All Posts Tagged With: "feminism"
Yes, rapists are responsible, not low-cut tops, but…
This week Slate advice columnist Emily Yoffe incurred the wrath of Twitter with her ambitiously titled column, “College Women: Stop Getting Drunk”. Yoffe’s argument? College women should refrain from getting blotto because a lot of sexual assaults on campus involve alcohol; women who don’t imbibe excessively may be less susceptible to sexual assault. She writes:
“Let’s be totally clear: Perpetrators are the ones responsible for committing their crimes, and they should be brought to justice. But we are failing to let women know that when they render themselves defenseless, terrible things can be done to them. Young women are getting a distorted message that their right to match men drink for drink is a feminist issue. The real feminist message should be that when you lose the ability to be responsible for yourself, you drastically increase the chances that you will attract the kinds of people who, shall we say, don’t have your best interest at heart. That’s not blaming the victim; that’s trying to prevent more victims.”
Students talk of a brilliant but sexist professor
News of David Gilmour’s proud indifference to ideas and people unlike him has rocked the Canadian Twittersphere.
Gilmour and his off-the-cuff paean in Hazlitt to macho men of letters earned him attention in the American press and incited the wrath of Jezebel writers and academics eager to point out that the Canadian novelist does not have a PhD (because a doctorate, as we all know, is the prerequisite to a sound and tolerant mind). After that first cringe-worthy interview, Gilmour did himself no favours by attempting to clarify his remarks in the National Post. Again he insisted that those interested in reading the works of women, gays and Chinese people go “down the hall.”
“I don’t love women writers enough to teach them. That’s all I’m saying,” he explained. “What I teach are guys. If you want women writers, you go down the hall. … I have a degree in French literature, and I speak French fluently, but I don’t teach French literature because I don’t feel it as deeply and as passionately as some of the other teachers here. So I actually send people down the hall to somebody who can teach it better. The same thing goes for German writers, for women writers, for gay writers, for Chinese writers.”
Down the hall … it’s a big theme in Gilmour’s worldview. It’s also, I’m assuming, as a gay female writer, where he thinks I belong.
So who exactly is down the hall? I decided to find out.
Abortion, Israel and men’s issues are hot topics on campus
Universities are supposed to be safe places to debate controversial ideas but school administrators and students leaders would sometimes prefer instead to enforce their own points of view, even if it means silencing others.
As a result, the limits of free speech are frequently debated on campus. This week it’s at the University of Manitoba where a pro-life group is showing photos comparing abortion to the Holocaust and Rwandan genocide. Student Ashley James told the Winnipeg Free Press that it’s preventing her from focusing at school.
One can bet where the Calgary-based Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms would stand. They want controversial speech protected. According to their 2013 Campus Freedom Index, released Tuesday, 23 of the 45 universities graded this year have failed to stop censorship. Each administration and student union was assigned two A to F letter grades, one based on policies and the other on practices. Their conclusion: “Our country’s institutions of higher education have failed in their promise to uphold the sanctity of free speech in its most cherished and necessary form: the discussion of controversial ideas, frank and spirited debate, and the pursuit of truth.”
How fathers’ rights advocates spawned a vitriolic movement
When Earl Silverman was found dead, hanging from the rafters of his garage after an apparent suicide, those who knew him best said he had died from indifference. For the last five years, Silverman had owned Canada’s only shelter for men, taking battered husbands and their children into his own house in Calgary so they could escape abusive wives. A soft-spoken man in his late 50s, Silverman was inspired to start his shelter after leaving his own wife, who he claimed abused him physically and emotionally during their 20-year marriage, but he was unable to find a shelter that would admit him. In March, Silverman had closed his shelter, sold his home and filed for bankruptcy. On April 27 his body was found, along with a four-page suicide note—in which he allegedly blamed the federal and provincial governments for indifference toward the suffering of men.
“That note was his final attempt to get his story on the record,” says Karen Straughan, an Edmonton-based writer, activist and friend of Silverman’s. “During his life, he was always silenced, so I think this was one last, desperate attempt to be heard.”
