Pickup Artists Put New Sheen on Old Sexism


Abraham Gross, Deputy Opinion Editor

Activists took to Washington Square Park on Saturday to protest the international meetups of Daryush “Roosh V” Valizadeh and his supporters, the Return of the Kings. The event, which was called off on social media, received widespread condemnation largely directed at its leader. Valizadeh, labeled as a pick-up artist and misogynist by the Southern Poverty Law Center, has met controversy before: a post on his website advocated the legalization of rape, earning him a reputation as a proponent for rape. He claims the post was satire, but that barely excuses his beliefs, clearly listed on the Return of the Kings website. Valizadeh endorses traditional gender roles, claiming that women derive their value from their beauty and fertility while sexually liberated women erode family formation.

It’s easy to discount a lone provocateur or a few of his anonymous virtual fans, but Valizadeh does not stand alone in his beliefs — he marches in lockstep with a growing number of ludicrously uniformed groups like Men’s Rights Activists. Valizadeh has said he disagrees with Men’s Rights Activists in some ways, but his attempts to distinguish himself from the group were thoroughly unconvincing. Indeed, the SPLC grouped Valizadeh’s online work with that of Men’s Rights sites as part of a “manosphere” dedicated to attacking feminists and women online. The underlying ideology of Men’s Rights Activists and Return of the Kings is fundamentally the same: that women’s liberation and feminism have made the world toxic for men, who are perpetually mistreated by both society and the law.

The claim that social movements swing the cultural pendulum too far in the opposite direction is by no means new, or localized to Men’s Rights Activists. Labeling progress as its own form of oppression is just the newest tactic to perpetuate inequality and discrimination. “Why do people want to undermine a sense of pride among white people?” implore white nationalists. Just as white nationalism is Newspeak for racism, Men’s Rights is a rebranding of misogyny, a yearning to return to a defunct status-quo.

After cancelling the international meetup, the Return of the Kings website published a lament that the singular online post by Valizadeh advocating legalized rape — the supposed satire — had unfairly characterized the group and its leader. I agree: Valizadeh should not be targeted solely for this, but for all the misogynistic, anti-feminist beliefs that he and his followers espouse. Return of the Kings and Men’s Rights Advocates are part of a new misogyny which enshrines the status-quo as tradition, consecrates the denigration of women as male empowerment and demonizes progress as oppression. Valizadeh is the leader of one battalion, and the Return of the Kings meetup was a small battle in a larger war against a re-equipped enemy. One can only hope the victories against them will continue.

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Email Abraham Gross at [email protected].