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Catching Feelings: Antifeminist Men’s Emotional Backlash

January 21, 2021 at 2:30 PM to 4:00 PM

Location:Online via Zoom
Audience:Carleton Community, Current Students, Staff and Faculty

White men are congregating in online spaces where they develop and aggravate misogynistic, racist, homophobic, transphobic, and anti-Semitic views. These views lead a significant number of these men to aggressive, violent, and oppressive behaviour. Recently, there have been several high-profile cases of ideologically motivated violent extremism in which those who have perpetrated these violent acts appear to have been radicalized in xenophobic, gender-based, and race-based hatred online. These have included, for example, the 2017 shooting in a Quebec City mosque and the 2018 Incel (involuntary celibate) van attack in Toronto. Misogynistic, racist, homophobic, transphobic, and anti-Semitic attacks are not always carried out with guns and vans. Women, people of colour, members of the LGBTQ++ community, and Jewish people are frequently targets of online swarming attacks and “meme warfare.”

In this talk, Dr. Ryan Coulling draws on unobtrusive observation and qualitative content analysis on seven of the most vehemently misogynistic websites on the manosphere and, as a foil, one ostensibly progressive website to explain how white, heterosexual, right-winged men on the manosphere respond to their (perceived) loss of esteem, the diminishment of their power over others, and the loss of patriarchal, racial, and heteronormative dividends. Dr. Coulling illustrates that these men respond to the reduction of esteem and dividends through paranoid narratives in which they imagine that they are objects of persecution and are under a concerted attack. He then argues that these men defend against these perceived attacks by fortifying the boundaries of their identity with what he calls emotional border work. Dr. Coulling explains how much of this border work causes discomfort through a loss of esteem and a sense of shame, which perpetuates a repeating sequence of paranoia-border work-discomfort that must be thought of as a cruel optimism.

Dr. Ryan Coulling (he/him) is an early career researcher, having recently graduated with a PhD in Sociology from Carleton University. He is a Fellow with the Institute for Research on Male Supremacism ( His research is grounded in aspects of social justice that impact people in their everyday lives and practices, particularly how unjust systems become accepted as natural. His research projects are motivated by anti-racist, anti-colonial, intersectional feminist allyship. His current research projects examine the cultures and communities in which backlash against marginalized people is rampant, with a specific emphasis on white masculinities and these men’s emotional and violent reactions.

Please contact for the Zoom link.

This lecture is part of the Department of Sociology and Anthropology Colloquium Series.