Men Going Their Own Way
Men Going Their Own Way (MGTOW //) is an anti-feminist, misogynistic, mostly online community advocating for men to separate themselves from women and from a society which they believe has been destroyed by feminism. The community is a part of the manosphere, a collection of anti-feminist websites and online communities that also includes the men's rights movement, incels, and pickup artists.
Like other manosphere communities, the MGTOW community overlaps with the alt-right and white supremacist movements, and it has been implicated in online harassment of women. The Southern Poverty Law Center categorizes MGTOW as a part of the male supremacist ideology, a category they began tracking on their hate group tracking project, Hate Map, in 2018.
While it is not clear where the MGTOW ideology originated, it is believed to have emerged in the early 2000s. A blog called No Ma'am was one of the first sites dedicated to the ideology, publishing a "MGTOW Manifesto" in 2001. Earlier members of the MGTOW community were largely libertarian. There is a divide between early and contemporary members of the movement, and some earlier members of the community express derision for present-day men in the community.
MGTOW communities and their fellow manosphere group, pick-up artists, began to merge with the alt-right when it came to prominence beginning in 2015. The two groups overlap both in membership and in ideology; both believe that feminism has destroyed Western society. MGTOW and other manosphere communities also overlap with various white supremacist, authoritarian, and populist movements worldwide. Far-right commentator and polemicist Milo Yiannopoulos is credited with helping to popularize MGTOW with a 2014 Breitbart article about "the Sexodus", in which he described men who were eschewing women, love, sex, and marriage because of feminism.
Men in the MGTOW community gather online in communities including the subreddit r/MGTOW and smaller auxiliary subreddits, and the MGTOW Forum, an independent website. r/MGTOW was created in 2011 and the MGTOW Forum emerged in 2014. Following Reddit's 2017 ban of a large incel subreddit, r/MGTOW was briefly the largest and most active manosphere subreddit, falling to second most popular soon after. Reddit quarantined the r/MGTOW subreddit in January 2020, a restriction the platform applies to subreddits determined to be "extremely offensive or upsetting to the average redditor" which prevents them from appearing in the popular Reddit feeds, excludes them from search and recommendations, and requires visitors to agree to seeing potentially offensive content before entering.
Unlike some other manosphere groups, MGTOW disallows women from joining. Members of MGTOW communities are primarily heterosexual, white, middle-class men from North America and Europe. Jones and colleagues writing in New Media & Society in 2019 describe the size of MGTOW communities: "while the precise number of MGTOW followers is unclear, it appears to be a popular and growing group within the Manosphere: the subreddit r/MGTOW has grown from 54,000 members in early 2018 to 104,000 members in early 2019 and there are 32,859 members listed on one MGTOW forum." Author Donna Zuckerberg described MGTOW in her 2018 book Not All Dead White Men as smaller than the men's human rights movement and the seduction (pickup artistry) communities, with the MGTOW Forum having over 25,000 subscribers and r/MGTOW having over 35,000.
At the center of MGTOW ideology is the notion of male separatism and the belief that society has been corrupted or destroyed by feminism. MGTOW groups are misogynist and anti-feminist, believing that feminism has made women dangerous to men, and that male self-preservation requires dissociating completely from women. They believe there is systemic gynocentric bias against men, including double standards in gender roles and bias against men in family courts. MGTOW groups share a belief common among other manosphere groups that women follow a similar pattern in dating and marriage: young and attractive women are promiscuous and engage in "hypergamy", having sex with numerous men and abandoning a man if a "higher-value" man shows interest. They believe women gravitate towards "alpha men" who are attractive but mistreat them, and that this solidifies their beliefs in feminism. As the women begin to age, the MGTOW ideology explains that they choose to settle down with "beta males" who provide for them financially, but to whom they deny sex, sometimes choosing to have sex with attractive men outside of their marriage. Finally, the ideology holds that the women will divorce their husbands, and that courts will favor the women in divorce proceedings due to what they describe as female privilege.
Men in the MGTOW movement use jargon shared by the manosphere communities, including the red and blue pill metaphor borrowed from the film The Matrix. Those in the manosphere who have been awakened from feminist "delusion" to the supposed reality that society is fundamentally misandrist and dominated by feminist values are said to be "redpilled" or have "taken the red pill"; those who do not accept that ideology are referred to as "bluepilled". MGTOW communities also share other terminology with other manosphere communities, including slurs against other men such as "soy boy", "beta cuck", and "white knight".
Members of MGTOW communities track their engagement with the ideology with a four- or five-level model, which ranges from level zero to level four. Level zero members are said to be "situationally aware", meaning they have "taken the red pill" and accept some of the tenets of MGTOW ideology, such as that "gender equality is a lie". They are sometimes described as "purple pilled" by those who believe they are partway between red- and blue-pilled, and level zero MGTOW members still believe marriage is worthwhile. Level one MGTOW members abstain from long-term relationships, cohabitation, and marriage, but will still participate in shorter term relationships and sexual encounters. Those who are at level two also abstain from short-term relationships and sexual encounters. Level three MGTOW members attempt to reduce their economic engagement with society, and level four members disengage from society completely. A four-level version of this model combines levels three and four into the fourth and final level, and describes such disengagement with the state and society as "going ghost".
Relation to other manosphere groups
The MGTOW community is a part of the manosphere, a heterogenous group of websites, blogs, and online forums promoting some forms of masculinity, hostility towards women, strong opposition to feminism, and exaggerated misogyny. In addition to MGTOW, the men's rights movement, incels, pick-up artists, and father's rights movements also make up the manosphere.
Men's rights movement
Although some consider MGTOW to be a part of the men's rights movement, others have cited MGTOW's separatist ideology as distinguishing them from the men's rights movement, which engages in activism to try to drive societal change. According to Donna Zuckerberg, early MGTOW groups were primarily libertarian and opposed to "big government"; this led to a rift with the men's rights movements who wished to lobby for governmental change, particularly with regards to custody and divorce law.
The MGTOW community has a reciprocal disdain for the pickup artist (PUA) community due to their differing opinions towards women. Whereas MGTOW communities focus on separating entirely from women, pickup artists focus on developing techniques to have sex with women. PUA communities have mocked MGTOW as "Virgins Going Their Own Way". MGTOW communities deride PUAs as being entirely dependent on women's approval, and because they place so much value in attaining sexual success with women, MGTOW says PUA communities contribute to what they see as overvaluing of women in gynocentric society.
In January 2020 a group of computer scientists published a preprint of a paper titled "The Evolution of the Manosphere Across the Web", which was described by Tanya Basu in MIT Technology Review as "the most complete picture yet of the misogynistic groups that fuel the incel movement online". r/MGTOW and the MGTOW Forum were among the communities studied in the paper. Shortly after the preprint was published, Reddit quarantined the r/MGTOW subreddit, a restriction the platform applies to subreddits determined to be "extremely offensive or upsetting to the average redditor" which prevents them from earning advertising revenue and requires visitors to agree to seeing potentially offensive content before entering.
Researchers have implicated MGTOW communities in online harassment of women. Wright et al., publishing in Information, Communication & Society in 2020, wrote that "MGTOW propagate extensive and wide-ranging passive or undirected harassment and misogyny on Twitter." Ribeiro et al. found in 2020 that MGTOW communities were among the manosphere communities which "have been growing in size and in their involvement in online harassment and real-world violence." Fellows at the Institute for Research on Male Supremacism publishing with the International Centre for Counter-Terrorism have said that members of MGTOW "openly disdain women, and normalize it through online harassment."
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