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How Reddit's Anti-Feminist Women Talk About Clothes

When it comes to makeup and clothing, Red Pill Women don't always follow their captain.

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All across the internet, there are websites, blogs, Facebook groups, and forums devoted to offering fashion advice to a wide array of women with their own unique needs. Fashion-forward mom? Dapper queer? Fat and fabulous? The web is loaded with resources for you.

And if you’re looking to craft an outfit that says “I’ve rejected feminism, bought into the idea that men and women are just naturally different, and am looking for a good, reliable man to be the captain to my first mate,” then there’s Reddit’s Red Pill Women.

Launched in mid-2013, Red Pill Women is a female-focused offshoot of The Red Pill, a popular Reddit board devoted to the idea that feminism has tricked men into abandoning their fundamental masculine nature, leaving them sexless and frustrated in the process. Where The Red Pill encourages men to embrace their natural masculinity and learn how to be an alpha male, Red Pill Women is for ladies who are choosing a traditionally feminine path — and, in keeping with that, believe that heterosexual relationships work best when the man is in charge, that women are naturally sexual gatekeepers, and that women who look good and act demure are best positioned to attract a worthwhile mate. (Notably, Red Pill Women is not a forum for ladies looking to date dudes who post in The Red Pill — men from that community are frequently derided as “plate spinners” more interested in hooking up than settling down.)

Perhaps unsurprisingly, Red Pill Women isn’t as popular as its dude-oriented counterpart: The forum boasts just under 16,000 members (about 10 percent of The Red Pill’s subscriber base), with substantially fewer posts. Page back through 1,000 posts on Red Pill Women, and you land 11 months in the past; over on The Red Pill, you’ll still see posts from that very day.

But what Red Pill Women lacks in size, it makes up for in dedication. It’s clear that women who’ve “swallowed the red pill” genuinely believe that they’ve tapped into the keys to relationship success and sexual fulfillment, and they’re grateful to have a community of like-minded women to help them through the various struggles of finding and keeping a man who will respect, love, and stick with them for many years to come. Together, they sort through relationship struggles, chat about how to keep things interesting in the bedroom, and mourn what they see as the rise of liberal ideas about gender and relationships. And, of course, they’ve got a lot of opinions on clothes.

Red Pill Women isn’t a beauty forum per se. As one explainer notes, the subreddit is much more focused on internal, rather than external, change; within the Red Pill community, looking beautiful and feminine doesn’t mean much if you haven’t accepted the “fact” that women are better off being submissive to their partners.

But while attitude adjustments are seen as more critical than superficial makeovers, appearance is still seen as a vitally important part of securing — and retaining — a relationship. Much of The Red Pill philosophy revolves around the notion of SMV (that’s “sexual market value”); the higher your SMV is, the better your chances of getting the partner you want. And since for women, SMV is pretty much all about looks, it’s hardly surprising that the discussion not infrequently ventures into sartorial terrain.

So what, pray tell, is a Red Pill Woman to wear? For most members, the operative word is “feminine” — meaning soft, non-threatening, conservative sort of feminine, specifically. Dramatic high-fashion styles and punky riot grrl aesthetics, girly though they may be, aren’t really what these women are going for. Instead, they gravitate toward looks that follow a few simple rules. Long hair is better than short (according to the group, men prefer it because healthy hair indicates fertility); minimal, natural makeup is preferable to “cake face;” skirts win out over pants; and — in a sartorial spin on the age-old prude/slut dilemma — clothes should hug and showcase one’s fit physique without veering into overly-exposed territory.

Thread after thread solicits advice on how to maintain one’s femininity in a variety of situations. At work or at home, whether overhauling an entire wardrobe or securing a single item, and especially when it’s cold outside, a high priority is placed on presenting oneself as stylish, fit, and, yes, feminine.

For the most part, this devotion to feminine clothes is a matter of strategy. It is, according to the group, the style that good men find most attractive in their partners. Baggy pants and athleisure suggest a girl is slovenly, unkempt, and uninterested in taking care of herself (and, by extension, her partner); a girl who’s willing to go the extra mile and don dresses and heels and prioritize her partner’s tastes over her own physical comfort is showing herself to be a devoted partner who’ll continue to keep up appearances (literally) long after she’s locked down a relationship.

