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'A way for men to come together': Men Going Their Own Way just want to be left alone

Members of the group say they're not "men's rights" activists, but critics say there’s plenty wrong with MGTOW. Researcher Barb MacQuarrie said they are misinformed and use "deplorable" rhetoric.

Many of the men of MGTOW swear off relationships with women, though some maintain “friends with benefits” and even paid escort arrangements. Society has become stacked against men, they say, in education, work and politics.

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Many of the men of MGTOW swear off relationships with women, though some maintain “friends with benefits” and even paid escort arrangements. Society has become stacked against men, they say, in education, work and politics.

Daniel Bell does not consider himself a “men’s rights” activist. The 23-year-old carpenter from northern B.C. is one of more than 60,000 pseudonymous users of the “Men Going Their Own Way” online forums.

Unlike the vocal members of the men’s rights movement, the men of MGTOW (pronounced “MIG-TAO”) just want to be left alone.

How they practise their brand of separatism depends on the man, but it largely involves avoiding serious long-term relationships and cohabitation with women and instead getting in a lot of “me time.” It’s a MGTOW-first policy, with the focus on their own education, friendships, work and leisure.

“For me, MGTOW is basically going out, trying to be the best person you can be,” said Bell over the phone. He was in a two-year relationship, but ended it after watching his parents go through a divorce in which he felt his father was treated unjustly, though he concedes it ended fairly.

“(MGTOW is) a way for men to come together and look at society and draw a conclusion into what’s wrong with it,” he said.

And they believe there’s plenty wrong with it, particularly when it comes to men’s relationships with women, of which many MGTOW men like Bell vehemently swear off, though some maintain “friends with benefits” and even paid escort arrangements. Society has become stacked against men, they say, in education, where they’re falling behind women; in work, where they criticize efforts to shrink the wage gap; and in politics, where they say more services are offered to women than men.

But critics say there’s plenty wrong with MGTOW. Researcher Barb MacQuarrie said they are misinformed. They criticize family courts for favouring women — one of the key overlaps with the men’s rights groups they claim not be aligned with.

“Very contrary to the view that some of these men put out, it’s really hard to lose custody of your children,” said MacQuarrie, the community director of the Centre for Research & Education on Violence Against Women at Western University in London, Ont. To MacQuarrie, these are men who feel they have lost their status and traditional sense of identity as providers in a shifting economy of globalization and downsizing.

“They have no real ability to identify the global forces that are at work in their life, so they hang the blame on feminists,” she said. “They’re creating a space that other disillusioned, disenfranchised men are going to stumble into and get caught in.”

In the online forums, MGTOW members discuss dating, divorce, sports, philosophy, motorcycle clubs and what’s on their grills. Often when women are discussed, it is angrily. One feature of the MGTOW site’s profiles is to list how many women a user has helped remove from the forums, or “number of c—s punted.” 

Despite this vitriolic language, one 30-year-old Vancouver security professional who agreed only to speak with Metro anonymously via email, claimed MGTOW men don’t hate women.

“We dislike the system that caters to them, at the expense of us,” he wrote. 

Bell said he doesn’t agree with much of the language used. “I don’t go out of my way to call them cows and B’s,” he said, but he’d still rather not be in a relationship.

MacQuarrie too calls some of the rhetoric “deplorable.”

“It shows a complete lack of self-reflection,” she said. To MacQuarrie, the decision by these men to lead separatist lifestyles is more than just “a bit pathetic.” 

“They’re only reinforcing each other’s really distorted perceptions of what’s happening in the world,” she said. “They are confining themselves knowingly to a life of isolation and a lot of limitations. It’s sad.”

This article was updated to clarify Barb MacQuarrie's job title.  

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