And he was heard. As soon as the details of Silverman’s death were released by Calgary police, the news began to travel swiftly through the Internet. Hundreds of websites and message boards devoted to men’s rights caught onto the story. Popular sites like A Voice for Men and the men’s rights forums on Reddit and 4chan were flooded with messages about Silverman’s struggle and demise. Many of those who commented online had never heard of Silverman while he was alive, but after his death they felt compelled to share their feelings of grief, frustration and anger.
Experts discuss how to improve equality at the top
While the number of women enrolled in higher education and hired as staff in universities is rising worldwide, the pace of this change and shift in attitude toward women leaders of universities is not happening quickly enough.
Five women who want to speed up equality gathered on Thursday at the Worldviews Conference on Media and Higher Education at the University of Toronto for a panel discussion entitled Majority in enrolment, minority in leadership: expanding the coverage on women.
Zukiswa Kekana, a doctoral student from New York University, told the audience that a greater number of women are enrolled in undergraduate and graduate programs and are shifting from predominantly studying the social sciences to a more broad array of disciplines like health sciences.
York professor and Waterloo student deserve a closer look
A men’s issues event I reported on in March at the University of Toronto drew masked protesters who were there to intimidate people, city police there to keep things in order and it was, inevitably, delayed by a fire alarm. What followed was a rather lightweight critique of women’s studies from University of Ottawa professor Janice Fiamengo.
I was pleased that free speech prevailed, as it was by no means assured. A lecture a few months earlier hosted by the same men’s issues group, The Canadian Association for Equality, was almost shut down. Protesters accused professor Warren Farrell of “hate speech” for, among other things, his controversial views on date rape.
CAFE will host another provocative professor, Lionel Tiger, tonight in Toronto. That event will be at a private venue off campus where the group will raise funds for a men’s centre.
Find a husband on campus before I graduate? No thanks.
When Anne-Marie Slaughter spoke at the Women and Leadership conference at Princeton University in February, there was at least one person in the packed audience who did not agree with her call for the “next wave of an equal rights revolution.”
That person was the now infamous Susan A. Patton, who spoke at one of the breakout sessions afterward and then wrote a letter to the editor of The Daily Princetonian dismissing both Slaughter’s discussion of whether women can have it all and Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg’s suggestion that women “lean in” to advance their careers.
According to Patton, instead of worrying about their future work-life balance, university women’s priority should be this: “Find a husband on campus before you graduate.”
Emma Teitel on the Janice Fiamengo affair
Read more from Emma Teitel on Macleans.ca.
Nothing says free speech like pulling the fire alarm. It was a quarter past seven last night when police emptied U of T’s George Ignatieff Theatre. Keynote speaker Dr. Janice Fiamengo, an English professor at the University of Ottawa, rolled her eyes and adjusted her blouse as the crowd poured out of the building and onto the sidewalk to mingle with the small throng of protesters—pretty girls with big placards and little patience. They wanted Dr. Fiamengo to take her message elsewhere. But firemen came and went, and the professor, once a radical feminist, proceeded to do what the University of Toronto Men’s Issues Awareness Society, and the Canadian Association for Equality invited her to do: denounce women’s studies.
The discipline has devolved into an “intellectually incoherent and dishonest” one, she argued, replacing a “callow set of slogans for real thought.” It’s man-hating, anti-Western, and fundamentally illiberal. “It champions a “kind of masculinity that isn’t very masculine at all,” and shuts down freedom of debate, hence the fire alarm.
This message was quite pleasing to the minority in the room—greying baby boomers of the pro-Fiamengo, Men’s rights camp–and exceedingly distressing to the majority—by the looks of it, gender studies majors and people who would, if given the opportunity, personally execute Rob Ford. It looked like a small contingent of CARP wandered, bemused, into a Bon Iver concert.
Appearances aside though, it was a meeting of truly lunatic minds.
The fire alarm went off, but free speech prevailed
I was expecting the police officers, the provocative placards, and the rent-a-protesters with neon hair and black face coverings.
I was also expecting the fire alarm to go off—and it did—five minutes after Janice Fiamengo’s lecture started in the nearly full George Ignatieff Theatre at the University of Toronto on Thursday evening.
