By Sarah MacDonald and Zoe Cameron
Worryingly, there seems to be an increase of men in the media recently who have not caught up to the rest of us in 2016, where men and women should be equal and partners. Even more worryingly, they have accumulated a following. One such man who is receiving a lot of publicity, Daryush Valizadeh also known as Roosh V, is an American writer/pick-up artist. His group, ‘The Return of the Kings’ (ROK), has been causing a stir recently over meetups (being held in 43 countries this Saturday) that promote hyper masculine and male dominant views. Sadly two of these meetups had been scheduled in Scotland, one in Edinburgh and Glasgow, with counter rallies also planned at both events [UPDATE: Roosh V has announced via his website that official meetups planned for 6th February have been changed or moved, seeming to suggest that the international response has had a marked effect].
Mr. Valizadeh has written numerous books and articles on the art of picking up women and sleeping with them. His controversial views include, what Mr Valizadeh claims is a satirical piece on ending rape by making it legal on private property and that no means no, until it means yes; suggesting that when a woman says no to sex, it is still open for interpretation. Whether he fully believes in these ideas or not, we can use this opportunity to open up a wider discussion on sexist and misogynistic view that still have a hold on society in 2016.So what’s the best way to deal with a character like Roosh V? Do we fight back? Do we just ignore people like Mr. Valizadeh and other like-minded individuals in hope that with a lack of publicity they all just fade away. Because really isn’t that what they are after, especially in the case of Mr Valizadeh; publicity and attention and validation for the controversial views?
The response of most communities globally has been to promote peaceful, but powerful responses through the forming of counter-rallies and the signing of petitions. Within 2 days of creation, a petition urging the Scottish Government to ban RooshV in Scotland had amassed over 56,000 signatures. This was similarly replicated around the globe, with an Australian petition gaining 60,000 supporters in under 24 hours (ABC news). This civil society response is encouraging and has been met by equally positive responses from governments globally. Australia’s Minister for Immigration has warned that Roosh V may be denied a visa if he attempts to enter Australia (ABC news). Canada too, has publicly shamed the actions of these men, with Ottawa mayor Jim Watson tweeting “Your pro-rape, misogynistic, homophobic garbage is not welcome in Ottawa #its2016 #TurnAwayReturnOfKings”.
Despite these positive responses, the actions of Roosh V and his supporters are an equally sickening and disheartening reminder of just how prevalent misogyny remains within modern society. The fact that the majority of the UK population (66%) refuses to self-identify as feminists, despite 81% agreeing that women should be treated as equal to men (News Flash: That’s what feminism is!!) is a case in point (YouGov, 2013). ROK’s calls for the legalisation of rape seems to be something the majority of the population can agree is abhorrent and crosses a metaphorical line. That line seems to become a little blurrier when discussing issues such as street harassment and workplace discrimination. This is not to say the outcry at Roosh V’s preaching is unwarranted or unwelcome. On the contrary, public outcry firmly places this issue at the forefront of people’s minds and gives an opportunity for community leaders to respond accordingly. This is an opportunity to educate the wider population on what it means to be a feminist. This is an opportunity to shed light on the daily struggles of women globally. This is an opportunity to send a clear and distinct message to RooshV and ROK supporters that society will not tolerate their views and that they are not welcome on our streets and in our communities.
“The day will come when [all] men will recognize woman as his peer, not only at the fireside, but in councils of the nation” (- Susan B. Anthony), and what a wonderful day that shall be.
A link to the Facebook event for the Edinburgh Counter-Rally can be found here.
And for Glasgow here.
A petition to the Scottish Government to ban RooshV can be signed here.
Related information, resources and events can be found on the Scottish Feminist site, www.engender.org.uk
If you or somebody you know is feeling distressed as a result of these events, Samaritans UK free 24-hour helpline can be contacted on 116 123.