I have a female friend who is obsessed with the vilest coagulations of misogyny the internet can give a URL to. Neomasculinist forums like Reddit’s Red Pill and websites like Return of Kings incense and fascinate her equally. She has confessed to spending hours trawling through pockets of sad, frustrated male’s violent effluvia, which is admirable but a little bit concerning, given how toxic (if hilarious) those spaces can be.
Because awfulness is something that should be shared, like you share YouTube clips of “Natalie Portman’s laugh (extended)” or stories of how you once slept with an Irish perfume salesman, and because awareness is crucial in consolidating your own arguments and worldview, I decided to explore these digital caverns myself. Being the product of a hugely sheltered thirteen-year-straight single-sex private school experience (which I retrospectively find unnatural, usually confess with reluctance to others, and which probably delayed my sexual self-awareness by a few precious years), I probably wasn’t prepared for the muck I slopped into.
There’s a certain kind of reassurance that comes with reading something that is unequivocally contemptuous. Where in other areas and articles, the underlying problematics can be much harder to pin down, separate and contest (socialism!), when you read an article which says raping your wife is just fine and gender equality a “political fiction”, you know when it comes to this fight for justice, the ground you’re on feels pretty damn solid underfoot. Although the hatred such sites champion can’t and shouldn’t be scoffed away, their very surface-level extremism makes them childish. They’re like one clumsily-wrapped package of reactionary dicks for a feminist’s (that’s male or female yo) (in)convenient discovery and dismay.
As said friend pointed out, Return of Kings (ROK) – a blog founded by ‘pick-up artist’ Roosh – is notable for the ways in which it tries to establish itself as a legitimate journalism outlet. In between articles like ‘40 Pictures That Show The Decline Of Women’ and ‘Why Vladimir Putin May Be The Last Guardian Of Traditional Values’ (“This will help you see through the West’s propaganda”) is lodged ‘7 Pieces Of Beautiful Classical Music For Beginners’ and ‘4 Tips To Make Moving To A New City A Lot Easier’ – relatively innocuous faff, otherwise found on the blog of a dull person.
Anger and mischief conspired: seeing that anonymous submissions were welcome and that satire is dead, I decided to infiltrate the den. My motive was piqued after reading on the ‘Contact’ page that under ROK’s ‘house rules’, it was mandatory for American females writing in to submit an image of themselves too.
From an aggregate review of ROK’s most regular format and style of articles, I knew that so long as my submission was a) organised as a listicle despite being b) smugly intellectual with lots of lofty man musings c) referenced both ancient history (esp. Latin) and baseball terminology and d) was laced with underlying insecurity, my chances of the article being accepted were pretty good. So, after putting tossing up ‘10 Ways My Life Improved After I Killed My Wife’s Cat’, ‘4 Household Appliances Invented Only for Women’ and ‘5 Stationary Items You Should Avoid if You Want to Be an Alpha at Work’, I settled on a 400-word article called ‘How Gator Hunting Saved My Masculinity’. For my pseudonym, I chose Thomas Wilson – the name of the actor who plays Biff Tannen in Back to the Future, and created the Gmail account firstname.lastname@example.org to match.
The first paragraph as follows.
We keep saying it; we all know it. Progressive liberalism and the warped logic of ‘gender equality’ are leading to the decline of modern man. Once we used to walk the earth as a proud race – exercising our will and discipline over land, woman and beast without need for restraint. In civilizations past, everything was our battleground, and our bodies grew taught and lean with the power of it. Yet take a walk through the city central today, and what you see is a painful travesty of that history. At every corner, on every bench, you find yourself confronted with limp, silly, Gollum-like creatures; not men, but cringe-worthy imitations of men. Typically, they’ll either be huddled over their laptop screens trying to decide what new trinket to buy their whore, or wondering if they have enough chicken salt on their deep-fried chips.
I could have also been this way. I could have been the object of my own rightful contempt. I’d say but for the grace of God; but what I have to say here is: “but for the Grace of Gator”.
I waited. The weeks went by. I became anxious. I hadn’t degraded women enough! I started churning out new articles at a terrific pace. With every morning as I opened Gmail came the yearning for the approval of my ideological enemies. The balance between obvious mockery (and hence no longer flying under the ROK radar) and over-cautious subtlety (such that articles would become indistinguishable from the rest of the nonsense and even perpetuate harm) tilted more and more towards the latter. I wrote an article called ‘What to Do if Hillary Gets Office’, followed by ‘How to Celebrate if Hillary Gets Assassinated’. I thought ‘How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love My Guns’ was maybe a bit too highbrow, not to mention a blemish on a good a Kubrick reference. Trying to be relevant, I blamed the wife of the former Icelandic PM for his downfall, whose offshore account was one of those exposed in the Panama Papers. It was when the thought popped into my mind of writing a sneering piece about the sexist and racist abuse against Greens MP Jenny Leong by NSW Police over social media that I stopped. Enough.
Somewhere in my quest to infiltrate ROK, my whole sneaky fugitive feminist agenda was perverted, as my need to be validated by (the most awful of) men took precedent. “They infiltrated you by ignoring you,” one friend observed. It was true: desperation had made of me a monster. In a dark mirror of a more insidious version of the patriarchy still at work within our society, I had parroted and even internalised the voice of the traditional male; for it is only under that condition that acknowledgement and visibility are typically won.
In the end however, ROK will never make its dubious addition to my portfolio of work. Whether because ROK submissions are a lie and the site’s editors just rotate their own stable of writers, or my content didn’t quite cut the standard or style, or they never bought my cover from the first, no article ever made it online. Even though my mind still reads this fact as failure, I know for a fact I’d be doing myself a service to be relieved.
Words and art by Kate Prendergast