Sometimes it is difficult to see where our biases blind us, but occasionally, some group will brazenly step into the spotlight and enlighten us all with a dazzling display of self-righteous stupidity. This isn’t solely entertainment; they’re powerful moments that we should use as an opportunity to reevaluate our own perspectives on important issues. Toronto, in a strange and twisted series of events, has again provided us with just such a “learning experience.”
On April 4, Dr. Katherine Young and Dr. Paul Nathanson came to the University of Toronto to hold a panel discussion they called “From Misogyny and Misandry to Intersex Dialogue.” Both doctorates in religious studies, the pair have co-written three books hoping to help spread awareness about a type of problem that another mob-targeted speaker at Toronto University, Dr. Warren Farrell, had spoken about in November of last year: problems facing men. It is an increasingly worrying subject, one that was even broached here at Bellevue College last year by Dr. Bernard Franklin.
But alas, we are told that such talk derails society’s attention from “the real issues,” the important issues (read “the ones facing women”). In fact, the very idea of bringing up men’s issues—the problems of boys failing in school, of men dying early, of ending up in prison at alarming rates, of increased alcoholism and five times higher rates of suicide than women—the mere mention of such problems, we are told, is tantamount to hating women. Apparently, the presence of evil Men’s Rights Advocates was serious enough to warrant an attempt to shout down the speakers so that no one could hear the presentation. When that failed, pulling the fire-alarm to more firmly impede opposing ideas seemed necessary. “The so-called men’s-rights movement is simply an alliance of misogynists, white-supremacists and people who aren’t very connected to reality, who have no real desire to make a positive change in society,” explained one of the calmer students at the rally outside Dr. Nathanson and Dr. Young’s discussion. “It blames feminism and the advancement of women for the problems of men in the world.”
In a sense, this is true. Almost all of feminism theory hinges on this thing called “the patriarchy.” The patriarchy, we are told, is the system in every society in which men systematically maintain their own power and influence at the expense of women. In the words of feminist and political theorist Carole Pateman, “the patriarchal construction of the difference between masculinity and femininity is the political difference between freedom and subjection.” Feminism views sex through the dichotomizing eyes of Marx and Engels, in which “the history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles…in a word, oppressor and oppressed…”
This dichotomizing belief is not merely untrue; it’s genuinely harmful. If we define power as the ability to control your own life, men are constrained by a similar set of gender-norms, and these come from the demands of survival, not from ‘male dominance.’ Men and women have held different roles due to biolgoical differences, not because of self-perpetuating exploitation. Falsely believing that men actively oppress women fosters hate and contempt in place of understanding and compassion.
Similarly, the now commonplace idea that women live in a “rape culture”—a society in which rape is accepted, excused or even condoned—is absolutely wrong. When the media attempted to give a different perspective on the recent Steubenville rape case, for example, they were (rightfully) vilified and denounced en masse. Their judgment and commentary was clearly not normal or accepted by the general public, nor should it be.
Incidentally, this brings us back to Toronto, where women can imagine what a rape culture might actually look like through the eyes of men. Four days before Dr. Young and Dr. Nathanson’s presentation, a 19-year old man was gang-raped by 4 women in a parking lot. The National Post quoted Detective Constable Thomas Ueberholz saying “…it is not completely unusual for a male to be the victim of a sexual assault.” In the same article, Nicole Pietsch of the Ontario Coalition of Rape Crises Centres said “other men will say for example, ‘Oh, he’s so lucky,’ like that was actually a positive thing.” Is someone who sympathizes with the plight of this 19-year old man really a sexist racial supremacist?
I would say that the protesters are exposing their sham ideology for what it is, but don’t take my word for it. Watch the videos of the protesters and decide for yourself which side appears to be more rational and open to different views.