Men’s rights vs. UTSU
FEB 01, 2013 | BY ISAAC THORNLEY
UTSU has added an item to their general meeting agenda to propose a U of T-wide condemnation of the men’s rights website “A Voice for Men” (AVfM).
Since the November protest against controversial speaker Warren Farrell’s lecture at U of T, AVfM has risen to notoriety across campus as the organization responsible for collecting photos and information of women they deem to have been engaging in illegal protest action, characterising them as “bigots” and presenting them as such on a website called register-her.com, which is designed to serve as a place to profile women guilty of any “offenses” such as false rape accusations, bigotry, and illegal protest.
Corey Scott, UTSU VP Internal, the individual responsible for forwarding the motion said, “We want to make sure that the university is taking our stance on this website seriously. … The intention of this motion is to provide U of T-wide undergraduate support for [the students that have been attacked].”
When asked to comment on why their organization feels it is necessary to pursue this type of action against these women, AVfM founder and Editor in Chief Paul Elam argued that what they are doing is necessary and legal, and that the information they are gathering had already been made publicly available. “These people have advertised, on the internet, their conduct of vandalizing posters and mistreating young men who were trying to attend the lecture. We have to treat them like that in order to get the issues on the table, and we’re going to continue to.”
AVfM’s move to target these women online has resulted in a number of violent threats being sent via phone, email, and social media, both to the targeted women as well as to members of the UTSU executive committee and volunteers. “The maliciousness that they are inciting, the pursuit, is hate,” commented Scott. “This is getting out of hand, and it’s only proving the case that this movement does incite hate and encourage people to attack women who are empowered.”
When asked whether AVfM has directly taken part in any of the threats, Elam responded, “Should said activities even exist, which is unclear at this time, the answer is no.” Elam pointed to a lack of evidence on the part of the UTSU to make these claims against AVfM. From the UTSU’s perspective, much of that “evidence” has been submitted to the Community Safety Office for investigation, and is therefore confidential.
Paul Elam has defended AVfM by asserting that they are not misogynistic, woman-hating, nor do they promote violence against any group, including women. He underscored the diversity of AVfM, “We have black members, gay members, trans members, we have one of the most diverse groups of people you could imagine.” He also remarked that one of the primary spokespersons for AVfM is Erin Pizzey, the woman responsible for starting one of the world’s first women’s shelters in the early 1970’s.
Elam commented, “We are patently anti-feminist. We are not against equal rights. We are for equal rights. We are for equal opportunity.”
Elam also responded to the claim that AVfM’s targeting of women only was a sign of a sex bias, “It is due to the lack of verifiable information about the suspects, so far... This is a matter in which the UTSU could be helpful. Given that they may feel that the identification of only females in the protest represents sexual bias on our part, they can immediately test that theory, as well as performing a civic duty, by providing us with the identities of the two men clearly captured in the video blocking the door.”
Elam is referring to a YouTube video titled “Warren Farrell protest at the University of Toronto - Full version.” Despite Elam’s apparent enthusiasm in seeking help from UTSU in identifying the male protesters, neither side has had any official contact with the other.
UTSU’s proposed action to take AVfM offline by addressing their website provider was scoffed at by Paul Elam, who commented, “That’s not going to happen. We’re dealing with an impossible scenario there. AVfM is not going anywhere.”
Elam then further commented that the publicity generated by such an action would certainly direct more attention towards their movement and cause. “I guarantee it will be good for us. They are assisting us greatly with this effort. It will draw more attention to us and our message, which is growing.”
When asked about the risk of giving AVfM more publicity, Corey Scott responded, “I think potentially that that risk has already happened. There was a massive explosion of people looking at that site right after the event. It’s one of those difficulties because you don’t want to provide space, but at the same time you can’t let everything go, you can’t just let people go and post stuff about students, about people in our community, without taking a stance.”
The Union’s motion consists of three points: the first two are more symbolic in nature--calls for student solidarity against the stances and actions of AVfM as well as support for the women that have been attacked online; the third point is a call to action to have the website itself blacklisted and shutdown by their website provider for hate speech.
- Subtitle: Student union proposes school wide condemnation of men’s rights website