Last week, the largest remaining female-only community on Reddit announced they were leaving the site for good. R/Female Dating Strategy had over 240,000 subscribers in April, in addition to multiple spin-off subreddits including r/FemaleLevelUpStrategy, which also took its over 30,000 members offline. As an unabashedly pro-female community that demands high standards from men and encourages women to be intolerant of “low effort” male behavior in relationships, the subreddit was a lightning rod for abuse and harassment. After three years of viral growth on Reddit, the moderators have moved to a new website where they plan to continue hosting a female-only forum, sharing strategy posts, and distributing multimedia content.
What is Female Dating Strategy?
Female Dating Strategy (FDS) offers women a system to survive modern dating through a focus on self-growth (“leveling up”), avoiding men with red flags (“vetting”), and taking control of their relationships. FDS recognizes that women currently exist in patriarchy and that this is unlikely to change for generations. Given that reality, they aim to provide women with tools to end up in happy, fulfilling relationships that bring value to their lives or to forgo them altogether. The alternative is ending up in a relationship that brings a woman down, or worse, becomes dangerous and potentially deadly.
Although FDS may not explicitly call itself radical feminist or align with any political ideology, it is in many ways a modern application of radical feminist thought. The community is against pornography, prostitution, and BDSM. They argue that a woman is better off alone than with a man who drags her down. They educate each other about the early warning signs of domestic violence and provide advice on remaining financially independent (financial control is one of the key reasons women cannot leave abusers). They see the emotional and physical labor that women put into dating as valuable, and expect that men will bring at least equal value in return.
FDS demands high standards of men, and encourages women to refuse to settle. This has, unsurprisingly, made many men angry and many women uncomfortable. Between this and their strict process for ensuring a female-only community, FDS has been a constant target of smears and harassment. A 2020 article in The Verge compared FDS to the “manosphere” (a collection of misogynist forums for men’s rights activists) and pickup artists, and in 2021 Jezebel compared the community to “The Red Pill.” These superficial comparisons to hate groups largely ignore the defining factors of these communities: The manosphere is an organized effort to promote misogyny and violence against women, while FDS is an organized effort to survive under this constant threat.
FDS moderators describe experience on Reddit as “traumatizing”
In a podcast released on April 27, former FDS moderators Reaux, Savannah, and Lilith (pseudonyms, presumably) discuss the reasons behind the decision to permanently shutter the subreddit in favor of their own website. Primarily, they cite the constant onslaught of harassment FDS has endured (much of which is violent and graphic), and the misogynistic culture on Reddit which enables it.
“FDS is not sustainable on Reddit because it’s such a hostile environment,” said Reaux.
The moderators describe attempts to have FDS banned from Reddit by spamming the sub with violent imagery and bannable content. Moderators had to remain constantly vigilant, and often became the targets of threats, themselves. They list some of the threats they say they received while moderating FDS:
“I'm gonna mow you down with my car.”
“I'm going to rape you and your whole family.”
“I'm gonna kidnap you and put you in a breeding farm.”
“I'm going to disembowel the three of you.”
“They're going to take a machete to our heads.”
“I'm going to lock you in your house and burn your entire house and your family to the ground.”
“I'm going to find your dogs. I'm going to rape your dogs and then kill you.”
The moderators say they have had to report some threats to the FBI, and they fear for their safety if their true identities were ever made public. “If men knew who we were they would hunt us down,” said Lilith on a previous episode of the FDS podcast.
In addition to the threats, mods say they were often sent graphic material including (but hardly limited to) dick picks, AOC deep fakes, Nazi hentai, sissy porn, and child sexual abuse material. Because of the nature of the content they were forced to confront, Lilith describes being an FDS moderator as “traumatizing.” The experience led to regular burnout among the mod team, and FDS mods rarely lasted longer than six months. At a certain point, the mods realized they couldn’t step back and ask other women to take on this work.
“There's like an element of guilt everyone feels because it is traumatizing,” Reaux said on the podcast.
“It actually feels unethical for me to ask another woman to do that, to spend that kind of time and allow a woman to be traumatized by this kind of work,” Lilith elaborated. “It feels wrong for me to do that to another woman.”
