Being A Feminist On Reddit - The Defaulting of /r/TwoXChromosomes

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On May 7th, reddit, self-proclaimed “Front Page of the Internet,” shuffled its lineup of default subreddits. This means that new users who sign up for reddit accounts will get exposed to a host of new subforums on the site, including ArtOldSchoolCool, and the woman-centric subreddit TwoXChromosomes. As a result of this change, these subreddits will be exposed to millions more people every month. I was curious how the denizens of a feminist subforum like TwoXChromosomes felt about being thrust into the limelight on the a website well known for creepshots and men’s rights activism, so I spoke by Skype to “High Fructose Corn Feces,” the creator of TwoXChromosomes and one of its moderators.

TLDR: How was TwoXChromosomes chosen to become a default subreddit? Was it something that was done in concert with you guys, or was it something that reddit just decided to do.

High Fructose Corn Feces: We had an admin approach us and say “would you guys be interested in becoming a default subreddit?” So the mods had a backroom discussion about it. We know it’s impossible to poll the entire readership of our subreddit. So we thought we would try it out simply because it’s such a growing community and to abstain from default readership now is just to postpone the kind of readership we were going to have eventually anyway.

A screenshot of the traffic spike that TwoXChromosomes saw after becoming a default subreddit.

TLDR: It seems like a big change. I guess what I think is big about it is that the default subreddits are, in a way, reddit’s attempt to define its identity. And its identity for a long time was very male-centric, libertarian, atheist. Its shuffling of its defaults is its way of redefining itself to the world that hasn’t discovered it yet.

HFCF: And I think it’s also an attempt to get more unique content out to users. So if you look at the list of default subreddits that were newly adopted last week, you’ll find some more niche subreddits like writing prompts and philosophy. Those aren’t things that necessarily define the average reddit user, but they are great subreddits. They are great glimpses into what reddit can be. And I think TwoXChromosomes can be a great platform for discussion. So it’s hard to say whether it’s because reddit is trying to self-identify in a more comprehensive way or whether reddit is trying to get better content out to its users.

TLDR: You did this interview on the condition that we don’t use your real name, and I’m curious if that is because, as the creator of a woman-centric forum on reddit, you’ve been subject to a lot of personal attack.

HFCF: I don’t know what “a lot” is, I think that’s a relative term. Especially for the internet where everything is anonymous. I don’t want “High Fructose Corn Feces” associated with my real name. I have a job and a life, and I have maybe three friends who know of my reddit username, and they’re not even my closest friends.

TLDR: I just assumed that it was because of the environment reddit fosters. And I guess I want to check my assumptions about that. I have found that reddit can be very inhospitable to women and feminist viewpoints and there is a huge contingent of Men’s Rights Activism and The Red Pill and all these communities that foster a very hostile culture.

HFCF: I have found that as well. I guess behind the anonymity of the screen I’m not afraid of that. There have been attempts to sort of dox other redditors, and you have to be careful about what you say on reddit - not to reveal any personally identifying information because people could theoretically comb your profile and your comments to target where you live and all these characteristics about you that might narrow you down. So there’s always the concern for privacy, but in terms of reddit being an inhospitable place to be a woman with an opinion and to be even a feminist, that is absolutely true that it might not go over well.

TLDR: So now that a you are a default subreddit do you feel like you have caught a lot of shit from the people on reddit who make it inhospitable to women? Were there a lot of people who would come into TwoXChromosomes and engage in bad faith?

HFCF: Of course. People are happy to dissent if they don’t have they accountability of who they actually are. If they can hide behind a screen.

TLDR: Have you noticed an increase in bad behavior since becoming a default subreddit?

Sure, and we completely expected that. It’s mostly relegated to comments that have a men’s rights activist mentality, and not that I’m against men’s rights, it’s more just an anti-feminist mentality or an anti-woman mentality. A lot of readers have been receiving private messages calling them various names. But it’s easy to ignore that kind of thing.

TLDR: The reason I contacted you initially is because I read this Jezebel article about TwoXChromosomes users who were attempting to drive away readers by making posts that were very graphic depictions of, of --

HFCF: Of the experience of being a woman, right?

TLDR: Right. Talking about menstruation in very graphic terms, coining new, vivid slang terms. How do you feel about this?

HFCF: I think it’s hilarious. I love the users of TwoXChromosomes. I would say in all we’re a progressive, supportive, and hilarious community. It’s hard to say whether those posts were upvoted because we wanted to scare away men. Sometimes people upvote things purely out of novelty. Sometimes people upvote things with a collective mentality. But the stated purpose, at least from several upvoted comments was that we needed to sort of announce to the rest of reddit what kind of subreddit TwoXChromosomes is, and if you cannot handle that as a regular reddit user, you should simply unsubscribe.

TLDR: Even though there have been personal attacks, and people joining the subreddit that have taken a hardline men’s rights stance, you think this is a net positive for TwoXChromosomes and reddit, right?

HFCF: I think it’s a positive thing for the female experience to have a growing voice and for us to be seen as humans. If there’s one thing that you can take away from TwoXChromosomes it’s that we are women, we are legion, please see us as humans. That wasn’t always the case on the internet, or even on reddit. I’m happy to contribute to that. I’m not going to deny that there’s been negativity and new amounts of negativity since the defaulting. And it’s always an experiment. If it’s apparent within a certain amount of time that this is a terrible decision, we can always go back. But at this point we’re seeing a lot more positive things happen than negative things happen. People are having more gender related discussions and discussing the experience of what it is to be a woman, and how weird and varied and diverse that is. And how wonderful that is. And how human we are. So that is a great thing just to be seen not as this pedestal ornament but as a person. And I think it’s hard to break that barrier on the internet. Who knows where this will go? What I’m excited is just having a louder female voice on the internet.