In May of 2014, the most prominent subreddit geared toward women, TwoXChromosomes, was made a default subreddit. For those who don’t frequent the site, a default subreddit is one that people can see regardless of if they have a Reddit account, making its reach much wider.

In some ways, this could have been good for TwoXChromosomes. More people would be, and are, exposed to feminist ideology this way and that is fantastic. Unfortunately, it has mostly meant floods of beta males rushing into a space carved out specifically for women and pulling the #notallmen card, denying women their own experiences.

A note on language: Reddit echos reality outside of the internet, and thus most issues on it are intersectional. While it is certainly true that gay men can be misogynistic (looking at you, Milo Yiannopoulos) and white women can be racist toward non-white women, etc., at the end of the day, Reddit’s ethos is straight, cisgender, white, and male. Think about it as the difference between a patriarchal society and an individual man with privilege but who is also feminist as hell and therefore recognizes his privilege and tries not to be a misogynistic dick.

For the sake of repetition, I have lumped together and abbreviated straight, cis, white man/men to SWCM(s). When I use SWCM, I am not referring to all straight, cis, white men, but specifically to those who don’t check their privilege, either from laziness or from outward bigotry.

Moving on.

TwoXChromosomes is a space designed for conversations about “experiences as women, for women, or about women.” It does not dictate that only women, or only cis women, are allowed to post on it but it does request that those wandering into the subreddit have a genuine interest in the content and are respectful of who it is meant for. That content, according to the subreddit’s rules, is “honest discussion on matters that largely – but certainly not ONLY [sic] – concern women.”

Further advice from the TwoX moderators to SCWMs:

“If you are a man with a secret love of chick flicks and shoes, you’re welcome here.”

“If you tell us to us to make you a sandwich, you’re welcome here, but will be downvoted into oblivion.”

“If you offer to make us a sandwich, you’re more than welcome here.”

But then the site was bumped to default and the SCWMs came a-runnin’. As one Reddit user articulated so well, “Nothing can ruin a good niche sub like becoming a default in my opinion, because you water down an intensely interested userbase with a bunch of casual drive-by participants who share the general majority opinion.”

Take, for example, this lovely SCWM’s response to a woman’s post, requesting advice on how to work through her lifelong anxiety when talking to men:

“Girl sometimes we are more terrified of you that [sic] are of us… you cant [sic] beat us up but you can think of us badly… so you can be scary. Try not to care so much… we are kinda hard to offend overall and we dont [sic] put much stock into what someone said or did, women on the other hand are easily provoked in that regard. Say something weird and chances are we only notice it a couple of years after the fact.”

He manages to pack victim-blaming, sexist generalizations, and some weird “you can’t beat us up but you can hurt our feelings” thing that comes across as rather threatening, into an 85-word comment that aggressively rejects the woman’s lived experience.

Or take this generic Libertarian mansplainer, writing in response to a post asking for insight into how extreme misogyny on Twitter is “allowed”:

“Because its [sic] not illegal (in the US anyway) and twitter is a private company so if you don’t like it, don’t use it.”

Disregarding the premise of the question, fleeing to the reductive “if you don’t like America, why don’t you just leave” type of argument, is counter to the subreddit’s purpose. Both posts, and others of their kind, violate the intentions of TwoXChromosomes, which is having open discussions about issues that affect women and women sharing their own perspectives on those issues.

These types of comments were certainly present on TwoX before it became a default but not nearly so much, because SCWMs just didn’t find themselves over yonder as often or as easily. Now that SCWMs can suddenly see it on their front pages, that has changed. The harshest explanation for their presence and sexist comments is misogyny, certainly, but the most generous one is that they just don’t understand the space they accidentally wandered into and started running their SCWM-y mouths off. Which is still a problem, because it means they didn’t bother to check the page rules about who the subreddit is intended for (not them) before touting their privilege to the entire room.

TwoXChromosomes was made a default subreddit almost three years ago, and has changed significantly since then. Its intended goal has, as the one user pointed out, been “watered down” by “drive-by participants,” to the point that the comment discussions are not so different from more generic subreddits, like WorldNews or AskReddit. And it shouldn’t be.

This is especially relevant now, given the heightened importance of activism and allyship. We need female spaces. We need black spaces, LGBTQ spaces, Muslim spaces; we need space for people who aren’t SCWMs to talk about how their lives are shaped by the dominant strains of power in the world without those who are in the seats of power storming in and shutting them up.