, there is also the truth that many forms of patriarchal social organization were designed to protect women from the rapacity of the sexual marketplace, and weren’t strictly “patriarchal,” but created two separate spheres of power: Men got to decide the fate of states through governance and military, women the fate of nations through the hearth and the family.
Those that are transhumanists, however, have sought to achieve female liberation through chemical and technological means, primarily aimed at neutralizing the effects of the female reproductive cycle through birth control and abortions. The only way females can truly be free from patriarchal control, their argument inevitably goes, is if they are able to suppress most of what makes them female in the first place. This coupled with the flood of women entering the workplace essentially achieved all the goals that 19th and 20th century feminists sought out to do. This was masterful bourgeois trickery, encouraging women to enter the job market for the sake of “liberation” and finding themselves just as overworked, underpaid, and beaten down by their jobs as the men who already knew what wage slavery meant. Given that feminism has always consisted of a cross-class coalition headed up by bourgeois women seeking bourgeois women’s aims, this is unsurprising. But of course, for a progressive movement, there is never enough progress to be made. People can never be equal enough, even at the End of History. Utopia has not yet been achieved, so the tracks must continue to be laid, no matter the depth or breadth of the canyon ahead.
Transgenderism is an extension of this class dynamic and this feminist reasoning, both because it seeks to erase even more of the physical distinctions between male and female to pursue a new frontier in commodification and exploitation, but also because it extends this logic over to men. After all, how can men be a threat to women if women take steroids and men take drugs that cause muscle atrophy and bone loss? How can men be a threat to women if the women are the ones with the hyperactive libidos and the men are all eunuchs with ED? How can men be a threat to women if it’s the men objectifying themselves, while the women attempt to harness their newfound “masculine” energy and agency? It provides an illusory escape route for young women who seek to leave behind all of the threats coming from men, be they horrifyingly real or just projections from strangers on the internet. Any negative experience with men, any shame or disgust at the changes happening to one’s own body, any discomfort with growing into a woman from a girl at all, whether because of physical or social pressures, becomes “gender dysphoria,” and when social transition doesn’t pan out (because everyone can still tell what sex you are), testosterone becomes the key to relieving it. No internal work is necessary, in fact it’s strongly discouraged, which further cements the intense Cluster B dynamics of Tumblr culture into one’s own psychology (true for both sexes).
For men, especially for the male feminists, it provides an illusory escape route from becoming the abuser it seems every woman on Tumblr has come into contact with, while also providing an exit from the pressures of masculine agency and duty. Whenever someone says something hateful or negative about men at large, or misinterprets something men do as the result of social conditioning and not simple biology, or makes assumptions about the nature of maleness and manhood from a position of sheer ignorance and the absence of personal accountability, blunt-force emotion follows like a hammer on the heart. “Am I really like that? Is she talking about me? Oh my God, what have I done?” plays in the head of the ego-fragile pubertal discontent, especially one who’s been subject to online mobs before.
There are two options for reckoning with this. One would be to pause and reflect on whether what’s being written is consistent with reality and whether the reader is reflexively taking on the emotional state of the poster, which would, if one were to gain the self-awareness needed to do so, lead to disengagement from the discursive space fostering such massive projections and distortions. Alternatively, if the poster is speaking an inconvenient truth, even if buried under some distorted elements, and the reader feels ashamed of the effects that some of his hurtful actions have had on others, then it’s best to confront those feelings and then move on from there. The other option, the one I took, would be to instead repress the feelings of guilt and shame, whether due to real or entirely imagined harms, opting to internalize, incorporate, and compartmentalize them into an already-existing, all-consuming self-hatred, and then tried to run as far away from that self-hatred as possible by pretending to be someone else.
Had I confronted this, I would have realized that much of the shame and guilt I was feeling was due to how my relationship at the time was developing with Tumblr as the primary medium through which my girlfriend and I interacted. Had I confronted this, I would have recognized that some of this was because I saw seeds of truth buried under loads of horseshit and hadn’t yet learned to tell the difference. Had I confronted this, I would have realized that these feelings were temporary, that they were normal parts of developing an adult moral conscience, and that I had more control over them than I had over other people. Had I confronted this, I likely would not have ended up transitioning.
And so, I told myself that I was a woman. Part of this was because I did not want to be associated with the men who said and did horrible things to women, part of this was because I believed that since I didn’t want to do these things, that meant I couldn’t be a man, and part of this was because I could not come to terms with my own insecurities and failures at a time when failure and insecurity are necessary steps on the road to adulthood. I didn’t want to grow up if it meant becoming a man, and I found a place that told me I didn’t have to, that I shouldn’t even want to be. Coming out as a trans woman on Tumblr brought with it affirmation and kindness that men were otherwise not afforded. That simple incantation inoculated me against heinous accusations and repeating it in the face of valid criticism provided protection from a vocal community of people conditioned to defend me. All the evils of being a cisgender heterosexual white man suddenly melted away, since it was now telegraphed to everyone with whom I interacted that I was really just a sweet trans girl.
