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Shooting suspect Roy Den Hollander was a men’s rights activist. What does that mean?

The self-proclaimed “anti-feminist lawyer” Roy Den Hollander positioned himself as a key figure in “men’s rights activism,” a movement animated by grievances that men are ceding their rights to feminism writ large.

Den Hollander, 72, died this week from an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound after a shooting at U.S. District Judge Esther Salas’ home left her son dead and her husband in critical condition. Den Hollander, who once described Salas as “a lazy and incompetent Latina judge,” is suspected of carrying out the shooting.

Investigators are also looking into whether Den Hollander was behind the fatal shooting of lawyer Marc Angelucci, vice president and board member of the National Coalition for Men and the founder of the National Coalition for Men Los Angeles chapter, at his Crestline, California, home on July 11, the Los Angeles Times reported Tuesday. The shooter dressed as a delivery driver in both attacks.

Den Hollander’s beliefs, according to multiple reports, were steeped in outwardly misogynist ideologies: For instance, he published a 152-page screed titled the “Cyclopedia” filled with anti-feminist thought.

The most notorious lawsuits he was involved in — filed in the span of a decade — involve a litany of grievances, from allegations that women’s studies in universities violated Title IX legislation to “ladies’ nights” at bars and clubs being discriminatory to men.

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He also was involved in a case that made its way to Salas’ desk, one in which he challenged the all-male draft. Salas ruled in 2019 that the lawsuit could proceed days after a judge in Texas declared the male-only draft unconstitutional in a case brought by two men. Den Hollander reacted positively to her decision.

An attorney found dead in Rockland, New York, may be involved in the fatal shooting of Judge Esther Salas' 20-year-old son.An attorney found dead in Rockland, New York, may be involved in the fatal shooting of Judge Esther Salas' 20-year-old son.
An attorney found dead in Rockland, New York, may be involved in the fatal shooting of Judge Esther Salas’ 20-year-old son.

Multiple experts have noted that anti-feminism espoused by men often carries the threat of violence, and has been pushed into the mainstream atter tragedy and massacre.

In 2014, Elliot Rodger, a 22-year-old man motivated by resentment toward women, shot and killed six people — including three women — on the University of California, Santa Barbara, campus. He then fatally shot himself.

In Canada, Marc Lépine, a 25-year-old Montreal man, killed 14 women in 1989 at École Polytechnique, an engineering school, because he said he was motivated by “fighting feminism.”

Police found Den Hollander’s body hours after the shooting at the Salas home. Officials said it is possible Den Hollander, who claimed he had terminal cancer, had decided to target his enemies, the New York Times reported.

His death has put a spotlight on the worldview he espoused throughout his life— and questions as to what the movement actually stands for.

What is men’s rights activism?

Men’s rights activism is essentially a movement based on the belief that men are losing power and status because of feminism.

In this worldview, wrote B. Ethan Coston, assistant professor of gender, sexuality and women’s studies at Virginia Commonwealth University and Michael Kimmel, professor of sociology at Stony Brook University in New York in a paper discussing Hollander in 2013, feminism was “a political strategy to take power and an individual lifestyle that despised and denigrated men.”

Coston told USA TODAY that modern men’s rights activists (MRAs) “tend to believe fairly strongly that feminism is a movement towards ‘women’s supremacy’.”

Where did the men’s rights movement originate?

Juliet Williams, a professor of gender studies at the University of California, Los Angeles, said the men’s rights movement was borne out of the fight for women’s rights in the 1960s and 1970s, encompassing reproductive choice, the civil rights movements and Title XI legislation, the federal law that prohibits discrimination based on gender in school programs.

“The men’s rights movement is best understood as a reactionary movement that emerged into real visibility in the wake of the accomplishments of feminist legal reformers,” she said, “who were able to, after not just decades, but centuries of struggle, to ensure that all of the rights that are accorded to people are extended without regard to sex.”

Crime scene tape surrounds the home of U.S. District Judge Esther Salas on July 20 in North Brunswick, N.J.Crime scene tape surrounds the home of U.S. District Judge Esther Salas on July 20 in North Brunswick, N.J.
Crime scene tape surrounds the home of U.S. District Judge Esther Salas on July 20 in North Brunswick, N.J.

Srimati Basu, a gender studies professor at the University of Kentucky, said some male members of the men’s movement were involved in the groundbreaking National Organization for Women, which formed auxiliary groups to support men’s rights.

A key figure was Warren Farrell, a former NOW board member who wrote 1974’s “The Liberated Man” and 1993’s “The Myth of Male Power.” In both, he argued that male power was overstated — and that men were larger victims in American society than women.

What are their biggest grievances?

There’s a spectrum of attitudes and positions within the men’s rights movement.

Coston says that for the most part, the key points that men’s rights activists (MRAs) have focused on are child support and custody issues, intimate partner and dating violence in which men are victims, and military service requirements.

But, largely, men’s rights activism is centered on the perception that as women and minority groups gain rights, men — primarily white men — begin to lose theirs.

“There are all kinds of very important questions to be asking about boys and men about the effects of gender socialization which confer certain advantages, but also lots of disadvantages,” Williams said.

For example, Basu says custody battles often revolve “around accusations that women always get preference in custody decisions,” among many men right’s activists, who claim that women seek custody of their children “both for revenge and to get more money.”

And it is at this point, Williams contends, that arguments steeped in legitimate concerns curdle into something based on hate and misogyny.

“What you see there is what happens when people take the idea of equality and they willfully depoliticize it,” she said.

What do men’s rights activists say about race?

In many ways, Williams argues, fundamental to the understanding of the Den Hollander’s views is the mix of “race and sex-based animus.” To her, it’s “another very bracing reminder of how accepted hatred is as just another point of view in our society.”

Den Hollander’s seeming disdain for Salas may have been informed by his views toward Hispanic and Latino judges.

“Female judges didn’t bother me as long as they were middle age or older black ladies,” he wrote in one screed published in 2019. “Latinas, however, were usually a problem—driven by an inferiority complex.”

Salas, who was nominated to the United States District Court for New Jersey by President Barack Obama, is the first Hispanic woman to serve as a federal judge in New Jersey.

The Southern Poverty Law Center also notes that xenophobia and racism are not uncommon in parts of the men’s rights activist movement, citing examples such as one group calling for the removal of Black people from the country.

Contributing: Diane Pantaleo and Nate Chute, Bridgewater Courier News; Jordan Culver, Hannah Gaber, USA TODAY

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Roy Den Hollander: What is men’s rights activism? How did it start?

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