The XX Factor

How Did a “Men’s Rights” Supporter End Up in New Hampshire’s Women-Friendly Legislature?

Fight for those rights, buddy.

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In the popular Reddit community “The Red Pill”—a subreddit devoted to pickup artistry and “men’s rights”—browsers can find such helpful threads as “There is no Friendzone!,” and “The need to return to a more measured, Machiavellian frame of mind,” all part of the group’s mission of fomenting “discussion of sexual strategy in a culture increasingly lacking a positive identity for men.” And who to thank for this gleaming beacon of misogyny? According to the Daily Beast, a 31-year-old owner of a small local computer-repair chain named Robert Fisher, who, when he’s not fixing computers or using them to fulminate against feminism, also happens to a New Hampshire state legislator.

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Reporter Bonnie Bacarisse builds a meticulous case linking Fisher to the Red Pill, collecting various screen names and online identities, along with other blogs, message board entries, social media pages, and more. She digs up evidence that Fisher has ranted about feminism and dating, bragged about maintaining a “soft harem” of women who were mostly unaware of each other, and lambasted women who think “bringing a pair of boobs grants her equal footing with somebody bringing intelligence or a personality.” He said he keeps a video camera in his bedroom to prevent false accusations of rape, a subject of consistent paranoia. “Statistically I’m overdue for a false rape allegation,” he wrote in 2013. He is no longer the Red Pill’s lead moderator, but has popped in to praise its success as recently as last year. Bacarisse’s reporting is pretty good for a member of the sex Fisher has accused of “sub-par intelligence” and “lack of curiosity.”

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So far, Fisher has resisted the drumbeat of calls for his resignation in the wake of these revelations, and the legislature has little power to force him out. Although he denied his involvement in the Red Pill forum to Bacarisse, he stopped denying it to other interviewers after she published her story. “I’m disappointed that this sort of attack has replaced real news, but it strengthens my position and resolve that fighting for equal rights is more important today than ever,” Fisher said in a statement on Tuesday. “Here’s my message to the public: I am not disappearing. I will continue to stand strong for men’s rights and the rights of all.” That may be, but men and all may not want to place much faith in Fisher, given that he has not exactly distinguished himself in the legislature: He’s skipped about half of the sessions so far this year, according to the Concord Monitor and he also specifically requested not to serve on any committees, which the House Speaker—who said he has never spoken with Fishercalls “troubling.

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Some of these rhetorical moves sound awfully familiar. Claiming a position of strength even as he blames others for victimizing him? Attempting to bluster his way through an insanely embarrassing debacle completely of his own making? Referring to “men’s rights” in the same breath as “equal rights”? Refusing to take “no” for an answer? It’s not exactly surprising that Fisher is the type to spend his time online lamenting the fact that his “alpha” status as a “high level exec” (again, he runs a few computer-repair shops) failed to attract women on dating sites. That special blend of resentment and bluster somehow feels perfectly tuned to the larger Trump political moment, too.

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To be fair, “State Legislator Reveals Himself to Be Total Idiot” is a bit of a dog-bites-man story. And that’s particularly true where I live in New Hampshire, which has a huge state house filled with legislators who work almost for free. The state with a population of just 1.3 million has the largest legislature in the country, with 400 legislators representing an average of 3,300 people each. It also pays its legislators the least amount of any state by far: $100 a year, with no per diem.

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With a low barrier to entry, and even lower pay, the state house naturally attracts an … eclectic band of public servants. There was the representative who repeatedly endorsed cop-killing, and the one who turned out to have changed his name after doing stints in jail for forging checks and stealing handcuffs. Last year, a legislator resigned after it was discovered that, among other things, he had sold marijuana to other lawmakers inside the state house. (The same guy was previously best known for dropping his gun on the floor during a meeting of the House Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee.) A 2011 analysis found that New Hampshire had the least-educated state legislature in the country.

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It’s ironic, then, that the same conditions that empowered Fisher have historically had another important effect on the state’s political landscape: Elevating women. New Hampshire has an all-female U.S. congressional delegation, and until last year it had had a female governor, too. Since 1975, more than 100 women have served in the legislature every year. In spite—or even because—of the fact that the state legislature is large, low-status and unpaid, it serves as a pipeline to a career in higher-level leadership. The thing about a pipeline, though, is that sometimes it carries a little sewage, too.

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