The hard times I was going through were genuinely hard. Puberty often is, and being on Tumblr made it harder. I had money, I had support, I had friends; none of that filled the void opening up inside of me. I felt broken and sick, a danger to myself and others. I could not forgive myself for mistakes, nor could I admit the worst of them. I have forgotten years of my life and interactions with others that were inconvenient to remember. I didn’t have an explanation for why things were so bad, and I thought the ones my family were offering were bullshit (and to be honest, some were; most weren’t). Well before I even got close to taking estrogen, I was begging them for SSRIs, and thought they were abusing me for declining my request. I must have been 15 or so at the time.
As Helena has mentioned in her own opus, a digital native Zillennial tells their parents that they’re struggling and they don’t know what’s going on with them, and their parents reassure them that that’s normal and everyone goes through it. This is quite obviously the right thing to say, but in entirely the wrong era, and few parents at the time were able to appreciate that. Online, you say the same thing, and a chorus of sympathetic voices validating your ever feeling will offer up “Have you considered that you might be trans?” Once the egg cracks, to use that creepy metaphor, there’s no going back. Well, there is, but at the time it feels like there isn’t any going back. You feel like you’ve figured yourself out. Suddenly you have an easy explanation for why everything sucks, an identity you can finally latch onto, and an easy solution for all of it. Your aggrievement as a middle-class suburbanite on the college path suddenly has purpose to it, a deeper meaning that so-called “cisgender” people could not possibly relate to or understand, rather than being little more than whatever it was Holden Caulfield was running away from.
The adolescent feminists of Tumblr have no reason to deny the womanhood of any teenage boy who accepts it. To some, it’s proof of how the patriarchy oppresses all women, including those that were up until yesterday dangerous boys. All the things that would rightly be considered misandry are reformulated as transmisogyny, because on Tumblr, misandry is not a word that exists. To others, it is explicitly a way of exorcising the patriarchy out of boys who would otherwise have grown up to be men, setting them on a path that neutralizes their inherent sexual violence. There were most definitely men and radical feminists on Tumblr who did speak out against this, for their own conflicting and irreconcilable reasons of course, and they are punching bags for the entire website. “MRA” used as an insult came first, to describe any man offended by the burgeoning gynocracy of HR culture, and then “TERF” very quickly came to mean not just anybody who complained about the inclusion of men in women’s spaces, but anybody who gatekept any community at all.
Narcissistic self-identification was and still is sacrosanct. To dispel what one believed oneself to be was akin to a hate crime. That girl who thought she was literally Hitler? Not only could you not tell her that she wasn’t actually Hitler, you couldn’t tell her it was a bad thing either. Same goes for people identifying as animals, concepts, or religious figures. All you could do was ignore these people and let them run their own delusions into the ground. The same is true of pretty much everyone on the site, even some of the saner people. Everyone online pretends to be something they aren’t, believes themselves to be something they can’t be, based largely on image alone. Tumblr is just one place where this is true. People look happy on Facebook, beautiful on Instagram, graceful on TikTok, genius on Twitter, and this is almost never the case in reality. In reality we’re all just mundane and experiencing minor delusions of grandeur when we compare ourselves to other people who are deluded to a different degree than we are. We’re all someone’s lolcow, and we’re all milking each other.
There is an additional layer to the Tumblr feminism dynamic that must be discussed in order to understand many of the male transitioners who come from hard-left spaces. As I’ve already mentioned, I had a girlfriend for my entire struggle with gender dysphoria, a relationship that lasted about 7 years. At one point, she socially transitioned and began identifying as a man. She changed her pronouns, her hair, her wardrobe, bound her chest; it was a classic case of ROGD. She was not particularly masculine (on the contrary, but don’t let her know I said that), just slightly tomboyish, and very autistic. I was confused but I went along with it because it was what she wanted. During that time, I too adopted a trans identity. Within a couple years, she desisted without coming anywhere near testosterone. When she did, she came out as a lesbian, but insisted that we stay together. This of course added pressure on me to retain my trans identity and slightly androgynous-leaning-feminine appearance. In fact, I doubled down. But she had something I didn’t. She got to “realize” that she was a “lesbian,” and that this was the root of all of her gender dysphoria. She got to maintain her queer card, and with it, the highly toxic, cisgender-heterosexual-white-man-hating environment she had cultivated for herself on Tumblr. I, on the other hand, couldn’t.
