Barbara Kay: Ryerson drags men’s issues group through the wringer
February 4, 2014
It’s happening again. Yet another Canadian university is making life extremely difficult for a group that brings awareness of men’s issues to institutions of higher learning.
The Canadian Association for Equality (CAFÉ) organized a talk to be held at Toronto’s Ryerson University Thursday, Feb. 6, entitled “Are Men Obsolete? Feminism, Free Speech and the Censorship of Mens Issues,” to be delivered by Karen Straughan, famous as the YouTube sensation GirlWritesWhat. Straughan’s talk will argue the need for safe spaces in which men on university campuses can discuss issues of health and well-being, particularly in the face of organized resistance to recognition of such official spaces.
The event will go ahead, but at a high cost to the group. On January 31, representatives of CAFÉ were called to a meeting by the Ryerson University Office of the Vice Provost Students and campus security, who informed them that if the event was to go forward, CAFÉ must pay $1,600 in security fees (+HST) and change the lecture’s venue from the advertised Mattamy Athletic Centre to the less central G. Raymond Chang School of Continuing Education.
This is outrageous. The demand for a security fee, which most groups cannot afford to pay, is almost invariably a transparent strategy to force the group to withdraw their event. It is the university’s obligation to ensure the security of bona fide speakers – and this one certainly is; Straughan’s talk, like all CAFÉ talks, will be a responsible, thoughtful dissertation on an objective situation, and the opposite of incendiary – and to impose such a hardship on a group in anticipation of irresponsible and bigoted behavior by intolerant activists is to blame and punish the victim.
A university can only justify such a demand by intellectually acquiescing to the notion that discussion of men’s problems is an inherently controversial and offensive form of discourse. We know that if feminists’ discourse was threatened with activist resistance, no university in the land would dream of charging them a security fee. On the contrary, the university would if necessary call in the Armed Forces to ensure their right to speak.
But the speakers persisted, and over the howls of the would-be censors they were heard: Warren Farrell, longtime men’s rights advocate, Janice Fiamengo, University of Ottawa literature professor, and impeccably credentialed McGill academics Katherine Young and Paul Nathanson, authors of a magisterial series of books on misandry in our culture and in our courts.
**UPDATE: Ryerson administration has confirmed that the university will be absorbing the cost of the additional security for the February 6 CAFÉ event. According to a staffer who communicated with this newspaper on Monday afternoon, after this article had been published, Ryerson president Sheldon Levy now has decided that the cost was a barrier to freedom of expression.
MCB Comment: Humans rights need to be fought for and also need to be fought for, to be retained.