TERFs and The Donald: The Future of Reddit’s Banned Groups



Finally, Fain and the others settled on an open-source platform called Throat, run by the Argentinian developer Ramiro Bou. Throat was created in 2016 as an alternative to Voat, another Reddit alternative, which was hosting many of the most disgusting former subreddits and had already become unusably toxic—as might be expected of any site branded as a home for conversation too disgusting for 2015 Reddit. When I asked Bou about Ovarit’s use of his code, he told me, “They’re nice people,” and that they’re currently one of the most active communities on Throat.

So r/GenderCritical set up shop on a new instance of an alternative to an alternative to Reddit. Ovarit looks exactly like Reddit, except it’s purple, and subreddits are called “circles.” There is a circle called “Cancelled,” which is specifically for talking about “attempts … to silence those who speak out against the queercult.” There is a circle called “TransLogic,” which is specifically for talking about “misogynistic and illogical things trans activists say and do.” There are general-interest circles for talking about books, television, science, and knitting. There is a circle called “Radfemmery,” which is for memes and jokes about how much the people in it do not like trans women.

The tone of the discussions in most of the circles is insular and defensive. Much of it is about the way Big Tech is censoring radical-feminist thought by driving “wombyn”—a deliberately exclusionary term that prizes women with female reproductive organs—off of their platforms, as well as the way the mainstream media has been taken over by a “tiny minority of men,” which is how Ovarit’s members refer to trans women. The plight of J. K. Rowling is revisited often.

In a practice carried over from Reddit, members are encouraged to share their conversion stories, which they confusingly call their “peak trans” moments. In a typical exchange, one woman explains that she came to Ovarit after dragging herself out of a trans-rights-oriented Tumblr community and falling down a YouTube rabbit hole; another replies that her story is extremely similar, right down to her discomfort with her previous social circle’s expectation that she be supportive of “men in lipstick.” (Many of these stories are told “with a sense of excitement, guilt, fear … it’s disturbing but thrilling,” Lavery, the UC Berkeley professor, told me. “All the usual stuff that people who get involved in extremist groups find.”) The users joke and bicker, like all political groups, and then they come back together—bonded by their shared experience of being unwelcome most anywhere else.

So far, the only major difference between Ovarit and r/GenderCritical is that here, nobody challenges the members. There are no outsider “trolls” butting into the conversation to tell them that they’re wrong. On Reddit, some women were uncomfortable being totally candid, Fain told me. But here, they can be themselves. “It was really hard to be on Reddit as a woman,” she said. “Now on Ovarit … It’s a big breath of fresh air.”


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