Thursday night another chapter was held in men’s rights activists (MRA’s) plight to get a foothold in Canadian universities. The Canadian Association for Equality (CAFE) held its third meeting at the University of Toronto and nobody was disappointed by the lack of excitement. The usual group of anarchists, student unionists and feminists came to protest- each had their own motivations.
The festivities began about half an hour before the 7pm start time. Protesters opposed to the MRA’s gathered on the grassy knoll in front of the (appropriately chosen) zoological sciences building. A television reporter was interviewing people while the speakers denounced the MRA’s in the background. A few of the MRA’s mingled with the protesters trying to engage in debates. This didn’t work out well at first- but, as the evening progressed, there were glimmers of hope that MRA’s and feminists have the opportunity to find a common ground.
For anyone who’s been following Toronto’s old-left anarchist community there were a few of familiar faces present. My assailant Alex “Flagpole” Balch was there at first, but he quickly left. There were a couple of anarchists from last month’s anti police march– both turned out to be quite pleasant. The person left speaking to the media was anarchist schoolteacher Ashleigh Ingle- who openly lied to the reporter saying that MRA’s initiated violence at CAFE’s meeting in November (the anarchists did actually.) Rob Chamberland, the anarchist president of the CUPE 2073 was also in the crowd.
Ingle supports anarcho-syndicalism, she’s the former Recording Secretary for the CUPE 3902, and has been actively involved with the Canadian Federation of Students (CFS)- an old left dominated organization with strong ties to the anarchist community. She self-describes herself being against corrupt union executives (something I deeply respect), but she also leads f##k the police marches, and has been deeply involved with the agitators at Queers Against Israeli Apartheid who’ve been disrupting Toronto’s Gay Pride events.
The student unions have a big problem with the people who are trying to bring men’s groups to the universities. Organizations like the UTSU , CFS and Public Interest Research Groups (OPIRG’s) take millions of dollars in student fees each year- they have deep connections to Canada’s marxist/unionist communities (and the NDP) who have taken a stranglehold over them. Organizations like CAFE represent a genuine risk to their hegemony over student affairs. The unionists will not let this battle pass without a good fight.
Shortly after the meeting began, the protesters came inside of the building and created a rabble beside the lecture theatre. They chanted, screamed into megaphones, stamped their flagpoles on the ground- and a couple of the anarchists began kicking on the doors (damaging one of them). Then, just a few minutes later, someone pulled the fire alarm- this was an exact replay of what happened at CAFE’s meeting last month.
This was another example of how many radicals take a very selfish approach to their activism. First, the people inside of the lecture hall had a genuine right to conduct and attend their meeting- there was no talk of hate, no hint of misogyny or violence. Also, when the alarm was pulled, it required a couple of fire trucks to be dispatched to attend, had there been a genuine emergency people’s lives and property could be at stake. That’s not to mention the cost of all this- once again, society pays for the agitator’s follies.
The MRA’s were guided out of the east exit and the protesters were sent out through the north. A couple of minutes later the protesters made their way around the building and re-launched their carnival of angry jeers. People on both sides slowly began to get into conversations.
At this point the group began to grow as people walking down the sidewalk stopped to revel in the bedlam. Some of them were students, but one of them was an older man who didn’t appear connected to any of the assembled groups. He stood up on one of the planters and began heckling the protesters- yelling at them and waving his finger around. A protester wearing a balaclava yelled back at him through her bullhorn, he called back at her, and when she responded he jumped down from the platform and swung his arm at her bullhorn.
As the bullhorn hit her face she responded by hitting him on the head with it. There’s no question that the protester provoked the man to do what he did- but, the bullhorn wasn’t actually that loud (I was within range of it more than once), and it was absolutely unnecessary to get physical. When I asked him what happened, he said that the protester put the bullhorn right beside his ear- the video show’s he greatly exaggerated.
When the building was deemed safe many of the MRA’s streamed back into the lecture theatre. A few however decided to stay outside and try to engage in conversations with the protesters. It didn’t go well at first – both sides were highly charged.
One of the women read out a list of feminist ideals that should appeal to MRA’s with very colourful animation (and language). Everything she stated was agreeable, and much of what she said addressed concerns expressed by people who are skeptical of feminism. But, like many of the protesters it appeared she’d been fed an entirely skeptical view of anyone allied with MRA’s with a little bit of misinformation. The radicals have said everything bad about the MRA’s short of violating Godwin’s Law.
One of the men who spoke was a Russian engineering student- a man not only studying a very hard subject, but who was also trying to understand this vastly strange culture of our’s in Canada. When a protester brought up the subject of privilege he explained that he took a white privilege self-test since he’s been in school and that he actually scored very low. Aghast, the protester said to him ‘how could you say that!’- he gave examples, like how most engineering students are from other cultures, and how his half-Ukrainian heritage caused his family great discrimination in his part of Russia.
It was an amazing moment. Suddenly a brief spark of understanding occurred- the protester acknowledged that privilege isn’t as black & white (pun intended) as it seems on the surface. One of the feminists then acknowledged that misandry does exist, the man acknowledged that women often face a more difficult challenge with sexism.
Every Movement Has Its Extremists…
Many of the most vocal criticisms the MRA’s make about feminism are based on based on the behaviour of feminist extremists. They use examples like Vanja Krajina, the woman who yelled out at MRA’s (and others) that they were ‘rape apologists’ for simply attending CAFE’s event back in November. Or they grasp at low-hanging fruit (pun intended) discussing women who make comments about castrating men. These people are valid examples of a problem, but they don’t represent feminism as a whole.
Some of the feminists acknowledged this problem and openly stated that they don’t support ‘man hating feminazis’- but, at the same time, they expressed how that sort of language was deeply offensive. The question was asked ‘is it possible that the deepest flaws on both sides come from the extremists?’
The feminists expressed that they were actually uncomfortable with some of the actions of the militants, and would rather that they hadn’t tried stunts like blocking doors and pulling fire alarms. A couple of the men there agreed to- but, this concept hasn’t gone over very well in the MRA community. Some people, including Paul Elam, the founder of A Voice For Men have got a bit hostile.
Despite Elam’s seeming rejection of this concept (he’s even erased when I wrote it in his site’s comments section), it’s undeniable there are MRA’s who are equally a part of the problem. While there are many genuinely good people who read and contribute to his publication, there are those who respond with the same level of bigotry we saw coming out of Vanja Krajina.
When I published the video of the conversation between MRA’s and feminists there were some very ugly responses from AVFM readers. Some people criticised her on her clothing style, or her choice of hair colouring- petty stuff. The MRA she was talking to on the video came out with a couple of particularly bigoted and closed-minded remarks:
Many of the people who came for the protest have deep faith in Marxist/Trotskyite/Maoist revolutionary dogma. By definition, they’re not at all interested in finding peace in the war of the sexes- instead, their purpose is to generate anger and discontent. Some of their leaders make a living off of this work. Equally, there are MRA’s who are also want to see unrest- some enjoy the fight, others can profit off of the community.
But, not all feminists are raging butch feminazis, just as much as not all MRA’s are misogynist pigs who refuse to close the toilet seat lid. But both movements (and all movements in general) are statistically bound to experience the impact of extremists who don’t have the capacity (or will) to seek and implement constructive solutions. Activism often attracts some people with deep personal wounds.
One measure of any movement’s success will be how they address these problems. We’re not going to solve this problem by blocking doors or pulling fire alarms. We’re also not going to fix it by insulting each other and using derogatory and sexist language. More importantly, we’re not going to solve anything if we let the narrative be dictated by those at the edge of reason.
It’s time for the quiet people sitting on the sidelines to speak-out…