Africa Insights: Toxic Masculinity Online in Kenya and South Africa

Africa Insights: Toxic Masculinity Online in Kenya and South Africa
Activists demonstrate in Nairobi in January 2024 against an alarming rise in murders of young women. (Tony Karumba/AFP via Getty Images)

Africa Insights is a podcast special series from New Lines magazine exploring Africa’s unique stories from an African perspective.

In the era of social media, women worldwide have harnessed its power to build strong feminist movements and activist networks to raise awareness about sexual harassment and violence. Social media has provided a platform for women to share their experiences and speak out against gender-based violence. Hashtags such as #MeToo, #BelieveWomen and #ImWithHer have gained global popularity and given women a space to come out and share their stories.

But as these spaces have grown, so have parallel, counter-feminist ones promoting toxic masculinity.

The “manosphere,” an online space promoting toxic masculinity, misogyny and anti-feminism, is rapidly growing in Africa, particularly in Kenya and South Africa, where gender-based violence is already rife.

In Kenya, the manosphere has been associated with disturbing and toxic content denigrating women and promoting violence against them. In January, the country witnessed two gruesome cold-blooded murders of women, crimes that have both sparked outrage and fueled a disturbing trend of victim-blaming among internet users.

“There was a backlash coming from men who generally held the views that women should do more to secure their own safety, that women should not have been in those situations,” Caroline Kimeu, the Guardian’s East Africa global development correspondent tells New Lines’ Kwangu Liwewe.

Similarly, in South Africa, a country that boasts of one of Africa’s most progressive laws against hate speech, online movements have been linked to violent and sexualized hate speech targeting women.

“They know where to push the boundaries, they know where they are protected and they know how to protect themselves and get around the law,” Rosie Motene, a South African author and feminist tells New Lines.

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