How to Stop Conspiracy Moms
If we want women to stop pushing dangerous ideas online, we need to understand why they believe this bullshit
When you think of conspiracy theorists, it’s likely you’re picturing an older white man holed up in a basement surrounded by newspaper clippings and a scribbled-on blackboard. The more accurate and modern picture, though, would be someone sleeker and more surprising: A younger, white, stay-at-home mom who dabbles in Instagram influencing.
Whether it’s Covid, QAnon, or vaccinations, there’s a new generation of conspiracy moms bringing a facade of palatability to some of the most dangerous ideas in America. These women are giving a polished sheen to ridiculous and menacing theories, and they count among the country’s biggest hurdles to fighting disinformation.
After all, it’s easy to dismiss a bedraggled man shouting on a street corner; less so when it’s a photogenic white woman with thousands of social media followers. These women — historically venerated and culturally powerful — are perfect believable messengers for the most unhinged ideas.
But if we’re going to stop the rise of conspiracy moms, we need to understand why women are susceptible to specific kinds of conspiracy theories. I believe the heart of it is that women are reacting — badly and ill-advisedly — to the poor way they’ve been treated.
We know, for example, that while women are much less likely than men to believe that Covid-19 is a “hoax,” they appear less likely than men to take the Covid-19 vaccine once it’s widely available. Pew reported that while 67% of men say they intend to get the vaccine, only 54% of women said the same.
Why the disconnect? There is something about vaccines, in particular, that strikes a chord with these moms.
Women head up the broader anti-vax movement in part because many distrust the medical establishment, often for good reason. Women are more likely to have their pain or illnesses disbelieved by doctors or be told that it’s all in their head. There’s a clear line between systemic medical mistreatment and distrust of the vaccine in another marginalized group, as well: Half of Black adults — a community that has…