By Maria Esquinca
Close to 30 people peacefully gathered in downtown El Paso to protest a Return of the Kings meetup on Saturday, Feb.6.
ROK is a blog created by Roosh Valizadeh, a self-described “Pick-Up-Artist” better known by his blog name Roosh V. He has authored several books, among them Bang, what he describes as a pickup Bible “for picking up girls and getting laid.” On his blog, Valizadeh promotes “neomasculinity” and “aims to usher the return of the masculine man.”
Valizadeh has been widely criticized for promoting misogyny and homophobia. In 2012 he was placed in the Southern Poverty Law Center’s “Misogyny: The Sites” list.
“These Return of the Kings they just view women as passive objects, something to be taken, to be played around with, and I want to show them that we’re not,” said Jewell Crye, 21-years-old, co-host of the Pro-Women and LGBTQ gathering. “And that we’re not going to put up with their crap. By organizing it shows we have power and our power is real and that they can’t take that away.”
Valizadeh discourages women and homosexuals from posting on his site. Some of the top 35 ROK articles selected by Valizadeh include, “The Equality Movement Is Allowing Women To Tyrannize Men,” “Women Should Not Be Allowed To Vote,” “The Intellectual Inferiority Of Women” and “ Help Raise Awareness About Rape Tourette’s.”
However, one of the most notorious articles written by the blogger was “How to Stop Rape.” In it, he argued that in order to eliminate rape it should be made legal on private property, so that women will protect their bodies in the same way they protect their “purse or … smartphone.” An article he later called satirical.
Rafael Martinez, 26-years-old, attendee at Pro-Women and LGBTQ gathering, described the views expressed on ROK as “backward thinking.” However, he was not surprised that there was an El Paso meetup.
“People in my generation are still fairly into the machismo culture. It’s still something that is expressed. It’s still an ideal people want.” Martinez said. “Because of that we should show that there is a counter to that. There is going to be people that are going to say no to them.”
Up to 165 meetups in 43 countries were scheduled on Saturday, Feb.6. Aside from El Paso, six other cities in Texas were scheduled to host meetups: Houston, Austin, San Antonio, Nederland, Dallas and Denton.
Victoria Quevedo, 36-years-old, was one of the organizers of the Pro-Women and LGBTQ gathering. Quevedo said at first she wasn’t sure how to respond. However, after messaging a lot of people they agreed that a statement should be made.
“We wanted to say El Paso is a safe place for women and LGBTQ people,” Quevedo said. “And everyone should be free to express themselves as they want without fear of being harassed or attacked. And then, also a direct message to whoever tried to organize the hate group in El Paso that the city doesn’t welcome that hate and that violence.”
Quevedo said that what shocked her most about the ROK meetup was that they felt they could meet in a public space.
“I know the society we live in, but it was more of a need to react to it and express the other view, the other side, the loving side, that was more important,” she said. “I just can’t stand by and do nothing.”
Condemnation of the meetups was widespread. Online petitions were initiated to block ROK meetups in Australia, Sweden and Canada. A petition on change.org to block a meetup in Sydney, Australia garnered more than 100,000 signatures. A separate petition to stop the ROK meetup in Scotland had more than 50,000 signatures.
Government officials also released statements of disapproval. Mayor of Toronto, John Tory, called Valizadeh’s statement about women “demeaning and unacceptable.” Governor Greg Abbott also released a statement condemning ROK. In it Gov. Abbott called the group pathetic and said “their disgusting viewpoints are not welcome in Texas.”
Due to numerous protests that were organized to counter the meetups, on Feb.3, Valizadeh officially cancelled them because he could not guarantee the safety or privacy of the men that would attend the meetups.
“I think them failing to show up at all is a huge win for us, because imagine if this whole rally wouldn’t have been set up at all, they probably would’ve still been meeting here,” said Nathan Black, 23-years-old, attendee at the Pro-Women and LGBTQ gathering.