Who is Daryush Valizadeh?
A self-styled pick-up artist who thinks rape should be legalised wants like-minded Sydney men to meet up and bond later this month.PT1M34S 620 349
Online anti-woman group Return of Kings have been making headlines this week with their first proposed real life meet-ups in Australia. These US-based 'pick up artists' are men with views that are so abhorrent, it's easy to mistake them for The Onion style satire. They claim rape should be legal when it happens on private property. They believe women should not be able to vote, transgender women who sleep with heterosexual men are rapists, and women are biologically determined to follow the orders of men. Other articles suggest "Asian men need to transcend their race" in order to pick up women, and men who date fat women are partially responsible for increasing obesity rates.
While these opinions are laughable to most, sadly there are men who fall for what they're saying. How does this happen? I wish I knew. Baby boys aren't born sexist, just as they aren't born racist. It's obviously taught – by relatives, by their mates, by blokes at the footy club, by what they see on TV and at the movies, and, now, by those they connect to on social media.
This is why curbing the influence of anti-woman groups like Return of Kings is so important. They are domestic terrorists – they radicalise young men to hate women. Their techniques are sophisticated and insidious, preying on young men who already feel socially inadequate and are under-confident with women. They teach them women are 'sluts' and 'whores' who should be controlled and manipulated.
In some ways I see these groups as cults – young men who don't fit in elsewhere can find acceptance and approval with them. Group leaders like Daryush "Roosh" Valizadeh seem to know that what they teach appeals to some young men, and that when you create a cult-like group it's a great way to make a lot of money from those hopeful you can change their lives for the better. This is about money and power and prestige for the leaders of these groups as much as it's about hatred of women.
It's no surprises that so-called "real" terrorism is also about money and power and prestige. So just as "real" terrorists now use social media as a powerful tool to mobilise their supporters, so misogynists are also constantly finding new ways to rally those who will fall for their views. And just like terrorists, their activities need to be rooted out and stopped.
This is why it's so important to speak out about groups like Return of Kings and Julien Blanc's Real Social Dynamics and others. Ignoring ideologies that promote violence against isn't the answer. Young men who've been manipulated into a viewpoint are hard to re-train. We must stop them from being led to believe these ideas are in any way normal in the first place. Obviously parents and schools have a role, but until we have anti-violence training in all schools and a range of other measures to better raise and educate our young, others must also play their part.
Jennie Hill, Founder of Facebook group 'Mad F---ing Witches'. Photo: Jennie Hill
This is where women's activist groups come in. Since the rise of social media, these groups are also more informed and organised. Women – and many men – now know how interconnected the roots of violence against women are. They know it starts with childhood comments like "you throw like a girl" and goes on through all the general demeaning and objectification of women that's considered normal to many. They know this is what eventually leads some men to feel free to treat women badly, going on through a continuum that goes all the way up to rape, extreme violence and murder.
Since Rosie Batty's tenure as Australian of The Year and the great work of many feminists in highlighting this issue over recent years, we've started to shout much louder about violence against women, and we've been given more opportunities to do so.
In early January, I started the Mad F---ing Witches Facebook page. It grew from the text Immigration Minister Peter Dutton accidentally sent to journalist Samantha Maiden instead of to his colleague Jamie Briggs. And women picked up on the gender slur, and saw it for what it was – a symbol of the Federal government's overall disdain for women, and failure to get serious about violence against women. Using the term Mad F--king Witches is a way of highlighting everything this government is doing that's anti-woman - from returning pregnant asylum seekers to Nauru, to imprisoning refugee children, to removing funds from women's shelters, among much else.
As feminists, we want to do whatever we can to stop the violence against us. If it means making fun of a stupid text message, we'll do that. We all know it's not about the text – it's what it represents about the thinking of the man who sent it. And if this means organising protests against anti-woman groups, we will do that.
This Saturday evening, members of Mad F---ing Witches will be rallying with witch's hats and brooms at the same time and in the same places as the Return of Kings meet-ups. We don't want to confront them - we want to confuse them, outnumber them and make a big noise about them. In many ways it's immaterial whether the sexist seminars actually run or the organisers even get to Australia, or get to stay here. What's important is making a stand and therefore showing more people the folly of accepting this potential terrorism against women.
It's my hope that when young women read about our protests, they'll learn not to accept harassment and abuse, and will be quicker to report it in future. And if young men saw our messages, I want them to learn to question the teachings of these abhorrent groups and to say "no" to treating any woman disrespectfully.
This is not about stopping a few seminars or running around in witch's hats. There is a much bigger picture here. We don't want these groups in Australia, because they radicalise men to be violent. This is domestic terrorism, and as such it really is like a war – a war on women. A war we are determined to win.
With witch's hats and brooms in hand, or without.
Jennie Hill is the founder of Facebook group, Mad F---ing Witches