[dropcap]P[/dropcap]ickup artist and blogger Daryush Valizadeh, also known as Roosh V, is infamous for his misogynistic views. Most notoriously, these include a proposal to make rape legal on private property, which was unconvincingly dubbed satirical following its release.
Recently, Valizadeh organized an international ‘tribal meeting’ of his followers to allow them to congregate and exchange their views. One meeting was scheduled to take place in Toronto at Queen’s Park, which is adjacent to our campus.
Backlash from city mayors, community groups, and members of the general public forced the various meetings to be either relocated or cancelled altogether. The overwhelming opposition to the Valizadeh meeting was entirely appropriate; it highlights the importance of fighting hateful discourse and attitudes, no matter how extreme or ‘fringe’ certain groups may appear to be.
Although he prefers to be labelled a ‘neomasculinist,’ Valizadeh and his followers blatantly promote misogyny. On his personal website, Valizadeh states that “a woman’s value significantly depends on her fertility and beauty.” He deems gender equality a detrimental myth. He even accuses women of manipulating the legal landscape, where rape and domestic violence accusations will be used as tools for their benefit.
Valizadeh’s blog, Return of Kings, allows fellow ‘neomasculinists’ the opportunity to chip in on what women can do to be more attractive to men, what’s ‘wrong’ with women of various ethnicities, and what women to avoid at all costs, including the ‘damaged’ women that claim rape and sexual abuse.
To most of us, these ideas may seem obviously disturbing yet, thankfully, representative of a small minority. Numerical size, however, does not preclude harm from being inflicted.
The Westboro Baptist Church, infamous for its fiery hatred of LGBTQ persons, is significantly tighter-knit but claims to have picketed more than 40,000 times since 1991. This has rendered them a visible presence in many communities and demonstrated that even a small group of individuals can do a lot of damage.
It is also questionable as to whether Valizadeh is actually a lone wolf. Despite his extreme views, the blogger was able to organize meet ups in 43 countries, including 10 locations in Canada. Support for his cause can also be found in the multitude of online commenters voicing their views on the Return of Kings website.
“Neomasculinity,” then, continues to hold more water than we may think. It is important that we should contextualize the popularity of their ideology in the persistent societal structures that encourage discrimination against women. Subtle, institutionalized sexism pervades educational and employment spheres, while sexual and domestic assault against women continues to be a pressing concern.
Similar structures of oppression foster and allow the survival of other hate groups. The Ku Klux Klan, one of the oldest hate groups in the United States, maintains a membership between 5,000 and 8,000 people and, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center, has active chapters in over half of the states. While it is easy to shrug off their extremist views and actions, their existence is rooted in the same racist ideology that continues to underlie discriminatory trends like anti-black police brutality and mass incarceration.
Finally, though he is often the butt of many an Internet meme, presidential candidate Donald Trump seems to have enjoyed unprecedented support despite his often blatantly xenophobic and sexist views. Many have speculated that his popularity, though embarrassing, actually coincides with the rise of extremist leaders in other countries — such as Marine Le Pen in France — due to deteriorating and unstable economies.
The trouble with these extreme ideas extends beyond their problematic content; often, they are not taken seriously as symptoms of more widespread though muted problems. We laugh at their absurdity, but fail to recognize that their roots lie close to home. In this vein, the fact that Valizadeh garnered extensive support suggests that there is much more work to be done on expunging misogyny from the public record.
Luckily, the response in the city was loud and clear — we do not tolerate misogyny in Toronto and on campus. This type of backlash must continue, and each of us must contribute in spite of how little power we perceive these groups to hold.
Simultaneously, we must take extreme expressions of misogyny (and any other oppressive ideology) seriously, by unpacking and contextualizing its origins. Only then can we make it unequivocally clear that oppression is not welcome among us.
Teodora Pasca is a second-year student at Innis College studying criminology and ethics, society & law. She is The Varsity’s Associate Comment Editor. Her column appears every three weeks.