Why We Shouldn't Ignore Pick-Up Artists (Even Though They're Vile)

On this week’s Strong Opinions Loosely Held podcast, Elisa Kreisinger speaks with intrepid feminist artist Angela Washko, who sat down for a face-to-face interview with one of the internet’s most virulent misogynists, Roosh V. Author of the international pick-up artist’s how-to guide, Bang, Roosh serves as a useful test case for how feminists should engage their draconian opponents — and as a sad reminder of the limits of those conversations.
Roosh’s work, loosely labeled as such, represents a small piece of the wider, though similarly vile, “Manosphere”— a constellation of books, blogs, and forums working to defend their crusty, antiquated idea of Traditional Masculinity against global feminism. Elisa and Angela fearlessly delve into Roosh’s demeaning “philosophy,” discussing the social changes flaring this anti-woman movement and trying to figure what, exactly, is so threatening about female empowerment?

Below, we chat with Kreisinger about the inspiration for this week's episode:
Do you think it’s possible to have a productive conversation with someone who doesn’t believe you deserve a seat at the table?
"I disagree with Angela’s opinion that men aren’t oppressed. Men have a higher suicide rate, they are incarcerated at a higher rate, they face social pressures to earn, provide, and 'man up;' they are sent to war more often, there’s violence against men, and father’s rights are often ignored in custody battles. Unfortunately, [men of the "manosphere"] don’t address these issues, but they are crucial to their freedom, as well as ours. I understand that in the oppression olympics, men don’t exactly register as the number one underserved community. But the way to have a productive conversation is to find commonality."

By exhibiting her interview with Roosh alongside her own work, does Angela run the risk of legitimizing or even elevating his message — or even Roosh himself — in a way that is detrimental to feminism?
"That is a great question, especially in the context of the art world, where men’s work is traditionally valued higher and is more profitable. I don’t think exhibiting the interview with Roosh legitimizes his message any more. If anything, it further enrages feminist artists and media critics who have never had conversations with someone from the [manosphere]."

It sounds like Angela spoke extensively with some of the women who have hooked-up with Roosh; what were their reactions to learning that he considers himself a “Pick-Up Guru”? Did it change their perspectives on their experiences?
"While Angela was able to get their perspective on their interactions with Roosh, she was adamant about not sharing details of these interviews for fear of retaliation on behalf of Roosh and his followers. Roosh talks extensively about his experiences with these women in explicit detail in his books, so his followers have enough information to piece stories together should Angela reveal any of the details of the interview. I decided not to cut the question and her response from the final episode, because I thought people would ask the same question."

At the end of your conversation with Angela, had either of your feelings about Roosh and the “Manosphere” changed? If so, how?
"I feel for Roosh in many ways. He’s clearly been hurt in the past and his aggression and anger towards women sounds like they stems from an early childhood wound. As I edited the episode, my feelings really fluctuated between outrage, fear, anger, sympathy, and understanding of the [manosphere]. Ultimately, I hope this episode sparks a conversation about society’s impact on men and how women can be allies to men. But the conversation has to be open, honest, and [go] both ways."

Listen below via SoundCloud. Subscribe to Strong Opinions Loosely Held on iTunes.
Correction: An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that Roosh V. is a men's rights activist. Roosh V is a pick-up artist. Men's rights activists and pick-up artists are two separate factions of the "manosphere."

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