Men’s rights event leads to heated discussion

Audience members at the controversial men's rights event filled the room to the 100-person capacity. (Samuel Greenfield/Ryersonian Staff)

Audience members at the controversial men’s rights event filled the room and overflowed into another space where it was broadcast. (Samuel Greenfield/Ryersonian staff)

A controversial men’s rights event held by Ryerson on Thursday packed a campus meeting room to its 100-person capacity, and overflowed into another location where it was live-streamed to yet more viewers.

But as heated as it was, if any demonstrations were planned they certainly didn’t materialize. While a few individuals challenged the event’s featured speaker during the Q-and-A after her speech, it was nothing like the protest that occurred at a similar U of T event last spring. That meeting was disrupted for 20 minutes after someone pulled a fire alarm and the participants were forced to leave the building.

In light of that, the university was prepared.

About six security guards manned the lobby of the Chang School building where the meeting was held. Notices on the revolving doors warned any protesters that “bullhorns, noise makers, placards or similar items are not allowed in this building.”

Last week, the university decided to absorb the $1,600 security fee that was initially charged to the evening’s sponsor, the Canadian Association for Equality, whose event featured feminism-critic and web personality Karen Straughan.

Straughan was heralded by CAFE as a “human rights activist, blogger and writer,” and is also behind GirlWritesWhat, an anti-feminist YouTube channel where she discusses gender politics.

The event was advertised under the heading: “Are men obsolete? Feminism, Free Speech and the Censorship of Men’s Issues,” which echoed a Munk Debate last fall where four women debated the motion: “Be it resolved that men are obsolete.”

Straughan said it’s hypocritical that it’s OK for a female-only panel to debate whether or not men are necessary, yet men take flak when they discuss their own issues.

“It’s almost like people believe men have no right to an opinion about themselves. That men require the civilizing influence and constant monitoring of women in any such discussion,” said Straughan.

Speaking to a broadly receptive and largely male audience, Straughan also criticized the RSU for its refusal last year to grant a men’s issues group club-status.

While election results may have been rolling in at the campus pub the same night, RSU president-elect Rajean Hoilett postponed joining the festivities to attend the event.

In an earlier interview, Hoilett said the discussion could “marginalize people,” and that he was wary that the conversation would create a space that was “potentially very unsafe and very troubling.”

Hoilett wasn’t the only audience member critical of Straughan’s points. Third-year journalism student Sofie Mikhaylova challenged her during the Q-and-A.

“She said that men need a safe space on campus or general, which I don’t agree with,” said Mikhaylova. “Because the entire world is a safe space for men. I mean, if you’re straight and white.”

Straughan said she was happy that there were no protests at the event, and was pleased that those who disagree with her showed up to challenge her.

“That’s what this should be,” said Straughan. “You put out your argument, they put out their argument and we see, you know, which is the better argument.”

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