Students Against Sexism protest Men’s Issues talk YUSUR AL-BAHRANI
On Friday, November 16, a student group called the U of T Men’s Issues Awareness Society hosted a talk given by a leading figure in the men’s rights movement, Warren Farrell. A coalition of students in opposition to the movement held a protest called the Rally Against Sexism on the basis that they find the men’s rights message misleading and its implications inappropriate for U of T’s campus.

Calling themselves U of T Students Against Sexism, the group originally formed after a campus talk given by the International Socialists entitled “Why Men’s Rights Groups are Wrong.” In an article by the same name, the International Socialists argued “manipulating men’s anxieties faced with neoliberalism and austerity, ‘men’s issues’ groups ignore the poverty, racism, ableism, homophobia and transphobia that men and women face, and instead scapegoat the women’s movement and progressive movements in general.”

Jesse McLaren, one of the organizers of the group, explained the origins of Students Against Sexism in an interview with the newspaper: “On forty-eight hours notice, seventeen people from a wide cross-section of campus came to talk, and decided to launch a broad coalition called U of T Students Against Sexism -- starting with a Rally Against Sexism, and continuing to challenge ‘men’s rights’ groups and to promote real struggles for equality on campus.”

Farrell is the author of seven books on men’s rights elaborating on the theme of men feeling left out or misrepresented by feminist rhetoric. His speech, entitled “Boys to Men: Transforming the Boys’ Crisis into our Sons’ Opportunities,” focused on issues that statistically affect boys more than girls, such as “dropping out of school, [being] preoccupied with video games and video porn, committing suicide, and demonstrating a ‘failure to launch.’”

With less than a week’s notice, a crowd of approximately one hundred people gathered in front of the Medical Sciences building thirty minutes before the event started. Protesters held signs with messages including, “this is what a feminist looks like” and “stop rape culture @ U of T.”

Farrell has published many controversial statements to which protesters responded. In his book The Myth of Male Power Farrell wrote, “Before we began calling it date rape...we called it exciting,” to which a protester’s sign responded “Date rape is not ‘exciting.’”

A video from ABC on Farrell’s website describes an argument from his book Why Men Earn More, as “women make less because they want different jobs.” During the rally, a representative of Steelworkers Local 1998, who represents 6800 workers across several campuses, responded, “If you consider just the one issue of pay equity, you understand that women in Ontario and Canada are earning seventy-one cents on the dollar for the equivalent kind work that men are doing.”

Guled Arale, VP External for the UofT Scarborough Student Union, endorsed the rally: “What needs to happen is [men] need to become allies and take a step back, recognize [our] privilege and become allies with females...Instead of organizing around our issues, we’ve been the people building the system we’re currently in for hundreds of thousands of years, so there’s no need for that.”

Noor Baig, VP of Equity at UTSU, criticized men’s rights groups: “There’s nothing of substance behind the claims that they’re making and the statements that they’re standing behind. It’s really important that folks come out and show their support against the very violent hate speech that they have against women, against folks of color, against transfolks, and they’re very heteronormative, sexist, elitist language that they use by trying to co-op the language of equity. …It’s really important that we show that the campus is against it. The University of Toronto Students’ Union is absolutely against this language.”

The official U of T Students Against Sexism statement on the rally concludes that they “will continue to challenge ‘men’s rights groups’ and expose how their sexist ideas threaten equality and safety on campus.” What future action the group will take remains to be seen.

Check out the men’s rights activists Equality Canada at equalitycanada.com and read the International Socialists’ article “Why Men’s Rights Groups Are Wrong” here.

Additional Info

  • Subtitle: Argue language is ‘hate speech’ and doesn’t belong at U of T
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