For the first time ever, two male supremacy groups have been officially categorized as hate groups: A Voice for Men and Return of Kings, both of which bill themselves as “men’s rights” organizations, have been included in the Southern Poverty Law Center’s 2017 Year in Hate report, which was released earlier this week.
“Both of these organizations actively malign all women,” SPLC data intelligence analyst Keegan Hankes told Broadly over the phone. “You see statements about genetic inferiority, about how all women are manipulative, stupid, and you see a lot of grievance culture—laying the blame for the plight of men at the feet of women specifically.”
Though the origin of “men’s rights” groups in America can be traced to the late 1980s, the SPLC says the movement has received growing attention and support in recent years. A Voice For Men, the movement’s most popular website, was started in 2009 by Paul Elam, a deadbeat dad who first became interested in the male supremacist cause at age 13, after his mother tried to force him to take anti-diarrhea medicine. Return of Kings, which describes itself as “a blog for heterosexual, masculine men... who believe men should be masculine and women should be feminine,” first went online in 2012. Its founder, a man named Daryush Valizadeh who goes by Roosh V, has openly bragged about raping women. Last year he was photographed, disshelveled and emerging from his mom’s basement, where he apparently dwells.
As pitiful as its leaders may seem, the male supremacy movement poses a legitimate threat: while Return of Kings attracted less than 50,000 viewers per month for the bulk of 2013, today the site attracts over 500,000 people per month in the US alone. Particularly disturbing is the way in which the ideology espoused by these sites has coalesced with the burgeoning white nationalist movement in America. “We saw a lot of people steeping into the material being put out of the male supremacy ideological sphere, spending time there with those ideas before moving onto more different forms of extremism,” said Hankes. “As we saw these ideas permeate some of the other racist ideologies that we track, we started paying a lot more attention. We watched the rhetoric shift on white nationalist and neo-Nazi sites towards much more extreme anti-women rhetoric.” Crying neo-Nazi white supremacist Christopher Cantwell—famous for his appearance in a VICE News documentary on the Charlottesville protests last year—wrote for A Voice for Men on multiple occasions.
The SPLC defines a hate group as “an organization that—based on its official statements or principles, the statements of its leaders, or its activities—has beliefs or practices that attack or malign an entire class of people, typically for their immutable characteristics.”
"We watched the rhetoric shift on white nationalist and neo-Nazi sites towards much more extreme anti-women rhetoric.”
Both Valizadeh and Elam have decried their inclusion in the report. “The Jews are coming after me again,” Valdizeh tweeted, in a rather bizarre attempt to counter the “hate group” label, after the news broke. To the Washington Post, he called the report a “mountain of lies”; Elam agreed, dubbing the report “a complete farce.”
Return of Kings “is a website operated solely by myself without any employees,” Valizadeh whined. “How can one man’s blog be a ‘hate group?’”
The SPLC defines a group as “an entity that has a process through which followers identify themselves as being part of the group.” “Return of Kings sells merchandise, collects donations, and publishes books,” explains Hankes. “All of these things contribute to a listing.” And while the core of male supremacist hate groups remains online, in spaces like 4chan and Reddit, their ideologies and actions have had very real implications: On multiple occasions, people with strong ties to the men’s rights movement have committed acts of violence; women have been doxxed, threatened, and chased out of their homes by online mobs, often as a result of both Valdizeh and Elam’s direct calls for this sort of targeted harassment; and the movement’s increasing popularity with the alt-right means it continues to gain legitimacy.
Valizadeh insists that the SPLC report is “merely an attempt to shut down speech that goes against their far left agenda.” Those who’ve been targeted by men’s rights activists would disagree. So, to further understand the circumstances under which male supremacist groups were officially recognized as hate groups, we’ve compiled a list of violent, harassing, or otherwise harmful acts that self-proclaimed “men’s rights activists” have committed in recent years.
Elliot Rodger Killings
“The case that comes to mind when you think of online sentiment turning to action is obviously Elliot Rodger,” says Hankes. In 2014, 22-year-old Elliot Rodger went on a stabbing and shooting spree, killing six people and injuring 14, near the campus of University of California, Santa Barbara. Before beginning his rampage, which ended with his suicide, he sent out a 137-page document called “Elliot Rodger Manifesto: My Twisted World” to some of his acquaintances and family members, which outlined his reasons for the attack.
Largely, he blamed women and their refusal to sleep with him for his deadly anger. “I will destroy all women because I can never have them. I will make them all suffer for rejecting me. I will arm myself with deadly weapons and wage a war against all women and the men they are attracted to,” he wrote. He called his planned attack “the final solution to dealing with all of the injustices I’ve had to face at the hands of women and society.”
