A tongue-in-cheek call for a campus club to “advocate for men in the same manner that female groups advocate for women” has resulted in the formation of a men’s advocacy organization at the University of Chicago.

Back in March, UC junior Steve Saltarelli wrote an op-ed in the Chicago Maroon announcing the creation of Men in Power, a new student group founded “to spread awareness and promote understanding of issues and challenges facing men today.” Proposing “a tutorial on barbecuing” and “fishing, hunting, and flag-football retreats” as club activities, Saltarelli soon started receiving emails from men looking to join.

So he set it up. MiP applied for official campus recognition and funding, and held its first meeting in mid-May.

The Chicago Tribune had no trouble finding men’s rights activists to cheer the group’s creation and feminists to deplore it, but it remains unclear just how serious Saltarelli is. His Maroon op-ed was an obvious spoof — “many don’t realize that men are in power all around us,” he noted, pointing out that “the last 44 presidents have been men.” But if the club itself is a hoax, it’s a subtle one, as interviews like this one make clear.

That said, the club is clearly uncomfortable with the charges of misogyny (and douchebaggery) that are directed its way. Its Facebook group and website each include a prominent notice that those “looking for a (white) male champion group that seeks to advance men at the expense of women and/or a clique to isolate yourselves … are in the wrong place.”

Links posted at the group’s Twitter feed make clear that it’s garnering quite a bit of media attention, but its first meeting drew fewer than twenty attendees. If it exists as a functioning campus group a year from now, I’ll be more than a little surprised.

Update: Okay, here’s my hunch. Saltarelli wrote the original Maroon piece as a not-feminist-but-not-antifeminist-either goof. He wasn’t serious about creating the group. But then he started getting attention, and he liked the attention, so he decided to go for it. And then he started getting a lot of attention, and a lot of questions he’d never really contemplated, and he had to start figuring out how to answer them. And now he, and the rest of the group, are trying to come up with a serious rationale for a project that didn’t start out serious, and negotiating some heavy gender politics that they don’t have a lot of tools to address.

(There are a lot of parallels here to the Veterans of Future Wars craze of 1936. I should really get some of the stuff I’ve written about those folks up online.)