When I walked into the Chang building late Wednesday evening, the first thing I saw was the gaggle of security guards manning the front desk. They were staring so hard that I thought they’d hand cuff me and lead me away. Luckily, I got to the elevator and managed to get to the seventh floor. Once I was there, another surprise hit me in the face-the room was packed and practically strumming with excitement. Men and a few women squeezed into the room and kept their eyes glued to the front, fully ready to face the action.
In case you haven’t heard, men’s rights activists have been causing quite the stir at Ontario’s campuses recently. After U of T sponsored (or so they say) a protest against their event and Ryerson’s own Sheldon Levy actually backed up this one, it’s clear that people are divided on the legitimacy of men’s issues in general. That’s why I felt I needed to come to this event-to see whether or not men’s rights activists have a point and if so, what it actually was.
To tell the truth, I was kind of nervous. But taking out my spanking new camera and clicking a few shots definitely eased the number of suspicious eyes on my back. Apparently, past events lead to fire alarms being pulled and fog horns being blown in the hallway. So I can understand why everyone was on tenterhooks.
When Karen Straughan of the famous GirlWritesWhat came to the podium, the room went silent. It was like the messiah had finally come. In person, Ms. Straughan is slim, tired-looking and just a bit macabre. She started off by saying that she was going to wear red but wore black because if anyone was going to shoot her, she’d see the red dot on her shirt. But she’s also extremely well spoken, full of solid facts and elaborates beautifully. We’re talking the Hilary Clinton of the anti-feminism movement.
Here’s where things get a little tricky for me. Much of Ms. Straughan’s speech focused on the harm that feminist extremists have caused to men. Which is relevant but kind of off topic. I came to learn more about men’s issues and how we can solve them, not how much damage extreme feminism has caused to the world. Because while I agree that terrible things have been done to men and women in the name of feminism, arguing that feminism is useless isn’t really going to help anyone.
Gender violence is a reality for everyone. All of us face scrutiny, endure discomfort and even suffer from abuse because of the restrictions gender stereotypes impose on us. While feminism has done a great job of making the case for women, it hasn’t been very inclusive of men. Which is why we need to open up the dialogue of gender violence for men and how to fight it together through events like this one.
I’d also like to add that Ms. Straughan was very receptive to the Q and A and answered each and every question with respect and deep thought. When I asked whether or not she should really be alienating so called “coffee shop feminists” like myself who believe in equality between men and women, she responded that the word “feminism” has been poisoned beyond relief and should be abandoned.
I was shocked because I was always proud to call myself a feminist. But after this event, I started to analyze the word a bit further. Just by hearing it, “feminism” isn’t inclusive of those who identify as men. As an ideology, it’s come to paint the patriarchy as the ultimate evil and thus turn a blind eye to gender violence towards men.
While I appreciate the female suffragette movement with undying gratitude, maybe it IS time to move past the label “feminist”. I’m not sure of what to call myself now, but it will be something that is inclusive of all genders and aims to bring gender freedom to everyone.
Did you go to the event? What did you think of my perspective? Leave your comments below!