After all, the last time a person spoke against academic feminism on campus, when Warren Farrell visited in November, approximately 100 protesters barred the doors. They wouldn’t try that again, but I figured they’d try to shut things down, and fire alarms can be effective if, during the confusion, enough people give up and leave.
What I wasn’t expecting was a full house 20 minutes later, after the fire department gave the all clear, or that the controversial University of Ottawa professor would make it all the way through her lecture What’s wrong with women’s studies? without an angry mob attempting to shout her down.
Don’t misunderstand me. They denounced her lecture vigorously, but not until the question and answer period after she spoke. During the lecture, most people were respectfully silent.
The general non-violence of the evening—save for the childish fire alarm routine—is a sign of progress. There were no immediate reports of injuries or arrests. The academic’s voice remained strong. The University of Toronto’s Statement on Freedom of Speech and its Policy on the Disruption of Meetings, mentioned though not read by the moderator, served their purposes well.
So what exactly was so controversial? Few protesters ahead of the meeting could offer specific reasons, except that her talk was promoted by A Voice for Men, whose associates have said some hostile things to women. It’s true that Fiamengo dislikes most of today’s academic feminism, but I think the most offensive thing she said was that, when the Titanic sank, 75 per cent of women survived, but only 18 per cent of men did, because men are somehow naturally heroic.
The rest of the talk was a fairly common critique of feminism. She called it empty, incoherent and dishonest. She said its obsession with violence results in police charging men for assault, while absolving women. She denounced a family law system she says is biased against fathers. She said she is infuriated by “affirmative action where men are passed over time and time again.” She talked about the hypocrisy that women’s studies sees violence around every corner in Canada, but turns a blind eye to the deadly oppression of women and sexual minorities in the Islamic world. And so on.
She also praised a local Toronto feminist, Steph Guthrie, who was interviewed in Metro News about the upcoming talk. Guthrie told the paper that instead of trying to shut Fiamengo down like they did to Warren Farrell, Fiamengo’s detractors should go to the lecture, ask tough questions and debate.
And that’s what many of the would-be hecklers did. In order to stand up to that Q&A microphone and challenge her with dozens of balding men glaring and videotaping, they had to have at least listened to Fiamengo’s arguments well enough to come up with their own rebuttals. That left them scribbling down on notepads and keying into smartphones in eager anticipation while she spoke.
That’s not to say many minds were changed. Many asked questions that betrayed either their admiration or disgust for Fiamengo. In fact, some of them didn’t ask questions at all, and instead just ranted about personal grievances at the hands of those evil women or those evil men.
But there were interesting back-and-forths, including one between a self-identified McGill student who asked Fiamengo to explain why “only 25 per cent of parliament is female-identified.” (I wonder how she knows all 308 member of parliaments’ gender identities, but never mind.) “There’s a difference between equality of opportunity and equality of result,” Fiamengo replied.
Only one person really lost her temper, after making a thought-provoking query about the impact of Fiamengo’s assertion that “children need their fathers” on lesbian parents. Fiamengo responded by suggesting there’s research that children do better in two-parent households. She didn’t like the answer. “That’s heteronormative bullshit,” the woman screamed, before a dramatic exit.
I don’t know that Fiamengo made a sound academic case. What I do know is that she deserves respect for gathering evidence and calmly presenting it. She also offered advice all students should heed. “Educate yourselves so you can challenge [each other],” and, “do it will style, not hatred.”
She’s right on that. The freedom to debate unpopular ideas is something universities have a duty to protect. On Thursday night at the University of Toronto, that ideal was challenged but prevailed.
What students are talking about today (March 7th)
1. Washington Post has compiled a list of this year’s famous U.S. college commencement speakers. It’s bound to make Canadian students jealous. The speakers include President Obama, Cal Ripken, Jr., the Dalai Lama, Oprah Winfrey, Joss Whedon (of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and The Avengers fame) and Drew Houston (the co-founder and CEO of Dropbox). Best of all, the University of Virginia has landed Stephen Colbert for their May 18 graduation. The fake Republican newsman and comedian has done this before. In 2011 he spoke at his alma mater, Northwestern University. Here’s a sample from the full text via the Chicago Sun-Times: “Northwestern’s academic resources are unparallelled. The library contains five million books, and 100,000 periodicals, none of which anyone reads because they’re not on an iPad. Next year I believe Deering Library is being converted to a Chipotle.”