Rodger was a frequent visitor of the now-offline male supremacist site PUAhate, which he said “confirmed many of the theories I had about how wicked and degenerate women really are.”
George Sodini Gym Attack
In 2009, George Sodini entered a women’s aerobics class at an LA Fitness in Pittsburgh and shot three women dead, injuring nine, before killing himself. For nearly a year before the shooting, Sodini kept a blog in which he detailed his plans for the attack as well as his reasons for targeting women.
Like Elliot Rodger, intimate and sexual rejection or lack of interest in him by women was a main reason for carrying out his attack. “Why do this?? To young girls?” he wrote. “Just read below… Women just don't like me. There are 30 million desirable women in the US (my estimate) and I cannot find one.”
Sodini has been hailed as a hero by some in men’s rights activist circles, and considered himself “involuntarily celibate.” This is a term that’s used widely on MRA sites, often abbreviated as “incel,” to describe someone who is not having sex for reasons beyond asexuality or voluntary celibacy—that is, they can’t find anyone willing to have sex with them. Last year, the subreddit “incels” was banned for inciting violence against women.
“I was reading several posts on different forums, and it seems many teenage girls have sex frequently,” Sodini wrote in his blog. “One 16 year old does it usually three times a day with her boyfriend. So, err, after a month of that, this little --- has had more sex than ME in my LIFE, and I am 48. One more reason.”
A Voice for Men Launches Site Doxxing Women Who Disagree with Them
In 2011, A Voice for Men’s Paul Elam launched Register-her.com, a site that claimed its purpose was to register women who had falsely accused a man of either rape or domestic violence. In practice, however, the site doxxed women who had protested male supremacists or those who simply disagreed with Elam.
The result of Register-her.com was, of course, targeted harassment campaigns against numerous women. At one point, according to SPLC, 250 women were listed on the site. Elam would personally go after some women: In one instructive case, he sicced his followers on a part-time blogger who had expressed discomfort with adult men helping female toddlers in the bathroom at her child’s preschool. After being demonized and attacked by men’s rights activists, she apologized, but it wasn’t deemed sufficient:
“You targeted fathers, and just fathers,” Elam rebuked her. “It strikes me that you have never really been held to account for any of your actions in life. It is quite likely that the concept of complete, selfless accountability is just completely foreign to you.” Over at the Reddit Men’s Rights forum, another poster fumed: “This entire episode should be a warning to all those male hating feminists out there who believe that they are safe screaming their hate messages on the web. Finally, they are held accountable for their hate messages and finally the rest of the world will find out exactly what type of depraved people they really are.”
After feminist writer Jessica Valenti was targeted on the site and by Elam personally, she was forced to contact the FBI and leave her home in fear for her safety.
In 2014, a man named Eron Gjoni wrote a disparaging blogpost about his game developer ex-girlfriend Zoe Quinn, which led to a vile, targeted harassment campaign against Quinn and other prominent women in the gaming world. From there, the movement mutated into an incomprehensible culture war, with screeching misogynists on one side and so-called “social justice warriors” — those who were opposed to sexism, racism, and other forms of bigotry — on the other. In MRA-affiliated forums on unregulated online spaces like 4chan and Reddit, users organized harassment campaigns, with startling efficacy. As a result, multiple women were threatened, harassed, and chased out of the gaming industry altogether.
Unsurprisingly, Return of Kings became vociferously involved in the movement, with Valizadeh writing articles targeting Quinn directly and urging other men to participate in the online attacks. “There is room for everyone to participate against the enemy—you don’t need to be someone with 10,000 followers to make a difference,” he wrote at one point. “One thing that has been happening is that guys have been doing opposition research and passing that information to someone with a bigger bullhorn who can then disseminate it to mob… If you truly care about the war at hand, there is a way for you to participate.”
By 2014, over a million tweets with the hashtag Gamergate had been posted. White male supremacists like Milo Yiannopoulos and conspiracy theorist Mike Cernovich—both of whom have collaborated with and contributed funding to A Voice for Men—latched onto the controversy, using it to propel themselves and their racist, sexist ideologies into prominence.
Roosh V Advocates for Legal Rape
In 2015, Valizadeh advocated for legal rape in an article called “How To Stop Rape.” “I have the solution,” he wrote. “Make rape legal if done on private property. I propose that we make the violent taking of a woman not punishable by law when done off public grounds... Without daddy government to protect her, a girl would absolutely not enter a private room with a man she doesn’t know or trust unless she is absolutely sure she is ready to sleep with him. Consent is now achieved when she passes underneath the room’s door frame, because she knows that that man can legally do anything he wants to her when it comes to sex.”