On February 3 it was announced via the vile Return of Kings website that their organization would be holding a series of meet-ups across the country, for men who are sympathetic to their anti-woman, pro-rape ideology. Then, within hours, the same website announced that these nationwide meet-ups were canceled. Why? One reason could be the fundamental cowardliness of these so-called “Alpha men” – whose ideology is clearly rooted in fear (fear of women, fear of progress, fear of equal rights). But more than any other factor it was undoubtedly the massive outpouring of solidarity, unity and organizing against hate that shut these fascists down, in record time.
For those lucky folks who are unfamiliar with the Return of Kings website, it is essentially a flaming garbage dump of internet hate-speech, wherein a loose affiliation of misogynists air their disgusting views on women, people of color and the LGBTQ community. This website features articles with titles like: “The Equality Movement is Allowing Women to Tyrannize Men”, “Girls with Short Hair are Damaged,” “5 Reasons You Shouldn’t Feel Guilty About European Colonialism” and “Are Transsexuals Who Sleep With Straight Men Guilty Of Rape?”
The founder, Roosh V, is infamous for an article titled “How to Stop Rape,” in which he actually builds an argument for the idea that “rape should be legal if done on private property.” As you can probably guess, this website receives a significant amount of traffic and circulation (which translates to advertising dollars on the internet) from progressives who read their articles, get outraged and tell their friends all about it. It’s a trolling tactic and it is very profitable and effective.
There is no need to argue point by point against ROK. Their views are absurd on their face; if you understand that women are people then you understand that raping women is wrong. But sadly, after centuries of violently patriarchal social norms, many men do have trouble seeing women as people.
In ways large and small, the idea that women are objects, valued for their ability to be pleasing to men and make babies, is reinforced in our society on a daily basis. Women have come a long way in forcing society to recognize our humanity, our independence and our right to control our own bodies but the views of ROK supporters are stuck in a distant, almost wholly imagined past. It’s not just a coincidence that this same website features multiple articles which call for a return to actual monarchy (turns out “Return of Kings” isn’t just a catchy name –it’s an aspiration) and the belief that “Democracy is a tool to remove power and influence from men.”
What are men’s rights activists and pick up artists?
Members of ROK identify as “Men’s Rights Advocates” and “Pick Up Artists.” In advocating for “men’s rights,” so-called MRAs advance arguments about issues like child-custody and the sexual assault of men. They say that men’s rights are ignored by society and eroded by feminists, so they must fight to defend men. It’s a straw-man attack against the feminist movement: they conveniently overlook that the feminism is ALSO concerned with these issues and indeed, we fight for men’s right to co-parent and for a world free of sexual assault, on any gender. I have never once heard a feminist deny that men can be victims of sexual assault and that sexual assault of anyone, under any circumstances, is wrong. If you truly care about these issues, feminists are your allies. But if you use these issues as a weapon in your fight against women – you’ll have no allies. And you’ll have to run for cover soon after your meetings are announced.
So called “Pick Up Artists,” another expression of this “movement,” are men who seek out a script, classes and step-by-step guides on “how to pick up women.” What they receive (for a hefty price) is essentially a compendium of cheesy one-liners and crass tactics of intimidation, deception and manipulation. They appear to believe that women are so stupid that they can easily trick, bully or lie their way into relationships with them. PUA leaders like Roosh V., Neil Strauss and the clown-like Mystery, have made great careers off of selling these guides to desperate men, many of whom have limited social skills and all of whom posses deep rage born from their own entitlement and the idea that they “deserve” access to women’s bodies. Here’s a tip for all the potential PUA-buyers and this one is free: Women don’t like you because you don’t respect them. Try listening, talking and engaging with women as human beings – and you might be surprised at the result! But if that doesn’t work out, always remember – women don’t owe you dates. They don’t owe you time. They don’t owe you anything.
It is easy to laugh at the absurdity of these movements. They are essentially a club of rejects-turned-bullies who are fighting progress and equality on every front. Men like Roosh are trolls, they know what they’re doing. Similar to Donald Trump or Ann Coulter, Roosh has made a career out of saying the most sexist, racist and bigoted things that he can think of – and then reveling in the outrage he has caused.
Unfortunately, also like Trump, their ultra-regressive rhetoric speaks to an unstable part of the population at a very dangerous time. Historically, we have seen that fascist movements grow stronger in times of great economic uncertainty. A large portion of white males, who have been fed the fantasy that this is their country and they deserve all the power and wealth, are finding themselves struggling and realizing that they can’t access that power and wealth as easily as their forebears did (or as easily as they like to imagine they did). This has resulted in an outpouring of right wing rage. They see hard-won advances by women and people of color and are told by demagogues like Trump and by Roosh that this is the reason their lives are harder; that too much equality is what caused their current degradation.
Why is life more difficult now for white men?
But it is capitalism that causes all of us to struggle. White men’s jobs were not stolen by Mexican immigrants like Trump says, or women entering the workforce, as the MRAs would have you believe. Their jobs were stolen by the bankers who tanked the economy and the greedy corporations who sent the work overseas in the pursuit of lower wages and higher profit. It is the role of Trump and of Roosh to try and keep these men on the side of capitalism, by focusing their hatred against those who are also struggling and keeping them from engaging in the one activity that could actually help them: building unity against our common enemy.
It is clear from the massive outpouring of solidarity against the ROK meet-ups, that many people are not so easily fooled. Within hours of their posting the meet-up announcement, social media was ablaze with progressive organizing against this right-wing so called movement. In feminist circles, queer circles and countless community organizations across the country, plans were made to confront these misogyists in every single city in which they dared call a meeting- and shut those meetings down. The message was clear: women will not go back, we will not have our rights denied– and men, women, trans and non-binary people of all races and ages are prepared to unite and fight to defend our rights.
It was reminiscent of the time that Neo-Nazis announced their intention to march in downtown Los Angeles in 2010. Their call was quickly circulated online and many, many groups came together to protest. The final result was a Neo-Nazi rally of about 25 who were protected by twice as many police officers, facing a crowd of about 700 protesters (of every age and color) who came to stand against them. Their ultra-reactionary presence triggered an impressive showing of solidarity and strength in the face of hate. As Fred Hampton said, “We don’t fight racism with hate, we fight racism with solidarity.” If you were paying attention to social media, you would have seen much the same thing happening online yesterday. Solidarity against hate, against racist, sexist and anti-LGBTQ views, won the day.
Solidarity wins the day
In the end, Roosh and the MRAs saw the massive solidarity against their events and folded immediately, like countless cowardly bullies before them. They were hoping to find the men who agreed with them. Instead they got internet-slapped by the masses who were inspired to fight them. They cancelled their event out of concern for their “safety.” They should be concerned! There is no future in their backward garbage, as more and more people join the fight against bigotry everyday.
Return of Kings may have cancelled their event – but the fight is far from over. They are a particularly obnoxious expression of a strain of anti-women politics that has been gaining ground in the population and in our state and federal governments in the past few years. Mass killer Eliot Rodgers, who went on a shooting spree and murdered several men and women at his college, was himself an MRA, leaving a very clear manifesto in which he used their rhetoric, blaming women and minorities for their imagined slights against him. Attacks on Roe v. Wade and our right to safe legal abortion are increasing all over the country and these attacks are rooted in the same fundamental fear of women gaining independence and the right to control our own bodies, that we see all throughout the Return of Kings site.
We won against Roosh and the MRAs, as we will win against all forces who seek to turn back the clock and strip away our rights – but only if we stay organized and stay ready to confront bigotry, racism and sexism wherever they appear.