As long as men are terrible online, Drew Afualo will have work. “It’s like the most aggressive form of job security,” she tells TIME. “I’ll never run out of content.” The 27-year-old creator has amassed 8 million followers on TikTok by giving misogynistic men a taste of their own medicine. The way it usually works: a guy with an alpha-male demeanor uploads a video degrading women, Afualo’s followers alert her to its presence, and she posts a video in response.
Her clapback usually puts their own tactics to work against them. If they can make hurtful comments about women’s appearances, her philosophy goes, she can silence them by showing them how it feels. “Ask any firefighter: You fight fire with fire,” she says. “They burn everything in front of it so the fire has nowhere to go.”
The internet has never been a safe place for women. According to the Pew Research Center, 33% of women under 35 say they have been sexually harassed online. While some might find Afualo’s tactics less than diplomatic, her cleverly constructed roasts have helped deflate the egos of many a misogynistic troll—and you have to be a gifted comedian, in concept and delivery, to come up with the comebacks she does. Afualo asks that those who find her content offputting interrogate their own internalized misogyny and, for many women, tendency to seek validation from men.
“It’s so common for men to be terrible online and suffer no consequence because it’s easy to be anonymous,” she says. “I like to think of myself as a tangible consequence.”
Consuming such a large amount of “rancid material,” as she puts it, could take a toll on one’s mental health. But Afualo sees the fruits of her labor in the comments section—both literally and in her Spotify exclusive podcast, aptly named The Comment Section With Drew Afualo, where she interviews guests like Kim Petras and Bob the Drag Queen—and in messages from supporters. They tell her she’s given them the strength to confront the men who treat them poorly or to break up with abusive partners. “It does get very heavy to deal with all the hate I receive—which is a lot,” Afualo says. But knowing she’s inspired her followers to stand up for themselves, she says, “helps remind me why I do what I do.”
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