Nikola Tesla is celebrated as a genius who had an amazing ability to envision the future. He predicted mobile phones, television, and even elements of the internet long before any of these things existed. But he also had some weird ideas about the social issues of tomorrow. Which is why he's become an unlikely hero in the so-called Men's Rights community of today.
Despite his brilliance with all things technological, Tesla's views on the social structure of the future were sometimes rather unfortunate. He advocated for the principles of eugenics and forced sterilization to ensure that only humans with the most desirable traits could reproduce. And he insisted that men would one day be forced to submit to women.
The inventor imagined a society structured like that of the bee -- where male grunts do the heavy lifting and are otherwise only used for breeding purposes. Men would be killed off when they were not needed. Tesla spelled out his ideas about the inevitable (and in his opinion, unfortunate) rise of women in an interview that appeared in the August 10, 1924 issue of the Galveston Daily News.
Tesla explained that he once adored and worshipped women. But that his perspective had recently changed, as women had become more and more like men, striving to compete with men in so many aspects of society.
"Now the soft-voiced gentle woman of my reverent worship has all but vanished," Tesla told a reporter in 1924. "In her place has come the woman who thinks that her chief success in life lies in making herself as much as possible like man -- in dress, voice and actions, in sports and achievements of every kind."
Tesla would go on to explain that women competing with men was one of the greatest tragedies he saw in the world. And that no good would come of it for civilisation as a whole.
"The world has experienced many tragedies, but to my mind the greatest tragedy of all is the present economic condition wherein women strive against men, and in many cases actually succeed in usurping their places in the professions and in industry," the inventor explained in cringe-worthy detail. "This growing tendency of women to overshadow the masculine is a sign of a deteriorating civilisation."
"Perhaps the male in human society is useless. I am frank to admit that I don't know," Tesla conceded. "If women are beginning to feel this way about it -- and there is striking evidence at hand that they do -- then we are entering upon the cruelest period of the world's history."
With women gaining the vote in all 50 states just four years earlier, Tesla's words no doubt resonated with some men who felt threatened by women's slowly changing role in modern America. No less than a "matriarchal empire" was on the horizon, he warned.
"Our civilisation will sink to a state like that which is found among the bees, ants and other insects -- a state wherein the male is ruthlessly killed off," Tesla said. "In this matriarchal empire which will be established the female rules. As the female predominates, the males are at her mercy. The male is considered important only as a factor in the general scheme of the continuity of life."
Today, websites like the infamously terrible Return of Kings describe Tesla's predictions about the subjugation of men as "disturbingly accurate," while some men on Reddit call him a prophet -- a vindication of their warped worldview where women dominate and oppress men in all aspects of society.
August 10, 1924 issue of the Galveston Daily News
"I am considering this question not merely from the standpoint of a man," Tesla insisted in his 1924 interview. "I am thinking of the woman's side of it."
"As we contemplate any change, we naturally take into consideration the results that may follow such an innovation. One of the results to my mind is quite a pathetic one," Tesla said.
But women weren't really going to be succeeding in this new world order, Tesla said. No, the fairer sex would really be the "victims" of their own success, sounding like a conservative pundit on some cable news show.
"Woman, herself, is really the victim instead of, as she thinks, the victor. Contentment is absent from her life. She is ambitious, often far beyond her natural equipment, to attain the thing she wants. She too frequently forgets that all women cannot be prima donnas and motion picture stars," Tesla opined.
"Woman's discontent makes the life of the present day still more overstressed. The high pitch given to existence by people who are restless and dissatisfied because they fail to achieve things wholly out of proportion to the health and talent with which Nature has endowed them is a bad thing for the world," Tesla said, subtly evoking the language of eugenics that would pop up again in his interviews during the 1930s.
"It seems to me that women are not particularly happy in this newly found freedom, in this new competition which they are waging so persistently against men in business and the professions and even in sport," Tesla said. "The question that naturally arises is, whether the women themselves are the gainers or the losers."
Tesla would explain in later interviews that perhaps the civilisation of the bee was a model society from which humans could learn a thing or two. Maybe the "scientifically ordered civilisation" was indeed the way to go, even if that meant an oppressive matriarchy was upon us.
Tesla had a complicated relationship with women throughout his life. One of his best friends was a woman and he absolutely adored his mother. But his beliefs were seemingly rooted in a very old fashioned notion about what women's role in the world should be.
"History has given us many examples of the wonderful influence exerted by unusual women. Among these have been the mothers of great men," Tesla said to the reporter in 1924, perhaps referring to his own mother in a rather immodest way. "But their influence lay not in their determination to outdo man, or even to compete with him."
By nearly all accounts Tesla was not attracted to women, and he could be rather unkind to some, once firing one of his secretaries for being too fat. He would sometimes remark on women's clothing when it displeased him.
Tesla was a brilliant inventor, but sometimes his vision of the world's trajectory took him into strange places. And unfortunately, he's now being celebrated by some of the scummiest elements of society -- people who believe here in the 21st century that men are somehow being oppressed by women.
It's an element to Nikola Tesla's life that many supporters would no doubt like to ignore. But like every other genius of history, Tesla was imperfect. It's just too bad he's becoming a hero to so many young men on the internet for all the wrong reasons.