July 5, 2023 - 7:00am

In recent days, American women have been talking about Pearl Davis, a homely 26-year-old social media personality who has built an audience as a provocative anti-feminist voice. Davis, also known by her online moniker JustPearlyThings, promotes attention-grabbing “hot takes” such as the suggestion that women shouldn’t vote and that it’s their fault if men cheat on them. As of late, she has been branded the “female Andrew Tate”. 

The Internet is, as ever, flooded with armchair psychologists, eager to submit their diagnosis. Davis acts like this because she’s “busted”; she’s lonely; she’s a “pick-me” who is husband-shopping in the darkest corners of the web. Some have also speculated that she’s bitter after being dumped by “toxic ex” and TikTok micro-celebrity Oneya D’Amelio. Others think she’s deluded. Frankly, it’s more likely she just wants to be famous.

Whenever I write about women, particularly those with large audiences, who operate within the Online Right — a digital ecosystem that’s distinct from (but sometimes related to) mainstream Right-wing thought — someone invariably tells me to pick up Andrea Dworkin’s Right-Wing Women. In the book, Dworkin puts forth the theory that women gravitate towards the Right, which she believes is against our interests, as a form of protection from the brutality of men. Women conform to survive. It’s an interesting idea, even if not one with which I entirely agree. It’s also almost wholly irrelevant when considering social media.

The biggest mistake one can make when examining the big, flashy names online (Davis being one of them) is to assume their sincerity. The goal of these nominally “Right-wing” women isn’t to advocate for one set of values over another, or to bring back an environment they see as morally superior, but instead to distinguish themselves from their competitors. They are, first and foremost, entertainers who would otherwise be singing the praises of orthodox Marxism or second-wave feminism if it were expedient in the attention economy.

People who want an audience will make do with whatever tools they have at their disposal. A beautiful woman might sell her body on Instagram or TikTok, and a less conventionally attractive one may, instead, opt to sell her mind on a podcast or Twitter. If you’re a woman who wants to make a living on the Internet, though, your best bet is to enter male-dominated spaces and recapitulate male talking points, especially if these involve arguments most women would refuse to endorse.

Davis is a particularly egregious example, but so-called “tradthots” (a portmanteau of traditional and thot) and “pick-mes” have long been prevalent online. They typically achieve prominence under the guise of instructing women, all while claiming to be “one of the good women” who want to help amplify men’s grievances in a world of oppressive feminism. 

More often than not, though, these are just marketing ploys. Although they benefit from being validated by men, Davis and her ilk aren’t exactly champions for the male philosophies they’re microwaving either. Men, funnily enough, are mostly annoyed by these figures, female shit-stirrers who serve as rage bait for women and liberal men while building huge followings from the anger they inspire, as opposed to being instructive or validating for conservative audiences. 

Of course, there are women who sincerely shine a light on men’s issues, but they’re not the ones with hundreds of thousands of YouTube subscribers. There are also plenty of women who want to advocate for more traditional lifestyles, but they are usually married mothers who offer a mix of practical advice and a positive vision of what that lifestyle might look like. Put simply, they don’t tend to be romantically unattached social media girlbosses.

But then the actual trads aren’t the ones duking it out on podcasts with audiences stretching into the millions, evangelising about why women should be denied the franchise. It turns out that living these values, fortunately or unfortunately, looks very different to being an online firebrand.

Katherine Dee is a writer. To read more of her work, visit defaultfriend.substack.com.