talking to the ‘mad fucking witches’ taking on pro-rape advocates

"I correlate this behaviour to terrorism: these people are trying to capture the attention of disenfranchised young men."

by Wendy Syfret
|
02 February 2016, 5:25am

A participant at a previous Mad Fucking Witches protest. Image via Facebook.

Daryush "Roosh" Valizadeh is the founder and leader of men's "advocacy group" Return of Kings (ROK). Through his website and aggressive online presence, he's spent much of the past four years campaigning for the group's dangerous beliefs. They've argued rape should be legal on private property, claimed women shouldn't have the right to vote, and labeled the transgender movement a "horror story".

The group became a major Australian news event this week, when it was announced they were holding a series of global meetups this Saturday—three in Sydney, and one each for Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth.

Details of the meetups themselves are hazy. Participants have been told to approach certain areas and ask men waiting there where the nearest pet shop is. Fellow supporters will identify themselves by answering, "The pet shop is here". Not exactly James Bond, but whatever.

Initially, Daryush didn't plan to attend the Australian meetings, but the widespread outcry (let's be honest, the attention) meant he changed his mind. Yesterday, Roosh Tweeted he'd bought a ticket down under. Immigration minister Peter Dutton has already signalled that the MRA would be prevented from entering Australia.

Despite some doubt the meetups will even eventuate, the group Mad Fucking Witches (MFW) have already planned a counter protest. The women took their name from a comment the aforementioned immigration minister made about a female journalist and this isn't the first time they've stood up against MRAs. They pushed to revoke "pick up artist" Jeff Allen's visa last year.

On Saturday, the witches are calling for supporters to join them in a series of peaceful protest eventsaround the country. Ahead of what will probably be a pretty big weekend, i-D called up Jennifer, a leader of MFW to talk about their plans, and taking the fight against internet trolls into real life.

Hey Jen, so you're holding counter demonstrations around the areas where these men are apparently meeting up. Are you looking for a confrontation?
Personally, I'm a teacher so I'm more interested in drawing attention to what the group is doing: trying to capture the attention of disenfranchised young men. For them, this is about making money. If they can hook these guys into thinking [Return of Kings] can improve their lives, they can milk them through seminars and books. I correlate this behaviour to terrorism: these people are trying to capture the attention of disenfranchised young men. In my view, it's really a sophisticated money making cult. For that reason I'm hesitant to "blame the victim" as much as I blame the organisers.

That being said, we're a big group of about 8,000 people, and there are also other groups involved, so I'm sure everyone has a different idea of what they want our protest to achieve.

That's a very generous assessment of the participants.
To be clear, some of them are just women haters using this as a cover for violent activity. But I do think there is a percent that are lonely, socially awkward young guys. I don't want to come across like I'm apologising for men who would treat any woman in that way, but I think it's a tricky one where it's hard to lump them all in the same basket.

You've organised your protests around the areas where people believe the ROK meet-ups will be. Do you have any plans to infiltrate the meetings themselves?
We do have quite a few men from our group who are intending to do just that. Despite the ridiculous code they're using to hide their location, it'll be impossible for [ROK] to know who is really one of them.

What happens if you get someone in?
Then we'll find out the venue where they're holding it and get the venue's to refuse to host them.

Your approach is strongly focused on non-violence, but Daryush has called for his followers to find out protester's identities and publicly post their contact details. How do you respond to such a personal call?
I've worked in women's activism for years and have been subjected to a fair bit of that already. Honestly I expect more of it. Some of my details are pretty public so I've been thinking about it a lot. I'm just so mad about this whole issue I've decided it's more important than my personal feelings.

It's awful though that your time as a public feminist has meant you just need to resign yourself to being trolled.
It just happens. I haven't had death threats yet, but know many people who have so I know of the risk. Someone has to do this.

That's pretty brave.
I don't exactly feel brave, I just hope there are enough of us to make it too hard to fight us individually. There is always safety in numbers.

Peter Dutton has said he'd look into Daryush's visa, and politicians like Penny Wong and Larissa Waters have also spoken against the group. But despite their individual comments, the primary action has been lead by private citizens. Do you think the government has been active enough?
Yes and no. A lot of the government's policies are very damaging to women, but I do think it's difficult for them to have a finger on the pulse of everyone who comes into the country. Saying that, they do have pretty comprehensive lists of possible terrorists, so maybe they should have lists of people who you could argue are domestic terrorists.

These men are advocating for rape and violence against women and members of the LGBTQ community: why isn't that seen as terrorism?
Exactly. These people are advocating and teaching violence, so they are more or less terrorists. The government should be more proactive. How much money have they put into combating terrorism? There should be a whole department dedicated to combating violence against women. Where is the Minister for Women in all this?

One thing I keep returning to is the fact these men and groups are seeking infamy. They make these insane comments because they know the media with jump on them and give them huge amounts of publicity. Is there a part of you that worries you're a piece in a very complex PR machine?
Maybe they do this stuff as a way to get attention or sell books. I mean, we're not even sure their events are even going to take place. But we still don't feel as if they should be ignored. When you ignore something like this, it doesn't go away.

By making noise, we're getting information to young men and women about what these men do and how dangerous this culture is. We're not giving them what they want, we're educating people.

Mad Fucking Witches will be holding counter protests this Saturday in SydneyMelbourne and Brisbane. 

Credits


Words Wendy Syfret
Image via Facebook

Tagged:
Interviews
women's rights
MRA
feminsim
Return Of Kings
mad fucking witches