Editor’s Note: Jill Filipovic is a journalist based in New York and author of the forthcoming book “OK Boomer, Let’s Talk: How My Generation Got Left Behind,” and of “The H-Spot: The Feminist Pursuit of Happiness.” Follow her on Twitter. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely her own. View more opinion articles on CNN.
If there is one lesson to take away from the tragic killing of Daniel Anderl, the son of US District Judge Esther Salas, and the shooting of Salas’s husband, Mark Anderl, it is this: Misogynist extremists aren’t just kooks or pathetic losers; they’re dangerous.
The man believed to be responsible for the shootings is Roy Den Hollander, a “men’s rights” activist and self-described “anti-feminist” lawyer. He shot and killed himself after allegedly killing Daniel Anderl and shooting Mark Anderl.
While the targeting of a federal judge and her family is shocking, Den Hollander’s violence shouldn’t be surprising. This is, after all, a man who called the Violence Against Women Act the “Female Fraud Act,” only to then to allegedly commit violence against a woman’s family.
He routinely sued over what he believed to be profound sexist injustices – for example, women getting free admission to bars on Ladies Night (“a significant transfer of wealth from males to females,” Den Hollander wrote) – and made clear that he didn’t just oppose unequal treatment, but resented women generally, and women in positions of power specifically.
In a paper he published on his own website, the first line of the content section reads, “Kill a Feminazi – save a child.” He referred to his misogynist crusade as a “Jihad” and said that “There is a state of war between men and the Feminazis – total war.”
In his missives, he railed against feminist judges and feminists generally, whom he called the “self-serving concubines of evil itself.” He expressed a belief that men are justified in responding to government and others with violence.
He wrote that “things begin to change when individual men start taking out those specific persons responsible for destroying their lives before committing suicide. When every life destroyed by a lying tongue is repaid with another destroyed by a gun.”
And that’s exactly what he apparently tried to do.
In other words, there were more than warning signs; there was a written, published, public agenda.
Den Hollander cannot just be dismissed as a lone wolf or deranged person. He was a lawyer who had appeared in front of Judge Salas in a case about another one of his pet issues: The male-only draft.
That case was handed off to the firm Boies Schiller Flexner (yes, the same firm that hired the private intelligence company Black Cube to investigate the women who accused Harvey Weinstein of assault) after Den Hollander said he was diagnosed with cancer.
He’s also far from the only men’s rights activist who has promoted, incited and encouraged violence against women – or and has been violent himself.
Many men come to the men’s rights movement because they believe they’ve been wronged by the court systems, often after allegations of domestic violence, or when required to pay child support.
Once they’re there, they’re treated to a barrage of lies, misogyny, propaganda and racism.
Men’s rights websites and forums have created a culture in which it’s considered funny and normal to threaten women with rape and fantasize about killing or injuring them, perpetuating a twisted worldview in which women are at fault for their own victimization.
Lots of these men listen and take this garbage seriously. Before men’s rights ideology was rampant on the internet, Marc Lépine murdered 14 women in Montreal, writing in his suicide note that “I have decided to send the feminists, who have always ruined my life, to their Maker.”
In 2009, George Sodini shot three women dead and injured nine others; he was angry that women wouldn’t have sex with him as often as he would have preferred. That was also what motivated Elliot Rodger, who killed six people in 2014, and a dozen other men who have killed or tried to kill women and claimed sexual frustration as the cause.
Some men’s rights advocates distinguish themselves from “incels,” or men embittered by their lack of sexual success, who in turn distinguish themselves from the “pick-up artists” or PUAs who aim to sleep with as many women as possible. But they all overlap in the “manosphere”: The corners of the internet dedicated to anti-feminism and misogyny.
Not that men need internet misogyny in order to kill or abuse women. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly one in five women have experienced severe violence at the hands of a partner. The easy availability of guns in the United States makes this violence, pervasive the world over, particularly deadly here.
According to the group Everytown for Gun Safety, close to a million women in America have survived being shot or shot at by an intimate partner, and another 4.5 million have been threatened by a partner with a gun.
Fifty-two women are killed after being shot by an intimate partner every month, according to Everytown – and many more, obviously, are seriously injured. Eighty percent of children killed in mass shootings between 2009 and 2018 were murdered by as part of a domestic violence incident – often situations where an angry man kills his current or former partner and their children, and sometimes himself.
None of these men exist in a vacuum. Some, like Den Hollander, erect the framework of a political theory around their hatred of women and are savvy enough to use the polite language of the law when they’re in a courtroom or on television.
They often begin by working within established institutions, seeking to undermine them – using the courts to bring a host of claims, as Den Hollander did.
But you don’t have to dig far to see extremism lurking, including the justification of violence. And there have been a disturbing number of these men who have moved on from posting their hatred online to engaging in acts of violence and terrorism – not unlike other extremists around the world.
For too long, though, American law enforcement, our most trusted institutions and the media have looked the other way on misogynist extremists in the United States, refusing to take them particularly seriously and brushing off the hatred of women and even gender-based violence as unfortunate but fixed parts of normal life.
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Den Hollander himself was made into something of a joke – though even back in 2007 he had a “typed forty-one point list headed ‘Discrimination against men in America’” at the ready to show to a New Yorker writer.
But while we were rolling our eyes at the man on a crusade against Ladies Night, he turned into the living embodiment of that famous Margaret Atwood quote: “Men are afraid women will laugh at them. Women are afraid men will kill them.”