Calgary campuses react to cancelled ‘Return of Kings’ rally

Engaged: University of Calgary students Elizabeth Ring, 20, and Ana Tanase, 21, spoke to The Press about their thoughts on the sensational internet personality behind the "Return of Kings" movement, and how the group's controversial ideas have sparked a dialogue on campuses across the country. Ring (left) and Tanase (right) are pictured here on the University of Calgary campus on Feb. 10, 2016. (Photo by Matthew Bardsley/The Press)
Engaged students: University of Calgary students Abby Andreasen, 21, and Ana Tanase, 21, spoke to The Press about their thoughts on the sensational Internet personality behind the “Return of Kings” movement and how the group’s controversial ideas have sparked a dialogue on campuses across the country. Ring (left) and Tanase (right) are pictured here on the University of Calgary campus on Feb. 10, 2016. (Photo by Matthew Bardsley/The Press)

The planned “Return of Kings” rally, which was cancelled earlier this month amid safety concerns, has sparked concern on Calgary post-secondary campuses over the group’s controversial ideas.

Self-proclaimed men’s rights advocate Daryush “Roosh” Valizadeh, who founded the group, cancelled the event scheduled for Feb. 6 at the last minute in wake of extensive negative international media coverage.

Valizadeh’s website and offshoot Facebook communities have received intense scrutiny and public condemnation across multiple countries due to content many have described as sexist, homophobic and violent towards women.

Elizabeth Ring, a 21-year-old communications student at the University of Calgary, first heard of Valizadeh’s active Facebook group and website when the issue received widespread media coverage at the end of January.

“It wasn’t something that I had even considered – a website that basically encouraged readers to rationalize and carry out rape – until I started hearing about it a few weeks ago,” she said.

Valizadeh, through the men’s advocacy group he created in 2007, has a 10-year history of posting sexist, homophobic and otherwise questionable material on his blog on his website, RooshV.com.

As reported by the CBC in a Feb. 3 story, Valizadeh, via a forum hosted on his website, encouraged meet-up events for followers in multiple Canadian cities on more than one occasion over the last year.

In response, multiple mayors from Canadian cities including Calgary, Ottawa, Montreal and Toronto issued statements assuring residents that Valizadeh and what they called his toxic rhetoric were not welcome.

“Even though some of what’s on the site is being said for shock value, it’s still really disturbing. And it’s even scarier that he was able to gain any kind of following in the first place,” said Abby Andreasen, a 21-year-old linguistics major.

The Return of Kings events, which were advertised as being open to heterosexual men only, were marketed to a mailing list of over 40,000 members, Valizadeh’s website says.

Starting a dialogue: Students Abby Andreasen and Ana Tanase, pictured here at the University of Calgary on Feb. 10, have voiced their concerns about Valizadeh and his controversial ideas.

 

Ana Tanase, a 22-year-old electrical engineering major, felt that the views presented on Valizadeh’s forum and website were indicative of a fear around the realities of a changing society.

“I feel like this guy is scared of the fact that women are no longer being forced into the same subservient boxes that they were in his 1940’s notions of how he’d like [women] to behave,” Tanase said.

“It’s a viewpoint I’ve unfortunately seen replicated, even in an academic setting. I think that progressive views on what women can and should be doing are something we take for granted.”

The mandate outlined on Valizadeh’s website is for the restoration of traditional gender roles and respect for men’s rights in the face of a world that is, according to his literature, becoming increasingly overrun by radical feminism and homosexuality.

The Return of Kings site takes this conservative viewpoint further with a wide variety of outrageous, click-bait posts that include a blog entry essentially amounting to a how-to guide for the rationalizing of rape, methods on how to determine when no really means yes and how to destroy women, should they reject men’s advances.

It’s a viewpoint I’ve unfortunately seen replicated, even in an academic setting. I think that progressive views on what women can and should be doing are something we take for granted.  – Ana Tanase

Some, like 29-year-old Shelagh Hare, a visiting student originally from Winnipeg, feel that the barrage of media coverage has actually been a positive for Valizadeh and his web traffic stats.

“We’re literally sending people to his site, and we’re showing screenshots of his posts on the evening news. It’s ridiculous,” she said.

“This is someone who needs to be ignored totally and completely, not legitimized through continuous media coverage.”

About Matthew Bardsley 2 Articles
As a writing and communications major in the journalism program at SAIT, Matthew Bardsley worked as a reporter for The Press during the 2015-16 academic year.

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