If I were to have desisted prior to transitioning, I would return to being that which I hated the most, and which I already was but was in denial about: Being a “cisgender” heterosexual white man. I would lose the respect of people who already didn’t respect me as I actually was, but upon whose validation I depended for my own emotional wellbeing, which quite possibly would have included my ex. I’m not sure what my desistance would have done to our relationship either, and I was very desperate to keep that going. Not that it mattered anyway, since by the time I was identifying as a woman (which was still years before I began hormone therapy) I had already severed ties with many people close to me due to worsening Cluster B-type symptoms, no doubt driven by some of the insane coping mechanisms that I had adopted from one of the worst social media environments out there. It’s no wonder, then, that I joined a leftist cult in college and started hormones right as I was getting kicked out of it. That relationship was doomed anyway, and doubling down on the trans shit made it worse.
Being that it was such a female-dominated site, being a woman was the most important thing for in-group access and status. Being a man, even a gay or black man, put you on thin ice. A girl who thinks she’s a boy realizes she’s actually a girl after all? You go girl, just remember to hold onto your queer card and keep chanting “trans women are women” for those woke points. A boy who thinks he’s a girl realizes he’s actually a boy? Much less a straight boy? Well… it’s right back to the trash with the rest of the men, even if you still think trans men are men. I don’t mention this to complain about the unfairness of it all, and obviously female detransitioners get ejected from these spaces all the time. I understand why these dynamics exist and how they developed, and I’m just happy not to be part of it anymore. I mention it only to point out the predicament that the young male Tumblrina finds himself in. Giving up trans identity means giving up the social status that comes with it, and while this is true for girls as well, on Tumblr, being a straight guy is the worst possible thing you could be, whereas being a “queer” girl is more than acceptable, it’s the main demographic. This is in part why I don’t believe every female detransitioner who claims they transitioned exclusively because of male misogyny, and especially not those older radical feminists who claim this on their behalf. If they were in remotely the same places I was in, it wasn’t the misogyny of men that got them to that point, but of other, mostly feminist, mostly gay (or gay-LARPing) women.
That doesn’t mean that there weren’t straight men who used Tumblr in peace and tranquility, ignoring all the stupid petty BS and just doing their own thing in their own circles. That honestly wasn’t unheard of. Still, the crybullying and inflammatory, openly misandrist rhetoric leaves a mark when it happens at such a young age. You internalize the wrong lessons that are supposed to come with bullying. In the real world, if you get bullied, it’s usually because you’re transgressing social norms in a way that makes people uncomfortable or is generally off-putting. It’s a warning that you need to fix your ways, to have shame for the ways in which you fail to uphold the social order. Sometimes this is warranted, sometimes it’s not. All the same, the lesson one is supposed to take from getting bullied in the real world is to stand on one’s own feet, fight one’s own battles, and to build up one’s own self-confidence such that they cannot be torn down by unkind and unfair circumstances. Life is unkind and unfair, with or without getting bullied. That makes it a necessary lesson to learn.
However, online, there is no visible incentive for doing this. Claiming victimhood and making a big show out of everything all the time, vomiting your emotions and begging for validation, that’s the whole name of the game. That’s everything. There is no other option because of how constricted the social environment is. In the real world, you have three-dimensional options for dealing with adversity, you can take a variety of tactics in face-to-face confrontations, and it is ultimately up to you to deal with it, there is no medium; online, all of your interactions are mediated through the platform itself, which is designed to be addictive, attention-grabbing, and extractive. It is intentionally designed to be hostile, while preserving a friendly, relatable face. It’s a psych ward with digital orderlies who stoke fights among the inpatients just so they can watch.
I obviously have many criticisms of feminism which I occasionally tweet out like an insane person. My primary gripe with it is that it claims that there is an inherent camaraderie between all women, that all women are oppressed for being women first and foremost, and that their liberation can only be achieved via cross-class collaboration. I have become very wary of any coalition between the ruling classes and the lower classes, despite myself belonging to the petit bourgeoisie. Feminism’s bourgeois shadow is long and dark. It has always occupied a position within progressive politics, and I say this with contempt. Progressives have always been on the cutting edge of capitalist innovation, quick to adopt the hottest new technologies, social trends, and political formations under the pretext of working-class liberation, to be managed squarely by the petit bourgeoisie responsible for implementing these edicts from up on high. This has meant progressives, at many points throughout their history, pushed for eugenics, forced sterilizations, imperial warfare, and ethnic cleansing.
Tumblr feminism, third-wave feminism, transgenderism, leftism at large, is no different; its lineage is virtually identical. These are all ruling class projects, like their ilk before them, which promise lofty goals of equality, liberty, and justice, concepts which are as vacuous as they are malleable by those who have the power to bend them to their will. True equality between the sexes, in fact, between any two groups of people, will never be achieved, as we are inherently unequal.
