A men’s issues group will form at Ryerson University this semester with the help of the Canadian Association for Equality (CAFE) — but without approval of the Ryerson Students’ Union (RSU).
The RSU unanimously denied the group from forming in March with then-president Rodney Diverlus saying there are links between some men’s groups and misogny and hate speech.
Another reason the club was denied was witnessing how the CAFE’s affiliated student group at the University of Toronto operated, said Rajean Hoilett, current RSU vice-president for equity.
“What we saw happening at the University of Toronto is that these men’s rights groups were creating very problematic and unsafe spaces for women-identified folk on the campus,” he said. “They would create conversations that blamed female victims and survivors of rape for their rape.”
Hoilett said the RSU’s goal is to provide inclusive and safe spaces for students, and this was not seen as the best route to go.
CAFE’s affiliation with A Voice for Men (AVFM), which many classify as a hate group, was an additional reason for the denial.
Who will be behind the group this year is unclear. CAFE declined to comment on the details surrounding the men’s issues group at Ryerson, including who would be involved in starting the group, but said it would be ready to discuss their involvement in the upcoming weeks. Calls to Argir Argirov and Anjana Rao, two students who proposed the club last school year, went unanswered.
Michael Cavanaugh, a CAFE board member, said the way the RSU has branded men’s issues groups as hate groups is outrageous.
“That level of fear or ignorance, the idea that men are not responsible enough to have a discussion about themselves, and the idea that it sounds like a hate group with no evidence whatsoever, is stunning,” he said. “(The RSU’s decision) was all done in secret at the last minute and I found it appalling.”
AVFM is a controversial U.S.-based men’s rights group that supports and attends events hosted by CAFE, and has profiled women as “false rape accusers” and bigots who they blame for causing a false rape epidemic in the criminal justice system.
Michael Laxer, a blogger for rabble.ca, said although groups like CAFE appear to be moderate, they publicize myths that men’s issues are being ignored because of feminism and have ties to AVFM.
“It is clear that there is considerable overlap in (CAFE and AVFM) beliefs and in their sense of membership,” he said. “AVFM has made it clear that they regard CAFE’s efforts in Toronto as of fundamental importance in the fight for the men’s rights movement across North America.”
CAFE events hosted at the University of Toronto have been criticized for being anti-women, and gathered large crowds of protesters who disrupted the lectures by barring the doors and pulling the fire alarm.
One protester was targeted by some men’s rights supporters for speaking out and had her personal information spread on the Internet, where she received death and rape threats.
Adam McPhee, a CAFE board member, said the hateful comments and threats may be from some supporters of the men’s rights movement, but have no reflection on the group itself.
“It’s not men’s rights activists (spreading hate), it’s people commenting on YouTube,” he said.
“Threats like telling someone you should get raped is not going to build bridges. That’s not going to bring attention to issues. Instead, that’s going to take attention away from (men’s issues) and focus on the comments people are making.”
Details of the new club’s operations have yet to be announced.
This story was first published in The Ryersonian, a weekly newspaper produced by the Ryerson School of Journalism, on October 2, 2013.