Barbara Kay: Attention paid to male issues doesn’t diminish from feminism: it’s not a zero sum game
Men's rights advocate Earl Silverman in front of his shelter/home before it closed.
Cathy Young is a widely admired libertarian “equity feminist” American journalist, whose considerable critical skills often deployed in dismantling the “rape culture” narrative, continually ruffle ideologues’ feathers.
Young was scheduled to speak at the University of Toronto tonight, Thursday, September 24th, on “The Politics of Gender and Victimhood,” an event planned by the University of Toronto Men’s Issues Awareness Society (UTMIAS) and sponsored by the Canadian Association for Equality (CAFÉ), on whose advisory board I sit.
But some nasty words on the Internet and a moral panic over them conspired to push the event off campus at the U of T’s insistence, and so Ms Young will be speaking instead at Intercontinental Yorkville (7 pm). She will speak in Ottawa Sept 25.
The back-story is this: On Sept 5, disturbing comments were posted on BlogTO expressing pleasure in killing women with guns and knives, massacre-style. They recall similar comments on the same blog in June mentioning the use of guns, bullets and machetes to inflict violence and death on women (which the U of T sat on for some reason until now).
A police investigation was rightly launched immediately, and the University of Toronto increased its security presence on all three campuses; Ryerson University followed suit. Gender Studies classes were cancelled. Then, last Friday, the police said they had not identified any credible threat to students. That’s a relief, although it should go without saying that the disgusting misogynist fantasies of disordered minds are distressing to all of us. All, meaning both women and men.
And here’s the rub. The hate remarks were made by one or more individuals, and no more reflect the feelings of most men than, say, this 1990 remark by celebrated feminist theorist Andrea Dworkin, “I’ve always wanted to see a man beaten to a sh*t bloody pulp with a high-heeled shoe stuffed up his mouth, sort of the pig with the apple,” reflects the feelings of most women, or even most feminists.
Our culture is extremely woman-friendly, indeed is demonstrably more concerned with women’s rights and entitlements than men’s
Yet, when the latest posts were made public, they immediately became fodder for collective accusations of misogyny by many feminist spokeswomen. Typically, at a rally organized by members of CUPE3902’ Women’s Caucus, feminist Ashleigh Ingle inveighed against men’s groups: “These threats that we’re here to stand up against today, they didn’t come out of nowhere. They are supported by an environment that is hostile and backwards and encouraged by these men’s right misogynists on our campus…Their goal is to blame all the issues of people in society on feminism and a component of that is to threaten and harass feminists into silence.” And Rabble.ca tweeted, “Downplaying threats to women at U of T normalizes culture of misogyny.”
We do not live in a “culture of misogyny.” Such claims are nonsense – our culture is extremely woman-friendly, indeed is demonstrably more concerned with women’s rights and entitlements than men’s. One has only to peruse the outcomes of custody battles in Family Court or look at the resources available to abused women (many, widely distributed and well funded) as compared to those available to abused men (virtually none) to understand just how women-friendly our culture is. Violence against women, epidemiologically speaking, is extremely low here by comparison with regions of the world where misogyny is indeed a feature of the prevailing culture. That’s not to say it isn’t a problem, only to say it is not a systemic part of our culture, as it is elsewhere.
It is the worst kind of profiling to suggest that an isolated misogynist rant on the Internet reflects the workings of the male mind in general. Or that men’s groups evolved from a foundation of misogyny. That is not the case. Are there misogynists who attach themselves to men’s groups? Certainly, just as there are man-haters who attach themselves to feminist activism. One must look to the leadership of the group, to their statements, to their programs and to the tenor of their self-governance before making such a collective judgment. CAFÉ’s history is impeccable on these grounds.
Neither CAFÉ nor UTMIAS has ever sought to create tension or presented itself as hostile to women’s interests. If any collective is arousing tension, it is radical feminists who disrupt CAFÉ events with noise, vandalism and the vilification of men who must walk the gauntlet of activists when attending CAFÉ events (“f***ing scum” is the kind of insult hurled at male attendees at former CAFÉ talks).
Feminists must understand that being a boy or man with male-specific problems – fatherlessness, sexual abuse, domestic violence (yes, it happens in almost the same proportions as it happens to women, but nobody believes it), health issues – can be isolating, as it is more difficult for men to share their sorrows or fears with others than it is for women. Responsible men’s groups like CAFÉ and UTMIAS offer a constructive environment for supportive education on male-specific themes. Feminists must also understand that when gender-specific perspectives are aired in the public forum, it is not a zero sum game. Attention paid to male issues does not diminish feminism’s brand.