2. Why is it that student politicians so often think it’s their job to limit access to whatever it is they don’t like? Bottled water, for example, has been banned at numerous Canadian campuses because of its environmental impact. I agree that bottled water is bad, so I don’t buy it very often, but the bans do little but force people to buy it off-campus or drink—gasp—Coke. Earlier this week Ryerson’s student union decided to “reject” clubs that believe in misandry, the entirely reasonable concept that, just as some people hate women (misogynists), some people hate men. Today it’s Nicole Tupechka, vice-president student life of the Students’ Association of MacEwan University, who wants to ban something. Well, not quite ban, she says, but “reduce the visibility” of energy drinks on campus. She wants to “encourage good habits” and “set students up for success,” by having fewer machines, she tells The Griff student newspaper. It’s true that energy drinks can be unhealthy, but they’re not exactly heroin. Why not let students decide for themselves?
Ryerson Students’ Union rejects “concept of misandry”
An effort to guard the empowerment of women’s voices on campus took form Monday when the Ryerson Students’ Union (RSU) swiftly adopted a bold new policy rejecting the concept of misandry – the hatred or fear of men.
Neda Hamzavi, a faculty of community services representative on the RSU Board of Directors (BOD), watched her amendment to the RSU’s policy on women’s issues pass without any debate, discussion or dispute. This could cause conflict at a time when controversial men’s issues movements are on the rise at university campuses.
“There’s been a lot of work across campuses not only in Ontario but also across the country that have been working sort of [as] anti-women’s rights groups,” Hamzavi said in her pitch to the BOD.
“We want to acknowledge that the additions that we added here are regarding the ideas of misandry and reverse-sexism, both of which are oppressive concepts that aim to delegitimize the equity work that women’s movements work to do.” Marwa Hamad, vice-president equity at the RSU, said the policy will preserve space for discussing misogyny and institutionalized gender imbalances.
June Larkin earns 3M National Teaching Fellowship
June Larkin, a lecturer in Women and Gender Studies and Equity Studies and vice-principal of New College at the University of Toronto, is a 3M National Teaching Fellowship recipient for 2013. Maclean’s On Campus is profiling all 10.
Before June Larkin ever attended a university class, she was engrossed in the intricacies of social justice as a primary-school teacher.
As a “mature student” balancing her undergraduate studies in psychology, feminist studies and education with her teaching job, she saw firsthand the interplay between gender and social equality on the playground as the children fought, played and formed peer groups. When she went on to do her PhD, she used her background as a teacher to write her doctorate about sexual harassment in high schools. “Working as a teacher was one of the things that attracted me to equity studies,” she says, “Now, as a professor, I have always tried to bridge theoretical concepts with practical, community-based application.”
What students are talking about today (January 23)
1. Seventh-year Carleton University human rights student Arun Smith has apparently not been in school long enough to learn that other people have rights to opinions that differ from his. After the “free speech wall” on campus was torn down, he posted a message to his Facebook wall claiming responsibility. “If everyone speaks freely we end up simply reinforcing the hierarchies that are created in our society,” it read. The display had been erected by campus club Carleton Students for Liberty and students were encouraged to write anything they wanted on the paper. Someone wrote “abortion is murder” and “traditional marriage is awesome.” GBLTQ Centre volunteer Riley Evans took offense, telling The Charlatan student newspaper that the wall was attacking those who have had abortions and those in same-sex relationships. Campus coordinator for the CSFL Ian CoKehyeng explained the purpose of the wall: “We feel that university is supposed to be an area of discourse and free thought, but it’s actually the opposite. We have less free speech on campus.” Looks like he may be right.
Prof. Pettigrew: Children are a choice after all.
As a progressive man, I see the value in diversity in the academic workforce. I also understand that reasonable employers should take reasonable steps to accommodate the particular needs of those employees. And sometimes that means taking a person’s family situation into account. But more and more, women in academia have lost sight of what’s reasonable when it comes to those kinds of allowances.
