Argumentation strategies in an online male separatist community

Aiston, Jessica (2023) Argumentation strategies in an online male separatist community. PhD thesis, UNSPECIFIED.

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This thesis explores the legitimation of ‘male separatist’ ideology in an online community known as ‘Men Going Their Own Way’ (MGTOW). I take a discourse-historical approach to critical discourse studies (Reisigl and Wodak, 2016), as adapted for social media data (Unger et al., 2021), in order to examine the argumentation strategies and topoi used by members of this community to persuade others to abstain from relationships with women and reject feminism. The dataset comprises fifty threads totalling 46,000 words from the major MGTOW community hosted on Reddit. As well as contributing to a growing body of research on the manosphere, this thesis demonstrates how the DHA and topoi can be applied to social media discussion forums, where argumentation may be collaborative or expressed multimodally. Findings indicate that women were constructed as a homogenous group, meaning men must separate from all women. Arguments in favour of separatism typically relied on a topos of freedom in order to suggest that separating from women will increase men’s independence. This was often combined with a topos of finance, where increased personal freedoms included the freedom to decide how one’s money is spent and freedom from financial obligations to others. Relatedly, relationships were framed in economic terms and as a series of financial transactions, discussed in terms of the costs (to men) and benefits (to women). Furthermore, arguments against marriage used the topos of threat to construct women as a danger to men’s physical and emotional wellbeing, for example by arguing that married men risk having their lives ‘ruined’ by false claims of abuse. Arguments in opposition to feminism employed the topos of justice in order to highlight the purported the unequal treatment of men by feminists. Equality appeared to be equivalent to sameness and treating different genders in exactly the same manner, enabling commenters to delegitimise feminist activism targeting women as evidence of male oppression.

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21 Mar 2023 15:00
Last Modified:
30 Sep 2023 00:00