No two men are exactly the same, and certainly not when compared to a woman. Nature made us this way and we have perpetually organized our societies along this observable reality. Progressives seek to erase that reality not by actually erasing the differences, but by forcing us to recondition our instinctual perceptions of them, forcing us to accept inequality as the result of social oppressions that they will remedy through DEI.
We are never free from our responsibilities to each other, no matter how badly we’d like to be. Whether we all live alone in the pod or on rolling acres with three generations under one roof, we have obligations, and we derive meaning from their fulfillment, not from their absence. Their absence merely creates the obligation to feed destructive addictions, to keep the lack of fulfillment from creeping in.
And what could be as illusory as a just world? The world is harsh and cruel and decidedly unjust. This has always been the case and it always will be, it’s what pressures us to survive long enough to procreate, at which point our children will grow up to live and to suffer and kick off the cycle all over again. The only perfect justice seen will be on our deathbeds as we close our eyes and wait for our Creator to take us.
These three concepts are perfectly useful rhetorical tools for sure, but they can never be ends in themselves because they are entirely ideal in nature. To pursue them alone ignores the very real and self-interested forces that are deployed in order to bring them to earth, forces which have their own idea of what is equal and free and just. To pursue them ignores that there is a gap between reality and ideology, and that even where they meet, ideals are not bread or stone or steel, and that whatever fraction of them can be brought to reality can only come from lead, bone, and blood.
None of this is necessarily a bad thing. It’s a marvelous thing, it’s a miracle we’re even here to experience it, in all its beauty and its brutality alike. We only get a short time to see what the world has to offer, and unfortunately, we spend much of that time convinced that how nature has made us – and how we have harnessed it so far – is not enough, that more must be done to bring the Kingdom of Heaven down here to Earth, without dragging us to Hell in the process. I no longer believe, as I once did, that this is possible or desirable. We are sacrificing children to the gods of progress, science, and technology, allowing banking cartels to foreclose upon our futures and the very foundations of life itself. I don’t oppose this project because it is opposed to my own vague conceptions of equality, freedom, and justice. I know that utilizing those concepts are unhelpful because they openly wield them as well. Rather, I oppose this project because of the interests it serves, which run counter to my own. That, though, is a discussion for another time. Thank you for sticking around to the bitter end.
Blunt, honest and full of very important info. Thank you for your time and effort. It shows. I mentioned on a different thread that I think modern feminism is toxic. I am also over 40 years old and did not grow up with the internet. I grew up poor as well so I think we also need to take into account social class as a key factor here when you talk about the experiences of tumblr and many of these young women - they seem to be very privileged and come from middle class to upper class families. When I went to college it was a first not only because it was during a time when men still outnumbered women in all education but also because I was from a family where we were poor and women were the lowest on the totem pole compared to male family members to get an education. My mother and father were very proud as 1st gen Americans to know I would be better off then them. Unfortunately I still suffered as a young woman from real rape, domestic violence and destitution. Trust me when a man takes away your right to speak without being hit or threatened with sexual violence or physical assault, you realize really fast that men and women ARE physically different. I think many of these women who tote on social media their male trauma may not actually know what they are talking about. Also male feminization is very unattractive to me personally. Even as a Italian woman and culturally strong and independent, I have always craved traditional masculinity in the healthy way. Too bad some men think masculinity is supposed to be violence and dominance driven. I also don’t trust male feminists. I agree with your position in what I’ve seen as well. Finally as with trans and AGP there is a mass contagion tied to porn as well. I’ve had my own experiences where men have been lured into sissification (I find it sexually repulsive to dominate men and to belittle and penetrate the male body sorry) but it can be very seductive in the porn rabbit hole. We do need women to stop hurting men and stop militant hatred of masculinity
Brilliant piece. As with all your writing the breadth of scope, searing honesty, and logical rigour is incredibly engaging. I’ve read all your work with great appreciation and never felt compelled to reply, as I’ve never needed clarification or taken issue with the depth of insight. I still don’t, but I’m commenting now to request a future exploration of a point mentioned as an aside in this piece towards its conclusion.
I am very interested in your critique of feminism - one of the few that has truly resonated with me, and one that is so rarely explored in good faith. I strongly agree with your identification of the ideology’s fatal flaw (the ostensible solidarity, based in inevitable sex-based oppression, of all females across classes). The Tumblr environment you so accurately describe in your piece, governed by disaffected adolescents of a mostly homogenous class, is living proof of how this strident bourgeois feminism has crippled the legitimacy of the movement (and the emotional development of teenagers who are stewing in the conflation of male/female with oppressor/oppressed).
I would love to read more in-depth writings on your critiques and be able to discuss it further! Thank you very much for your work and for sharing it with the public.