A recent article in University Affairs, for instance, reports on a study by Shelley Adamo who argues that women are underrepresented as biologists because they tend to be seeking jobs when they “are in their late 20s and early 30s and more likely to have a partner and young children. ‘That sort of handicaps them,’” according to Dr. Adamo.
Prof. Pettigrew on the breastfeeding in class debate
Something about the job of professor seems to make everything we do subject to scrutiny. If Dana the accountant decides to breast feed in a marketing meeting, she may raise eyebrows. A professor does the same thing in class and she makes international news.
So we must have some sympathy for Adrienne Pine, the American Anthropology professor who surprised her students by nourishing her offspring in the way God intended. Pine’s child was sick and could not, therefore, be taken to daycare, and rather than cancel class or leave the class to the TA, Pine brought the kid along. And when the little one got hungry, Pine let nature take its course.
Doesn’t he remember SlutWalk?
Following a string of sexual assaults on female students in Toronto, a street preacher told The Toronto Sun that be believes the attacks happened because Canadian laws “give too much freedom to women.” Al-Haashim Kamena Atangana is a 33-year-old Islamic convert connected to the Muslim Support Network. He can often be heard preaching at Toronto’s Yonge-Dundas Square.
Atangana, who is planning to hand out literature on the topic, wrote to The Sun asserting that women get raped because of the way they dress. He also proposes Toronto become “the first city in North America to introduce laws that would make it illegal for women to dress provocatively.”
Sound familiar? It should. It’s a more extreme version of what Toronto Police Constable Michael Sanguinetti told an audience at York University last January—that women shouldn’t dress like “sluts” if they don’t want to be victimized. Atangana remembers. He praised the officer in his e-mail.
But apparently he doesn’t remember how it ended—with the public shaming of Sanguinetti and the global SlutWalk movement. Women and their supporters marched in provocative clothes to assert their right to dress however they wish without fear of being sexually assaulted. The marches hit a collective nerve, spreading from Toronto to faraway places like London and New Delhi.
With people like Atangana out there, it’s clear SlutWalk’s work isn’t over yet. I hope he’s prepared for feminists in short-shorts. I’d be surprised if he doesn’t see a few more of them in the future.
But perhaps not the way you’d expect
By 1991, women surpassed men to make up the majority of graduating classes in Canada. By 2006, they earned roughly 60 per cent of degrees, reported Statistics Canada.
The shift inspired questions (hand wringing, really) about whether educated women will choose careers over marriage, leading to the smaller families and the end of civilization as we know it.
Well, women can now relax—depending on where they live. Taken together, two new studies suggest that education is related to marriage rates, but differently than you may currently believe.
Now: Gender Studies
Memorial University’s Department of Women’s Studies will officially become the Department of Gender Studies on Aug. 31. Katherine Side, the department head, told today.mun.ca that the name change, which has been discussed since 2005, better reflects the diverse work the department already does. “We are pleased to join 28 other Canadian universities that include gender in one form or another in their undergraduate and graduate degree program titles,” she added.
Follows years of student lobbying
After years of lobbying from students, Carleton University has announced that the school will open a support centre for victims of sexual assault. Advocates began pushing for a crisis support centre in 2007 after an attack in a school lab. But the university resisted the creation of a separate centre, arguing it offered sufficient support through counselling and medical services.
Then, at least three sexual assaults on women were reported on campus last fall, raising the volume on the demands emanating from the Coalition for a Carleton Sexual Assault Support Centre, a group of volunteers who run an unofficial victims’ campus hotline from eight a.m. to midnight.
Linda Capperauld, director of equity services for Carleton, told the Ottawa Citizen Tuesday that the administration will run the new centre in Robertson Hall. It may open as early as September.
“I thought he was joking,” says student
A student at Brigham Young University’s Idaho campus was turned away from her final exam in December for wearing form-fitting “skinny jeans,” reports The Student Review campus newspaper.
Rachel Vermillion, a senior, thought the invigilator was joking when he first told her she couldn’t write the test because her pants were too tight.
But he was serious. He pointed to a sign that read NO SKINNY JEANS. The sign elaborated: “If your pants are tight enough for us to see the shape of your leg, your pants are too tight.”