A rally and march in Homewood on Saturday night was intended to send a message to neomasculinists and to the world that rape will not be tolerated nor will victims be silenced, organizers said.
The rally was a response to a plan by Daryush Valizadeh, also known as Roosh V and several other pseudonyms, to organize a worldwide system of local gatherings for like-minded men. Valizadeh’s neomasculinism argues for a return to patriarchy as the dominant social organization.
His notoriety grew last year when he published an essay arguing for legalizing rape on private property, a claim he has since said was meant to be satire, according to media reports.
A restaurant parking lot in Homewood was one of the places identified on his website as a rendezvous site.
After the plan generated outrage around the world and opponents began planning protests at meeting sites, Valizadeh reportedly canceled the events.
Although the immediate provocation for the anti-rape rally evaporated, organizers Veronica Reis and Meredith Thetford said the views of Valizadeh and his followers demanded a response.
“They got their word out so effectively,” Thetford said. “That sort of mentality allows other people to feel comfortable with the thought of violence against women.”
About 25 women, men and children gathered at the gazebo in Irwin Park to get organized. During introductions, each participant talked about why they chose to attend the rally. Several noted that they were sexual abuse survivors.
Everyone expressed disgust for Valizadeh’s views, and most said they attended because they believe his message needs to be countered.
“Women have this perception that if you’re raped you shouldn’t talk about it because nothing’s going to be done anyway,” Reis said. “This seemed like a perfect opportunity to make a statement and show people that it’s not OK. We need more activism here. If you accept it, it will be.”
After introductions, signs were distributed with messages that included, “We will not stay silent,” “Real men don’t rape” and “Only cowards rape.”
The group left Irwin Park shortly after 5:30 p.m. and walked to Dixie Highway, south to 183rd Street, north on Harwood Avenue and east on Ridge Road to the park. Periodically, the group would stop and display the signs, receiving a number of horn-honks and thumbs-up signs from passing motorists.
Reis and Thetford said they did not have specific plans yet but they hope to continue the effort to spread the message that rape should not be tolerated.