Groups Promise “Militant” Response to Thursday’s Building Dialogue on Sexism U of T Event

University of Toronto Student Union leads discussion on use of harassment, vandalism, infiltration to confront groups deemed critical of feminism, then ejects supposed “Men’s Rights Activists” prior to secret meeting

Read “The New Hegemony: CAFE Responds Against Student Union Oppression, Harassment, and Policy Breaking”

TORONTO, ONTARIO – (April 2, 2013) – In response to sanctioned educational campus events by the “University of Toronto Men’s Issues Awareness Society” (UTMIA), the University of Toronto Student Union (UTSU) is leading a loose coalition of groups who have already engaged in violent and law-breaking acts and are now actively planning activities that contravene University of Toronto Policies on Disruption of Meetings, Workplace Harassment, and Freedom of Speech, among others.

The two previous events hosted by the UTMIA featured opposition groups forming an illegal barricade of the exit doors at a talk by award-winning educator Dr. Warren Farrell (November 16, 2012), then pulling the fire alarm at a presentation by University of Ottawa English Professor Janice Fiamengo (March 7, 2013). Both actions were in obvious violation of safety protocols, but both actions were justified by the events’ critics as required in order to stop the creation of an “unsafe space” supposedly fostered by the events targeted. There is some concern if at the next event both the fire alarm is pulled and the exit doors blocked.

The UTMIA’s next public event is this Thursday, April 4, a conversation entitled “From Misogyny and Misandry to Intersexual Dialogue,” directed at confronting the effects on society of sexism that robs both women and men of value and life choices, and how to create a dialogue that takes a deeper look at the interconnection of these problems.

A protest of this event is planned by the UTSU and its allies, including the Association of Part-time Undergraduate Students and the University of Toronto-based “Ontario Public Interest Research Group (OPIRG).” OPIRG, funded by levies on all students, has joined with more extreme groups Common Cause and the Radical Student Movement, to organize a “militant” response on Thursday. Common Cause has pledged to respond to “men’s issues” events with a “move towards reactivating a radical, militant feminist movement.” Meanwhile, the “Radical Student Movement,” promises that individuals associated with disagreeable groups will be “verbally condemned as well as physically challenged.”

Representatives of the University’s Office of the Vice Provost, as well as campus police, will be present to protect the rights of all, and to ensure opposition groups contain their activities to those within the law and University policy.

As described in a March 22 article in the University of Toronto’s independent weekly, The Newspaper, these developments flow out of a UTSU hosted “Townhall on Sexism” event on March 19 that was merely a pretext to rally opposition against the educational events hosted by the UTMIA.

Two individuals who frequent University of Toronto Men’s Issues Awareness Society (UTMIA) events also attended the Townhall in the hopes of participating in genuine dialogue about gender issues on campus. Instead they were bullied, harassed and finally ejected from the event – all with the stated intention of creating a safe space to discuss sexism.

Guled Arale, Vice President External of the Scarborough Campus Student Union, was sent to stand over and intimidate these two individuals, though they had said nothing during the entire Townhall. Arale explained they had been “identified as Men’s Rights Activists” (MRAs) who were “not on their side,” merely because they had been seen attending UTMIA events and were therefore deemed unfit for participation in the public Townhall event.

Ironically, Arale’s Scarborough Campus Student Union had recently sent a letter to the Vice Provost condemning the UTMIA’s last event, stating: “Anyone who had opposing opinions was treated aggressively. There was no commitment to engaging in dialogue and the environment was hostile, hateful, and created an unsafe space for many attendees.”

In fact, attempts by the UTSU and its allies to unilaterally close down “men’s issues” events they find disagreeable, as well as their other hypocritical actions, are the primary source for creating an atmosphere on campus that is oppressive to dissent, hostile to differences of opinion and physically unsafe.

This oppression and institutional discrimination by those in positions of power – paid for through funds levied from all students – was reinforced at the Townhall by attempts to vilify all those critical of the UTSU’s established position on gender issues. Organizers opened the public event by insisting that “Men’s Rights Activists” present identify themselves, following which the UTSU led a discussion focused on how to combat the University-sanctioned UTMIA by infiltrating their meetings, disrupting their events, vandalizing their posters, and committing harassment against their members.

Baolinh Dang, an employee of the University of Toronto-based Ontario Public Interest Research Group stated “we need to take a militant approach to this… We also need to build a database on who these activists are, find out where they work, find out where they live.”

Another option might be to simply talk with us on Thursday. The UTMIA invites its critics to engage with us at the upcoming public event: “From Misogyny and Misandry to Intersexual Dialogue.” We won’t be opening our event by asking militant feminists to self-identify, nor banishing from the event those with different perspectives. The UTMIA and its allied campus groups, which are led by both male and female students, welcomes everyone to join us in discussing how all perspectives can contribute to a deeper understanding of gender issues, because equality is not a zero sum game.

Amber Taylor
Canadian Association for Equality