I first had the luxury of finding out about the website "Return of Kings" a few months back. Regulars from the site were planning out an in-person meetup somewhere in New York City, and a lot of people in my social circles were totally losing their minds. Tons of "stay safe, everyone" posts were circulating on Facebook along with "let's protest them" and "I'm bringing my all-women boxing league to their meetup just to see what happens!" status updates.
I was curious, so I visited Return of Kings for the first time.
For those of you who are blessedly not in the know, Return of Kings is (in theory) an online magazine that offers "news, commentary, and lifestyle advice for masculine men." In practice, however, it's a men's rights activist magazine that's saturated with hostile sexist Red Pill hooey. It's divided into a few sections, including: "Game," a.k.a. How to Pick up Girls through Manipulation; "The Sexes," a.k.a. Why Men Are Better; and "Body," a.k.a. We Hate Fat People.
Of course, I sound a little closed-minded, and I promise I'm going to try my best to not be so passive-aggressive about RoK for the rest of the essay. I'll try.
But back to the RoK meetup scare: I personally wasn't all that invested, to say the least. Everything I saw in the 10 minutes of perusing the site made me think "sad, rejected fedora-bros trying to make themselves seem cool on the internet," not "threatening predators in my neighborhood." Of course that's just my opinion, and some of the backward things RoK contributors post really could be considered threatening to women, but I didn't feel threatened. I even felt distantly kind of amused by it.
The meetup didn't end up happening, by the way, or if it did it was small enough to go under the radar, but months later, I saw some acquaintance from college post some decidedly bullshit MRA garbage to Facebook about RoK founder Roosh Valizadeh's new book. I've stopped commenting in online arguments and instead sat and thought about it. How could anyone feel so simultaneously victimized by feminism and so confident about how many girls he gets to sleep with him? How could this dude on Facebook buy into that? I started talking with my roommate about the time I'd spent on the RoK site, and what I saw there, and how strange and uninformed it seemed to me. Then I decided to visit again, at least twice a day for about a week. I wanted to try and see what kind of rhetoric I found; if there was anything understandable or sympathetic in it, if it had changed since the last time I saw it, and if I could try to understand why some men think this way. I thought it'd make for an interesting, fun read.
Some background on me: Yes, I am a feminist. I consider it hard not to be. I try not to argue online about my views on that or anything else, because it never gets anywhere.
After a week, I found a pattern to how the typical RoK post made me feel. It's kind of like the stages of grief, but I call it the "Stages of Continued Visitation."
Stage 1: Denial
I just couldn't believe that somebody could possibly think this stuff up. Primary example from the article I linked above: the step to create both gender neutral bathrooms and transgender-friendly bathroom laws was engineered by the Patriarchy to give them rights to pee in the women's restroom too.
The basic idea is that men are too important to just be confined to one bathroom space, and so it was all a conspiracy by men to get what they want. I blinked, I shook my head, and I made sure I wasn't on The Onion. It was just a train of logic that I couldn't find any way to get on.
Stage 2: Outrage
What the hell, though? "An obscure group of mentally ill people called 'transgenders'?" What an ignorant, stupid, and terrible thing to say. I'd say it's impossible to read this and not get angry at some point. But over time, the more I saw, the less angry I was when I saw it.
I became numb to it to the point of just giving a distant, flustered shake of my head. I was still outraged and angry, just much more quietly over the span of the week. My roommates had to suffer the whole time though, having me get up from my laptop to say, "Guys, you will not believe this shit. Can you believe somebody wrote this?"
Stage 3: Amusement
As I said when I first heard about Roosh V and Return of Kings, I found myself sort of amused by it: by how contradictory it was for these men to simultaneously hate women and then base their life around sleeping with them. I thought it was funny how incredibly deluded the idea was of a suppressed freedom-fighter type cell called "the Patriarchy," secretly fighting for dominance against the oppressive freedom-hating feminazi regime. Some of it was just kind of laughable — how incredibly illogical this rhetoric was. There was no backing their arguments, no data, no reference, nothing but saying, "I think all women are sluts because I knew a girl who got pregnant at 18." But I, of course, tried to laugh, because it was better than being outraged, right?
Stage 4: Rationalization
This was the stage I stayed in probably the longest, mostly because it took the most work. I wanted to try and find bits of these articles that weren't so bad; pieces I could sympathize with, understand, or basically not get outraged by. I sought out articles that were about fitness, or travel, or money making, or basically anything that wasn't directly about the feminist cancer. To be fair, there were a few. I even read an article that spent some time pointing out "the friend zone": not that it was a myth, but giving advice that if you get 'friend-zoned' to just move on with your life instead of pining.
I thought it was decent advice, particularly to the type of guy that would read RoK. I read some stuff about how loving your body, exercising, and eating well was a good way to find happiness outside of a terrible love life. There were sometimes bits and pieces in otherwise offensive articles that were rational, but it was kind of a way to justify myself spending hours reading this MRA hokum.
There were points where I legitimately regretted pitching this article in the first place. I felt stupid for visiting this site for so long, immersing myself in stuff that I really didn't care about or understand that just made me upset. I pitched "I wanted to see what would happen," when I knew what would happen; I'd get sweaty-angry, then baffled, then I'd just keep reading.
I noticed a lot of strange things while regularly perusing, including a new political and pseudo-religious slant to the website. I figured that RoK was exclusively about masculinity, but it seems like that's changed. Every media source is trying to weigh in on hot-button political issues, and it looks like this MRA platform is doing the same thing.
Weighing in on the current state of frequent global terrorist attacks has gotten a distinctive xenophobic slant to it that I probably should have expected. Lots of anti-immigration, anti-Muslim sentiment was saturating the political section, particularly under the visage of "the mainstream media is lying to you."
I also noticed the concept of the "persecuted Christian" cropping up a lot, particularly in the posts about LGBTQ+ issues. I was actually surprised by how anti-gay a lot of the website's posts came off, particularly against gay men. There was a lot of invalidating them as "not real men" with some great words like "manginas" and, of course, the typical slurs like "f*ggot" tossed around pretty matter-of-factly, like they were dictionary-approved.
What was strange about it to me was that queer men are still men, and are an oppressed and marginalized group of men. If RoK is about defending males, why were they so hostile about them, and why were they not defending them? Real men's rights activism would be defending men's rights, I figured.
There was an incredible emphasis on logic and reason in most of RoK's rhetoric, but anyone who's listened to the typical MRA grandiloquence knows how regular that is. That's probably what interested me the most — the need to validate the argument as unemotional and based on facts. It's a mantra that's also seen in the hardcore right wing, which I guess makes it easier to understand why RoK took a liking to right-wing politics. But meanwhile, without any sources to base their claims, it's hard to defend being based on facts.
That, and the air of defensive anger to most of the anti-feminist posts. I read one written by a man who was falsely accused of rape, which he thought backed up his new Red Pill mentality that all women are attention-seeking whores who have the system stacked against men. He admitted to a bias that was born of a traumatic experience of being wronged by a woman. This was pretty mimicked in most of the posts, and I have to admit that part of me felt sorry for them. These writers sought justification through hostility because they felt victimized by rejection and no control. It felt inherently psychological: a built-up resentment because of some sad lack of control in their lives. Everyone can sympathize with that to a degree. Not to this degree, but to some degree.
By the end of it, I started understanding how a man could get to this point. Not why, and I couldn't morally sympathize with a lot of it, but I'm starting to consider meninism to be more a psychological state than a philosophy. Maybe that makes it an easier "pill" to swallow.