At times, fashion even takes on an almost magical quality: In one thread, dresses in particular are granted a mystical power as the poster details the ways that wearing dresses every day for a week substantially improved her life.

If a classic, feminine style is your bag, then the fashion advice doled out on Red Pill Women, while a bit constrained, is actually pretty solid. There are plenty of good recs and useful information to be found on Red Pill Women, with shops like ModCloth and ASOS routinely getting name checked, and fleece-lined tights — a must for any pants-eschewing cold weather wardrobe — routinely listed as a must-have wardrobe item. I was surprised by how often I found myself coveting many of the outfits offered up as aspirational examples of Red Pill style, and by how much in common my sartorial strategy has with many of the women on this board.

Also surprising? The group’s broad acceptance of diverse fashion styles and looks, even ones that veer away from what you might think of as traditional, conservative, and feminine. The most important fashion tip, posters remind each other, is to wear something that makes you feel comfortable and confident — even if it bends the rules of traditional feminine style. A poster who fears that her goth style will prevent her from attracting high-value men is told, over and over, that so long as she’s a pretty, feminine goth (as opposed to an “I’m going to kill you in your sleep” goth or overly masculine goth), she’ll be perfectly fine. In another thread, a black woman worries that she won’t be able to achieve the long hair men supposedly desire without turning to extensions (fake, and therefore a no-no) or aggressively damaging her hair; in response, she’s assured that hair health is far more important than hair length — even if she’ll never attain lustrous mermaid locks, she still has a chance of securing a quality captain.

Even a fat woman who frets that her body — which, by not being toned to perfection, is committing something of a Red Pill sin — makes dressing in a pretty, feminine style an exercise in futility is met not with scorn, but with encouragement. While the overall message isn’t exactly one of body positivity — no one’s telling her to love herself as she is, or to stop worrying about losing weight — there is broad agreement that there’s no need to put off living her best life just because she’s not at her goal weight. As a moderator reminds her, “it’s worth dressing and feeling feminine in your own skin always, not conditionally upon some future condition;” other group members chime in with similar advice, encouraging her to explore and embrace her femininity even if she’s not quite where she wants to be, weight-wise.

And at times, there are even moments of clarity that venture into — dare I say it — near feminist territory, particularly when the topic turns to makeup. More than one poster has turned to the group for guidance on how to make use of makeup without being deceptive or turning into one of those women routinely derided by men who urge their colleagues to “take her swimming on the first date.”

Rather than echoing some manosphere line about the evils of makeup, the women in this group tend to see men’s professed views on makeup for the trap that they are. One particularly insightful thread examines the idea that men prefer “natural” women for the lie that it is, noting going makeup-free is only in your best interest if you’re genetically blessed with perfect skin and conventionally attractive features. “You can play fair all you want, the system is cruel,” the poster concludes. “You are judged on things that you have no control over. Your desire to be ‘natural because you don't want to deceive’ can be detrimental in the path for success.” (Elsewhere, commenters note that men who crow the loudest about hating makeup often have no idea what they’re talking about; the “makeup-free” looks celebrated by men often involve heavy amounts of product carefully applied to look “natural.”)

And while male attention and approval, particularly within the context of a committed relationship, is valued, it’s made clear that its value has its limits. In a particularly harrowing thread, a 24-year-old writes about being pressured to get breast implants by her husband, who blames her post-pregnancy breasts for his lack of sexual interest. Rather than tell her to default to her partner, or insist that if he wants it, it’s inherently his right, group members caution her against making such a drastic change to her body — particularly given that it’s hardly guaranteed to save her relationship. The community reminds her — as they reiterate in other threads — that the Red Pill philosophy isn’t about submitting to all men, all the time, not matter what they want; it’s about using your femininity and SMV to attract a man who’s worth submitting to. In these moments, as the members of Red Pill Women demonstrate a deep understanding of the raw deal dealt out to women, their mission and philosophy starts to seem almost relatable.

But whatever pearls of insight reside within Red Pill Women, it’s impossible to escape the forum’s ultimate fixation. “Dress for your man, not other women,” one particularly popular thread admonishes group members, noting that twee accessories and designer brands might curry favor with other women, but aren’t particularly interesting to the all-important male gaze. And that perspective — the one that suggests that male approval is the ultimate currency, that your clothes and appearance should ultimately be for a man’s enjoyment and not your own — is where Red Pill Women loses me.

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