Conference Agenda

RS04_06: Men and Masculinities in a Changing Europe II: Antifeminism and toxic masculinity
Thursday, 22/Aug/2019:
2:00pm - 3:30pm

Session Chair: Katarzyna Wojnicka, University of Gothenburg
Session Chair: Katarzyna Suwada, Nicolaus Copernicus University
Location: BS.3.17
Manchester Metropolitan University Building: Business School, Third Floor, North Atrium Oxford Road

Session Abstract

In recent years two major trends linked to the transformation of masculinities can be observed in European societies. On the one hand, researchers recognise significant changes in both models of masculinities and male gender roles. These changes have been followed by a switch in public discourses and politics focused on men and boys (Scambor at al. 2014). Moreover, one can identify a flourishing number of grass-roots initiatives oriented on men and gender equality (Wojnicka 2016). Yet, on the other hand, Europe is also facing a crisis of liberal democracy, which affects the value of gender equality, and in some regions a re-traditionalisation of gender roles becomes excessively visible. Far-right groups, dominated by men, are gaining greater popularity by attacking (male) immigrants and refugees coming from other parts of the world. Such trends are connected to the resurrection of hegemonic and toxic forms of masculinities. They also create new forms of marginalised masculinities. Therefore, the aim of this RS is to address the issues connected to various models of masculinities and power relations between genders.


Men’s Rights Activism in Italy: between anti-feminism and anti-sexism

Manolo Farci1, Nicola Righetti2

1University of Urbino Carlo Bo, Italy; 2University of Urbino Carlo Bo, Italy

In recent years, we are witnessing the re-emerging of a loose confederacy of men’s online communities, from more traditional men’s rights activists (MRAs) (Schmitz, Kazyak 2016) to the new misogynistic techno-cultures of the manosphere (Nagle 2017; Ging 2017). On the one hand, all these groups share the same pro-male anti-feminist rhetoric that place men as the silenced victims of a reverse discrimination (Marwick, Caplan 2018) and reinforce their sense of aggrieved entitlement (Kimmel 2015). On the other hand, many of these groups tend, like feminism, to reject the patriarchal notion of gender essentialism and bring to light the ways in which traditional gender norms negatively affect men socially and psychologically (Farrell 1974; Goldberg 1976). These “pro-male” movements are indicative of a wider complex online backlash (Menzies 2008) as they accept some of the precepts of feminist theory such as the principle of liberal equality, while rejecting feminism as a label and political project (Nicholas, Agius 2017).

The aim of this study is to explore how these two antithetical discourses are represented in the Italian MRA network. We will start with “Antisessismo” (anti-sexism), one of the italian prominent MRA pages on Facebook with over 45,000 followers, continue with identification of the resulting network and its main clusters, using social network analysis, and complete the study with a qualitative analysis of the major groups and pages.

We believe that deconstructing the boundaries between more moderate men’s rights activism and feminism, and exploring the points of ideological convergence between the two movements could facilitate the building of an inclusive gender theory truly committed to dismantling patriarchal ideology.

Perpetrators’s Narratives And Global Political Virilism

Cristina Oddone

University of Strasbourg, France

In domestic violence cases, men who take part in perpetrator programmes are invited to analyse their violent behaviours against their female (ex) partners and to verbalise their feelings of anger and revenge. Such contexts represent an interesting anthropological microcosm to observe the social construction of masculinities: an ethnographic fieldwork on perpetrator programmes in France and Italy has identified recurrent attitudes of victimhood together with the expression of the desire for retaliation.

Such narratives seem to echo the arguments promoted at a global level by rising authoritarian movements and far-right parties. The rhetoric used by political leaders in countries like Italy, Hungary, and the United States among others, recalls similar sets of values ranging from (national) victimism to radical transgression/revenge, delegitimising EU rules, human rights standards, gender equality policies. The refusal of “politically correctness” includes sexist behaviours like negative comments about women and the idea that gender equality has already been achieved (or even exceeded by feminism).

My contribution seeks to analyse the convergence between the narratives produced by violent men in perpetrator programmes and the global conservative rhetoric against feminism. The elements of continuity between the two settings can indicate the development of a renovated “hegemonic masculinity” which seems to successfully push the political agenda further right. The open hostility towards policies oriented at combating violence against women seems to nourish political virilism and confirms the political use of the term “gender” as a “Trojan horse” to mobilise supporters for neo conservative initiatives and to gain electoral consensus.

Sex Robots And Toxic Masculinity – Intimacy With Non-Humans Or Escape From The Society.

Grzegorz Kubiński

Pedagogical University, Poland

The concept of toxic masculinity, understood as an expression of the patriarchal social structure, has become one of the most important problems of contemporary culture. Toxic masculinity is very often connected with heteronormative, extremely masculine behavioural patterns based on institutional religion. Although by the majority of the society toxic masculinity is criticized, it appears more and more visible in the social discourse in the form of informal movements like "incels" or "MGTOW". Their supporters postulate the dominance of men and the sustain of patriarchy, seeing women in a subordinate role. At the same time, there is a growing interest of both men and the media in the specific form of sexual fetishes such as sex-robots (fembots, gynoids) representing the objectified women's body. The sex industry estimates that sex robots will be one of the most important erotic gadgets in the following years. However, sexbots can be understood as “the ultimate Other” or non-human being with whom men can have sexual relations. In this case, sexuality will turn into the vast net of non-humans and humans and as the consequence probably change the way how the artificial beings can be perceived. Analyzing these two trends, the proposed paper attempts to answer the following questions: do men with extremely misogynist views are interested in erotic sex robots as a tool for maintaining the patriarchy or interest in such objects is more a form of sexual escapism from the postulated open and equal of society, and is there any possibility for the human society to accept non-human artificial beings as integral, intimate and sexual partners.

Normative Sexuality as a Proof of Manhood? (Re)construction of Normative (Hetero)sexuality of Porn and Sex Addicts in the Czech Republic

Barbora Vesela

Charles University, Czech Republic

The abstract is based on intersection of feminist critical theory, queer and crip theory and focuses on the strategies that (hetero)sexual men are pursuing in order to overcome their sexual life style, which has been pathologised in western societies for decades (Rubin, 1998). Currently, the issue is being more or less silenced in order to maintain the status quo in the public discourse in the Czech context, as silencing of the risk of addiction could be seen as the side effect of normalisation of porn usage as integral part of male sexuality. I would claim that stereotypical characterisation and focus on dichotomy between male and female sexualities in the public discourse might have its share in the issue together with the neoliberal discourse. The neoliberal society to be characterised by individualisation and focus on self-reflection and self-help (Weeks, 2007) enables the former porn and sex addicts to start the process of “composing straightness” (McRuer, 2006, p. 155). Thus, we can claim that normative heterosexuality is less natural than it is usually assumed. Therefore, the words “queer” used in Tim Deans statement about queer culture and its way of manifestation and appropriation could be replaced by “straight”: “To apprehend [straight] sexual institutions and practices as cultures is to acknowledge that they may warrant our respect even – or especially – when we do not immediately understand them. But it is also entails acknowledging that, unlike other cultures, nobody is born into or inherits [straight] culture: it becomes one´s own culture only through modes of invention and appropriation.” (Dean, 2009, p. 37).