CfP - Doing masculinities online: defining and studying the manosphere

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Call for Papers
November 15, 2020
Subject Fields: 
Cultural History / Studies, Sexuality Studies, Social Sciences, Sociology, Women's & Gender History / Studies

Call for articles

Doing masculinities online: defining and studying the manosphere


Edited by: Raffaella Ferrero Camoletto (University of Turin, Italy), Maddalena Cannito

(University of Turin, Italy), Eugenia Mercuri (University of Turin, Italy), Valeria Quaglia

(University of Milan Bicocca), Isabel Crowhurst (University of Essex, UK).


In the last decade we have witnessed the expansion of a cyberspace network of social

media communities, websites and blogs defined as the “manosphere”1, comprised mainly

of men who focus on issues concerning men and masculinity.


International literature on this phenomenon provides more details on the different

actors who populate this virtual space. Among them are groups of men who are concerned

about the “crisis of masculinity” and who, depending on their ideological stance, pursue

different objectives. While some of them - such as the Mythopoetic Men’s Movement and

Men's Rights Activism (MRA) - are nostalgic for an ideal and idealized past and make

reference to the “true nature” of masculinity (Coston & Kimmel 2013; Schmitz & Kazyak

2016), others - such as Pick Up Artist, Red Pill and Incels (Ging 2019; Mountford 2018;

Van Valkenburgh 2018) adopt the rhetoric of the “crisis of masculinity” in order to

advocate for men’s liberation from “female dominance”. Others, such as Men Going

Their Own Way (MGTOW), adopt a separatist approach based on the implementation of

individualistic and self-empowering actions, including stopping the pursuit of romantic

relationships with women (Lin 2017; Jones et al. 2019). For others still, such as Alt-Right,

relationships with women are entirely peripheral, and at their core is an intensely

misogynistic ideology focused on promoting white nationalism and supremacy in order

to create a society based on male tribalism and comradeship (Hawley 2017; Lyons 2018).

In these contexts, there is a proliferation and hyper-production of discourses on: gender

relations that degrade women, conceived as sexual objects and exchangeable

commodities; a problematic revisitation of notions such as rape and sexual consent

(Dragiewicz 2008; Gotell and Dutton 2016); forms of hybrid masculinity that combine

old and new variations of antifeminism (Ging 2019). Last but not least, within a

homosocial context these groups build new gender hierarchies that, on one hand, keep

separating masculinities from femininities to maintain and (re)produce male privilege;

and on the other hand, intra-gender hierarchical power relations delimitate new

boundaries of legitimacy and respectability within different ways of performing



What can be observed, therefore, is that the possession or the lack of a specific valued

masculine capital (sensu Bourdieu) determines the rank of masculinities in such a way

that men populating the manosphere distance themselves from other men. These

stigmatized others are variously labeled as “soyboys” (Jones et al. 2011), “normies”

(Nagle 2017), as “simps” or “cucks” (Hunte 2019), they are accused of being dominated

by women and considered to be feminized, inadequate or unwittingly complicit

(“bluepilled”) with the feminization of society with its inevitable social decline (Kendall

2002; Quinn 2002; Rodriguez & Hernandez 2018). In this construction of new practices

and discourses a process of “othering” emerges. This operates by identifying something

or someone as abject (Butler 1993), and contributes to redefine the boundaries of

legitimate and hegemonic masculinities (as already highlighted in researches on the use

of other derogatory labels such as “fag”, cfr. Pascoe 2005). But navigating the manosphere are also fathers’ rights groups, whose claims often rest upon references to the “equity/equality” between intimate partners and the need for shared custody of children, whilst at the same time bemoaning women’s victimisation and discrimination of men and fathers in the public sphere as well as in the private (Bertoia and Drakich 1993; Dragiewicz 2008; Kaye and Tolmie 1998).


All these groups, that fundamentally, albeit differently, aim at promoting legitimate

ways of “being men” in contemporary society (both online and offline), can be interpreted

as carriers of various forms of masculinity politics. With the help of Messner’s (2000)

analytical instrument, which identifies a triadic “terrain” of the politics of masculinities2,

it is possible to recognize common features, but at the same time different positioning of

these groups within it. Indeed, if most expressions of the manosphere rely on a frame of

victimization, some groups would be located in the ‘costs of masculinity’ corner of the

triadic model, such as fathers’ rights groups, while other groups are more centered on

victimizing others by establishing differences between men and intra-gender hierarchies,

like the Red Pill community (Ging 2019; Van Valkenburgh 2018).


In reviewing the scholarship addressing the manosphere we have identified some gaps

that are present in the available research.


First, the third corner of Messner’s triadic model is still overlooked. This includes the

groups of men that pursue the goal of reflecting upon the social construction of hegemonic

masculinity in order to undermine men’s institutional power and privileges over women.

Secondly, the majority of research on this phenomenon focuses on the US context, and

in rare cases on other Western anglophone countries (such as Australia and Canada). In

Italy there is still a paucity of studies exploring the manosphere, most of them look at

separated fathers’ groups (Deriu 2007; Petti and Stagi 2015) or provide a general

overview of how the Italian manosphere is structured (Farci and Righetti 2019).

Finally, since this is an emerging phenomenon, to date there is no academic work

providing a systematic reflection on how different methodological approaches might

contribute to a better understanding of the manosphere; similarly, an interdisciplinary

perspective on the topic is still missing and would certainly be useful in grasping its

multifaceted implications.


This Special Issue aims at critically addressing the processes of construction and

reproduction of the manosphere by questioning its own definition and boundary-making

as part of the current doing of online masculinities. We propose to extend the meaning of

Messner’s “masculinity politics” in order to include all reflexive masculinity practices.

By reflexive here we mean all those gendered and gendering practices whose primary

purpose is to redefine in some way the very meaning of masculinity, so as to modify,

maintain or thematize them in some way.


The Call is open to contributions engaging with the following issues:


1) How can the contents and boundaries of the manosphere be defined theoretically?

2) Which gendered configurations of practices may empirically be included within

the manosphere to explore the complex interconnections between online/offline,

global/local, intergender/intragender and intersectional processes, discursive

practices and practices of masculinity?

3) What fruitful methodological approaches and techniques can be used in

investigating the manosphere? What is the potential for cross-disciplinarity and

methodological innovation?

4) How can we pursue a more comprehensive approach to the manosphere which

moves beyond North American-focused literature and includes theoretical and

empirical research from other contexts?

5) How are online and offline contexts/practices of doing/constructing masculinities

interconnected (e.g. through the use of specific jargon/language, participation in

political activism, …), and how is it possible to explore such interconnection?

We welcome theoretically-oriented as well as empirical contributions from different

disciplines and/or adopting a multi-disciplinary approach, and focusing on different

cultural contexts that bring to the Special Issue a more complex understanding of this



The manuscripts need to be written in one of the three languages – Italian, English or

Spanish – in which the journal is published.


See the Authors’ guidelines for proposal submission.


The target length for an article is 5,000 – 8,000 words, excluding bibliography.


All contributions must be accompanied by: a title in English, a short abstract

(maximum length: 150 words); and three to five keywords in English. The texts must be

transmitted in a format compatible with Windows systems (.doc or .rtf), according to the

indications provided by the Peer Review Process.


The deadline for the received manuscripts: 15th November 2020

The issue will be published in May 2021.


For more information, please contact:

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