I was troubled to learn that a new “men’s issues” group is being formed on campus. There are important men’s issues in our society deserving attention, but I fear the intentions behind these groups are more combative than collaborative.
The new club is affiliated with the Canadian Association for Equality (CAFE), the group behind a series of billboards that went up in Toronto last year with misleading statistics about domestic violence.
Domestic violence against men is one of the main issues the group at Ryerson will push forward, according to the founder. The fact that it’s affiliated with CAFE makes me worried that students won’t be getting the right facts.
Here’s a real men’s issue: Statistics Canada reports that 2,781 Canadian men took their own lives in 2011. That year, 947 women did the same. Similar numbers are consistently reported every year.
According to the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA), a relatively equal proportion of men and women experience depression, but men are far less likely to seek help. Why is this so?
The CMHA attributes the disparity in suicide rates in part to societal concepts of masculinity. When it comes to mental health, the stigma is greater for men “largely due to society’s stereotypes about the male role, having to be strong and tending to repress their feelings and emotions,” psychiatrist and men’s health researcher Dr. Andrew Howlett told the Globe and Mail last year.
No one should feel emasculated for seeking help. If Ryerson’s new men’s issues group sets out to fairly and accurately tackle issues such as this one, I’d support it.
I get lost, though, when founder Kevin Arriola notes that they are “not a feminist organization.” Why not?
Feminism, by most definitions, includes challenging our society’s perception of gender roles and what it means to be “feminine” and “masculine.”
The way I see it, the question, “Why are so many men committing suicide?” is just as valid and relevant to feminism as, “Why are so many women sexually assaulted?”
Any feminist should care about both of the above issues, because addressing them benefits everyone. Doing so also challenges, both directly and indirectly, our ideas of masculinity and femininity.
A men’s issues society at Ryerson shouldn’t be stopped, but those involved should ensure they’re addressing issues that don’t campaign against one particular group.
Instead, they should be working collaboratively to bring the most relevant men’s issues to the table.