Savannah pointed out that the work Reddit moderators do is unpaid, and a largely thankless job. While having to be so strict to maintain a female-only space, moderators would often be berated by their own community members for not keeping up fast enough with the demand.
“Sorry that our customer service isn't as good as you would like, you know, but this is something that we do for free,” said Savannah.
Meanwhile, FDS was actually generating revenue for Reddit which, like many social platforms, depends on content creators to drive eyeballs and clicks to advertiser content.
“Why should we be making money for Reddit?” said Savannah. “Whilst being subjected to abuse and we're not even protected from that abuse. They actually enable it.”
Reddit has a long-standing misogyny problem on its platform. In 2020, Reddit banned r/GenderCritical which was, at the time, the largest radical feminist subreddit on the platform with over 65,000 members. Many other female-centered subreddits were also banned in the same wave or forced to go private to avoid being swept up in the mass deletion, including many health-related subs for women. r/Pregnancy and r/PCOS were both targeted by trans activists and taken over by men.
Reddit and its MRA internet army claim that communities like r/GenderCritical and FDS are “hateful” because they acknowledge biological sex and do not center men in their feminist analysis. Meanwhile, porn subreddits (which make up nearly a quarter of all content on the site) are allowed to focus on “cis women only” — so long as they are being violently abused like on the subreddit r/DegradingHoles.
Likewise, as we previously reported, r/ActualLesbians (a subreddit alleging to be for lesbian support) frequently bans users from stating explicit same-sex attraction that "excludes" trans-identified males. Meanwhile, r/Lesbians (a porn subreddit) doesn't allow pictures or videos of non-biological females.
Men would regularly attempt to take advantage of this trans loophole to try to gain access to FDS.
“We would ban a guy and then he'd come back a day later being like, well, I identify as a woman now and now you have to let me on. And if you don't, you're not ‘trans-inclusive’ and I'm going to get you banned,” said Lilith.
“It's very coercive, the whole dynamic on Reddit… I feel like I'm being held hostage by this set of rules that's rigged against me. So, what's the point? What's the point of being on Reddit?”
ReddXit: Women Going Their Own Way
Rather than trying to continue to exist in this toxic environment and subject future generations of moderators to the traumatic experiences they endured, FDS decided to pick up and move to a new platform.
The new FDS website includes a forum, strategy guide articles, links to their two podcasts, and ways to support them through donations and a merch shop. Their top post on the new FDS forum outlines their reasons for leaving Reddit and currently has over 43,000 views and 234 comments. Though many users appreciated the convenience of FDS being on Reddit, a large contingent of their supporters appears to have made the migration with them.
The FDS community is now more insulated from the trolls on Reddit, but the new platform may not be entirely censorship-proof. The FDS website and forum appear to be hosted by Wix, a service with a spotty record on free speech.
When r/GenderCritical was banned from Reddit, they solved this problem by creating and hosting their own Reddit-like forum, called Ovarit. The new GenderCritical community there has about 6,800 subscribers — only about a tenth of what the subreddit previously enjoyed on Reddit. Yet, the forum is a bustling community with many daily active users. Best of all, control of the platform rests solely in the hands of the female administration team, not a third-party service or company.
It’s unclear what the future of FDS is or if they’ll be able to maintain the new forum on Wix (the team declined to comment for this article). But one thing that is clearer every day is the need for women to create their own spaces on the web if they want to survive. Sustainable feminist movements can not flourish under male surveillance and control, nor can they grow for free. By branching out on their own, the women doing the labor of maintaining new female spaces like Ovarit, FDS, and Spinster (shameless plug) have been able to monetize the work they were previously doing for free. Like it or not, funding women for their contributions to the feminist movement is an important part of building a resilient network.
As porn-sick men dominate tech companies and popular platforms, sites like Reddit fall deeper and deeper into a misogynist wormhole creating an intolerable environment for women. With their IPO on the horizon and lazy, at best, attempts to do damage control, the future of Reddit could actually hang in the balance. The great ReddXit of Female Dating Strategy may not be the linchpin to seal the site’s fate, but with women abandoning the platform in droves it doesn’t look good for the future of “the frontpage of the web.” Perhaps Reddit is doomed to become just another porn site — that’s where all the real money is, anyway.
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