All Posts Tagged With: "men’s rights"
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.
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.
Whatever happened to debate?
The Ryerson Students’ Union (RSU) takes issue with a men’s issues club. If it were not so serious, it would be laughable. An organization that collects hundreds of thousands of dollars in mandatory levies from Ryerson students is afraid of three students—two of them women—starting a men’s issues group.
Despite the constant rhetoric about diversity, equity and inclusion, the RSU cannot tolerate ideologies that run counter to its own. The irony of this patronizing attitude towards campus freedom is hard to miss. It’s as if the spirit of closed-minded religious dogma has jumped into bed with modern political correctness to prevent blasphemy against RSU ideological orthodoxy.
The principle is this: if you challenge official narrative, you don’t have the right to speak. But this is supposed to be a university—a place where we learn and debate in an open environment; where those we disagree with are challenged, not with censorship, but with other ideas. To agree to disagree and to respectfully debate—this is true tolerance.
A few placards, a full house and a long line to speak
Janice Fiamengo, a professor who advocates for men’s rights, gave a lecture at the University of Toronto on Thursday evening entitled What’s wrong with Women’s Studies? Naturally, there were dozens of protesters, a few police, and a fire alarm set off, but free speech prevailed, her lecture was given and her opponents were able to challenge her afterward. Here’s what it looked like.
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.
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.
What students are talking about today (February 28th)
1. Students at McMaster University got creative crossing their slushy Hamilton, Ont. campus after a major winter storm hit Ontario on Tuesday. They paddled across it in a canoe. Someone made a video and posted it to YouTube where it already has 55,000 views and was shown on air by CBC News Network. Meanwhile in Ottawa….
2. Ryerson University student Sarah Santhosh wants to start a men’s issues group on campus called the Ryerson Association for Equality that would discuss mental health, male youth violence, misogyny, as well as gender disadvantages in education, the workplace and custody battles. “Universities are supposed to be places where any and all ideas are accepted and discussed. Nothing should be too taboo for discussion,” she told The Eyeopener. It’s unclear whether the Ryerson Students’ Union will prevent the group from gaining status considering vice president equity, Marwa Hamad, previously said that, “marginalized or underprivileged student members should be the focus of equity service groups on campus.”
What students are talking about today (January 14th)
1. Lena Dunham’s HBO series Girls won the Golden Globe for best TV comedy series last night right before the highly-anticipated premiere of the second season. I’d argue the opener was a bit of a letdown. Lead character Hannah (played by Dunham) has smartened up a bit by rejecting her mean sort-of-boyfriend in favour of new guy who presumably treats her better. If she gets too mature, that’s a problem as her Gen-Y cluelessness provided so much of the comic relief and provoked so many of the broader societal questions. Some of the other characters, including straight-laced Marnie, seem to also be changing in ways that make them less believeable. Interestingly, Dunham seems to have acknowledged those who accused Girls of being too white; her new fling is a black man.