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By Alexandra Kilpatrick
March 27, 2016

A recent White House petition called to classify the men’s rights group Return of Kings as a terrorist group.

The petition, dated February 2 and addressed to President Obama, called for the reclassification due to the group’s threat of assault, rape, and bodily harm.

“We petition to have Return of Kings, a misogynistic online community, classified as a terrorist organization,” the petition stated. “Their current work is to inspire fear in women and feminists and they have threatened assault, rape and cause bodily harm to any who intervene or speak against them. Their current plans are to hold worldwide gatherings this coming weekend. Their leaeder, Daryush Valizadeh (aka ‘Roosh V’) has said that these meetings are being held as an attempt to legalize rape and he has already been banned by multiple countries from entering, on the grounds of his promotion of sexual assault and treatment of women. Terrorism is most fundamentally defined as ‘actions designed to create fear/terror,’ and Return of Kings’ only intent is to terrify women.”

Daryush “Roosh” Valizadeh, the leader of Return of Kings, planned the group’s first International Meetup Day on February 6, with 165 events set to take place across 43 countries, according to the International Business Times. Valizadeh has argued that raping women should be legal if they are on your property. The group also aims to return to a society in which men lead and women look after the family.

The Daily Dot branded Valizadeh the “web’s most infamous misogynist” back in 2014 and the Southern Poverty Law Center included the Return of Kings leader on its quarterly extremism report in 2012. The report usually includes terrorists and anti-Semitic far-right groups.

Valizadeh has complained of being unfairly treated and the victim of feminist hysteria, writing on his website on February 2 that the media “continues to maliciously distort the meetups’ legal and social intent.”

The 36-year-old United States based writer was born in Washington D.C. to immigrant parents from Armenia and Iran. After graduating from the University of Maryland with a degree in microbiology, Valizadeh began working as an industrial microbiologist and writing a blog called D.C. Bachelor about picking up women and giving seduction tips. He admitted that the blog’s “macho content” was questionable, so he used a pseudonym and says he lived in “constant paranoia that my employer would bust me.”

Valizadeh eventually decided to quit his microbiologist position and turn to blogging full-time under his own name. He published his first book Bang back in 2007, described as a pickup artist’s “textbook for picking up girls and getting laid.” The book has gained a “love it or hate it” reaction on Amazon, with about 51 percent of reviewers awarding the book five stars and 35 percent giving it one star. Fans say the book helps with confidence and allows them to be more successful with women, while critics call the book “disgusting” and “morally bankrupt.” One critic even accused the author of writing a “thinly veiled guide to getting away with rape.”

Valizadeh started the male-only online club Return of Kings in 2012 as a group that rallies support for “the return of the masculine man in a world where masculinity is being increasingly punished” and whose charter of beliefs states that political correctness has caused women to “assert superiority and control” over men. The group has more than 12,000 likes on Facebook, where Return of Kings posts disturbing articles, including those that describe the transgender movement as a “horror story” and fat people as a “threat to the planet.” One article even claims that women with eating disorders make the best girlfriends. A recent article, titled “Eight Reasons Why Swedish Girls Are Undateable,” described Swedish women as “dumb feminists [who] prefer working to having children.”

Valizadeh published a blog he had written on the site in February 2015 that suggested that women who went to a man’s apartment and were then raped should be blamed for failing to take responsibility. He claimed that the solution to this problem was to legalize rape on private property, writing:

“I propose that we make the violent taking of a woman not punishable by law when done off public grounds. If rape becomes legal under my proposal, a girl will protect her body in the same manner that she protects her purse and smartphone.”

Following the outrage that this article ensued, Valizadeh claimed that the post was satirical, saying that his writing “doesn’t promote violence, harassment or hate against any group.” However, women’s rights activists have compared his writing to hate speech and petitioned for him to be banned from certain countries and for his books to be pulled from shelves.

Generation Progress spoke to Jean Phillips-Weiner, 26, about the White House petition to classify Return of Kings as a terrorist group.

“Their entire mission statement is a threat to women,” Phillips-Weiner told GP, referring to Return of Kings. “They want to undo feminism and make men ‘superior’ to women in terms of rights and abilities. They are a threat because they truly believe that half of our population, by nature of their DNA, are inferior citizens that they have a right to subjugate by nature of their own DNA. No one, male or female, should have the right to subjugate or abuse another being.

“Sexual assault is definitely a widespread problem in the United States. While I know it can affect people of both genders, I personally know at least three women who have been sexually assaulted [or] raped, at least two of whom were afraid to come forward for fear they wouldn’t be believed. I personally have been the victim of sexual harassment — unwanted touching by a stranger. There’s a large portion of our population who seem to believe that women exist for their own amusement and perhaps a larger portion who believe we’re over-exaggerating to subjugate men. We’re not and Return of Kings wants to normalize the narrative that women bring rape on themselves or that there are certain situations where rape or sexual assault are warranted. They’re not, ever.

“And the rape-is-sometimes-okay narrative hurts men as well as women. For one, men can also be victims of rape and a lot of people downplay this an an impossibility, making it harder for men who are the victims of sexual assault to come forward, because ‘if they get an erection they must want it.’ And because there are so many decent men who are told that their natural state is a rapist, because the burden of not getting raped is put on the women, because ‘sometimes, she’s asking for it.'”

While the White House petition failed to gain 100,000 signatures before its deadline of March 3, the petition did gain an overwhelming number of signatures at 90,000.

The issue of sexual assault is important to Millennials. According to the Public Religion Research Institute, 15 percent of Millennial women report that they have been sexually assaulted, while 34 percent report that a close friend or family members have been assaulted. About 73 percent of Millennials say that sexual assault is somewhat or very common on college and university campuses.

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