“Do you like the Smiths?”
“No, really, have you heard of them?”
“You don’t know them like me. Name three songs.”
“‘Asleep?’ How basic.”
If you have heard this kind of conversation, you have most likely run into a male manipulator. As popularized by TikTok, male manipulators are men who typically listen to The Smiths or Nirvana, relate to “Fight Club” and “American Psycho,” wear wire framed glasses and gaslight women.
Obviously, this is a stereotype, but the shocking amount of people who consider this behavior to be “normal” makes it clear how harmful this romanticization of manipulation really is.
With this kind of man, it’s easy to see through their façade and see their true character. While their misogyny is veiled, there are some clear giveaways from the kinds of media they associate with.
For example, “American Psycho” has become a touchstone for these people, idolizing Patrick Bateman. Bateman is, above all else, a misogynist in that movie. He sees women as objects and not as human people, making it easier for him to come to terms with murdering them. Even the author of the book admits to relating to the character while also saying that “women can’t direct.” The movie, incredibly, was directed by a woman.
Arguably the easiest way to separate the manipulators from men with questionable taste is the pseudo-documentary “Soaked in Bleach.” The toxic men will agree with this documentary. Level-headed individuals will not.
To provide some context, this controversial documentary, released in 2015, focuses on perpetuating the conspiracy theory that Courtney Love, songwriter and frontwoman for the grunge rock band Hole, murdered her husband Kurt Cobain, the late front man of the band Nirvana. This theory has been debunked multiple times, prompting Love to issue a cease and desist for the documentary. Even the FBI has debunked it.
[Related: Punk rock has lost all meaning]
So why do people still believe in this baseless theory? The answer is misogyny. Cobain fans don’t want to believe that a man could be struggling with his mental health and suicidal tendencies, so they blame his wife instead. Courtney Love isn’t perfect— she's incredibly racist and not a great person — but she actually saved Cobain from dying multiple times. Why would she want him dead?
Their belief in this has to be rooted in some sort of distrust in women, right? On the other hand, these men often claim to be feminists, wearing pearls to look like LGBTQ activist Marsha P. Johnson. How can they claim to be feminists with such a clear distrust and dislike of women rooted in their beliefs?
They’re men. More specifically, mostly straight, cisgender men. They have been raised in a society that puts men above women, paying them more than women, giving them more time and attention. It’s hard to undo the social conditioning of that. Male manipulators can choose to unpack their inherent biases toward women, but that is a choice that takes research and time. Not all men want to choose to be better.
Instead, they want a cop out. They want to be hot and sexy, just like everyone else. Now, the male manipulator aesthetic is sexy. It’s what young girls want. All men want to appeal to young girls. Just ask Leonardo DiCaprio or Steven Tyler.
The idea of the male manipulator is to be hot and aware of how desirable they are. Think of Joseph Gordon-Levitt's character in “500 Days of Summer.” This is the exact guy I am talking about. These men want a pretty girl who likes the things they like and who is willing to be an accessory to them. Once they start being a person with emotions, the man can leave and hate the woman, just like the “I hate Summer” monologue.
I know that not all men are like this. I have faith that there are some good men, and that these male manipulators can change for the better. It just hurts to see such blatant dislike for women feel so normal within a group of people.
To all the male manipulators out there: next time you listen to “Girl Germs” by Bratmobile, take a closer look at the lyrics. Listen to what Amy from “Gone Girl” is saying in the “Cool Girl” monologue. Notice how these are about what misogynistic men do to women. Be better.
Charlotte Jones (they/her) is a sophomore studying English and journalism.