The Men’s Rights Movement and Violence

The recent shooting of the son and husband of Judge Esther Salas, in which the alleged shooter was a men’s right lawyer with a case in front of the federal court judge, has raised questions about men’s rights ideology. The following is an excerpt from an unpublished piece on male supremacist violence that we are posting here today to provide brief historical context on men’s rights activists (MRAs) and acts or glorification of violence, especially against judges or the legal system, viewed as under feminist control.

“Men’s rights” ideology dates back to the 1970s and opposition to the advances made by the women’s rights movement, developing into a more organized movement in the 1990s [as discussed in my article “Mobilizing Misogyny“]. The fathers’ rights movement was the men’s rights movement’s most active wing through the 2000s, growing following the expansion of no-fault divorce as an option for women seeking to leave controlling husbands. The movement drew mostly conservative, White, educated ex-husbands contesting custody or alimony and child support. Fathers’ rights groups blamed an unjust “feminist legal system,” attracting a disturbing number of domestic abusers, even in its leadership, who sought to (re)gain control over children and ex-wives.

In 2006, a member of a fathers’ rights group “stabbed his estranged wife to death and then shot and wounded the family court judge who was handling his divorce.” Men who kill only their current or former partners and/or children each year are too numerous to describe here. According to Everytown for Gun Safety, when the definition of a mass shooting (which varies) includes attacks committed solely in private spaces, over half of incidents involve domestic violence.

On June 15, 2011, fathers’ rights leader Thomas Ball killed himself outside a county courthouse. Ball, who felt unfairly treated by the legal system after hitting his four-year-old daughter, called for an insurrection in a “Last Statement,” declaring, “Twenty-five years ago, the federal government declared war on men. … It is time, boys, to give them a taste of war.”

The following day, Paul Elam, founder of A Voice for Men, a prominent MRA website founded in 2009, wrote, “a judge dragged out of his courtroom into the street, beaten mercilessly, doused with gasoline and set afire by a father who just won’t take another moment of injustice…[would be] a minor tragedy that pales by far in comparison to the systematic brutality and thuggery inflicted daily on American fathers by those courts and their police henchmen.” In 2011 Elam also launched the website, which enabled men to post the personal information of women they claimed made false accusations of abuse (or otherwise outraged the movement) in order to target them for harassment. (Feminist writer Jessica Valenti fled her house under a barrage of threats after her information appeared on this site.)

In October 2011, a man shot and killed his ex-wife and seven bystanders at the salon where she worked in Seal Beach, California. Although he already had 56% custody over his son (despite his ex-wife testifying to domestic abuse and a present danger), he wanted “final decision-making authority” and sole custody. Commenters on r/mensrights, ignoring the custody allocation in this case, claimed that such murders would “happen again and again” as long as unjust custody rulings amounted to “kidnapping” and being “sold into slavery” (paying child support and alimony). “Push good men too far and they’re going to react violently. You can thank feminists for this violence,” stated another comment. (Since 2014, Elam organizes international conferences around men’s rights and tries, unsuccessfully, to present himself as in the “moderate” camp of MRAs, who carefully distance themselves from violence to maintain a mainstream image. See also, “Men’s Rights Conference Host Says Women Who Drink & Dance Are ‘Begging’ for Rape.”)

A blog catering to MRAs and pickup artists run by Matt Forney, a white male supremacist who advocates domestic violence (and admitted to perpetrating abuse), announced, “Anti-Male, Anti-Father Divorce Laws Drive Man to Commit Heinous Rage Shooting Against Ex-Wife.” One commenter framed Dekraai as going “to war”; another suggested that “enough of this type of offensive action might just start making women and their supporters* think twice, especially if they also become targets. (*Divorce attorneys, child services workers and counselors, family court judges, and other enabling cogs in the feminist legal system).”