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By David Futrelle
There’s a story in the New York Times today about a video statement put out by Judge Esther Salas, whose son was shot dead and her husband wounded by the self-described antifeminist attorney Roy Den Hollander in what appears to have been a botched hit job targeting her. It’s a heartbreaking story, as Salas recounts the events that shattered her life that awful Sunday two weeks ago.
But there’s one line in the story I take issue with. In an attempt to put Den Hollander’s actions in a broader context, the NYT’s Tracey Tully declares that Den Hollander
represented the most extreme element of the men’s right movement whose online discussions in recent years have become increasingly menacing toward women.
This isn’t quite right.
For one thing, Den Hollander’s beliefs — however ludicrous they might seem to rational human beings — were absolute bog standard for a Men’s Rights Activist. His legal agenda — campaigning against Ladies’ Nights at bars, taking on Columbia’ University’s Women’s Studies Department, trying to overturn male-only draft registration — could have come directly from Warren Farrell’s MRA bible The Myth of Male Power. Den Hollander’s belief that women (secretly) run the world matches up directly with the widespread MRA belief that we live in a “gynocracy.” His over-the-top misogyny? Also, sadly, typical for MRAs.
(Oddly, despite all this, Den Hollander distanced himself from the men’s rights movement in recent years, accusing MRAs of “acting like girls instead of men.” Nonetheless, in the very same document containing this passage he repeatedly describes his work as men’s rights activism.)
What about Den Hollander’s threats, and all the creepy references to guns in his voluminous writings? This was nothing new for him, and apparently no big deal to the editors of the A Voice for Men (AVFM) website, who published a piece by him declaring that “there is one remaining source of power in which men still have a near monopoly—firearms.”
Tom Ball, a Men’s Rights activist canonized by other MRAs after he committed suicide on the steps of a courthouse, left behind a manifesto urging fellow MRAs to firebomb courthouses and police stations, knowing full well that this form of “activism” could kill people.
Paul Elam of AVFM, still probably the best-known online Men’s Rights activist, is notorious for his graphic fantasies of violence against women, from his “satirical” advocacy of something called “Bash a Violent Bitch Month” to a short story that glamorizes an angry, jealous man who breaks his wife’s nose with a punch and feels no shame.
And since we’re talking about judges, here’s Elam’s — not Den Hollander’s, but Elam’s — take on family court judges who issue rulings he disagrees with.
I am a pacifist. I do not advocate violence. But I tell you this. The day I see one of these absolutely incredulous excuses for a judge dragged out of his courtroom into the street, beaten mercilessly, doused with gasoline and set afire by a father who just won’t take another moment of injustice, I will be the first to put on the pages of this website that what happened was a minor tragedy that pales by far in comparison to the systematic brutality and thuggery inflicted daily on American fathers by those courts and their police henchmen.
That is the worst excuse for “pacifism” I’ve ever seen.
As for direct threats, well, it’s safe to say that every woman (and most men) who’ve written critically about Men’s Rights activists has gotten them, sometimes by the bushel. They’re usually anonymous, because MRAs are cowards, but sometimes MRAs threaten people under their own real name, like the former AVFM staffer who told me he was fixing to “[stomp] a mud hole in your fucking ass” because he was angry at someone who had apparently doxed him and he decided to take it out on me. Shortly afterward, AVFM’s “Janet Bloomfield” threatened to shoot me in the face with a crossbow.
This is just who these people are. It’s a movement full of abusers and its “activism” follows the abuser’s logic. It’s frankly a miracle that it took so long for an MRA to follow up on his threats and actually kill people.
MRAs are no more and no less extreme than they were ten years ago. What has changed is that other, more radical and nihilistic “movements” have risen up around them — inspired in part by the ideas and the practices of the Men’s Rights movement.
Men Going Their Own Way (MGTOW) are essentially MRAs without the pretense of activism; they are somehow even more angry and misogynistic than most MRAs. Incels are even worse, and we have every reason to take their constant talk of murder seriously, given the body count that foul movement has left in its wake. Neither of these movements would have developed as they did had not the Men’s Rights movement led the way.
MRAs are as shitty as they’ve always been, but they have definitely made the world worse and more dangerous over the past decade — for women and for men as well. Den Hollander is just the tip of the iceberg.