I hate that I’m writing this column. Over the years, I’ve published version after version of it: how the majority of mass shooters have a history of domestic violence; how misogyny is a clear and obvious indicator of future violence; and how politicians, mainly on the right, refuse to treat it as the epidemic it really is.
How many people have to die before we take sexism seriously?
And here I am once again. Just this week, Roy Den Hollander, a lawyer and well-known misogynist, allegedly killed the son of a federal judge and wounded her husband in an attack at their New Jersey home.
Den Hollander’s hatred for the judge, Esther Salas, was never in doubt. After Salas presided over a case he brought to the court in 2015, he fumed in a self-published book that she was a “lazy and incompetent Latina judge appointed by Obama.” A full motive for Den Hollander’s alleged crimes may never surface, however: He was found dead Monday after he shot himself in an apparent suicide.
But what’s not in doubt is his disdain for women: Den Hollander once sued to end “ladies’ nights” at bars, tried to defund women’s studies departments in universities, and fantasized about the rape of another judge who presided over his divorce case. The lawyer was also active in online misogynist groups and had written for A Voice for Men, a men’s rights website tracked as a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center. (Full disclosure: A Voice for Men targeted me in the past; I had to leave my home with my then-infant daughter for a time.)
Because of his strange lawsuits — he unsuccessfully tried to bring his suit over discounted drinks for women to the Supreme Court, for example — Den Hollander was treated more as a hilarious oddity than a danger. But many feminists had long raised the alarm about his behavior targeting women online. In fact, in 2008, while I was running a feminist blog, Den Hollander contacted me in a bizarre message where he fabricated an email thread between us — making it seem as if I had invited him to write for us and he was declining.
Women knew he was dangerous, but as happens time and time again, what should have been obvious warning signs were ignored. Den Hollander not only laid his misogyny bare through his lawsuits and writing — he also stalked and abused his ex-wife, even posting revenge porn of her online. She filed a domestic violence claim against him, claiming that Den Hollander threatened to have her deported back to Russia if she didn’t pay him $20,000.
It’s so difficult to think about Judge Salas and her grieving family, because I know a situation like this one could have been prevented. If we treated this kind of obsessive misogyny seriously — if Den Hollander had been arrested, or gotten treatment, or was denied access to a gun — we could literally save lives. But in America, we don’t see sexism as a red flag — we see it as normal.