By Diana Hall
An effort to guard the empowerment of women’s voices on campus took form Monday when the Ryerson Students’ Union (RSU) swiftly adopted a bold new policy rejecting the concept of misandry – the hatred or fear of men.
Neda Hamzavi, a faculty of community services representative on the RSU Board of Directors (BOD), watched her amendment to the RSU’s policy on women’s issues pass without any debate, discussion or dispute. This could cause conflict at a time when controversial men’s issues movements are on the rise at university campuses.
“There’s been a lot of work across campuses not only in Ontario but also across the country that have been working sort of [as] anti-women’s rights groups,” Hamzavi said in her pitch to the BOD.
“We want to acknowledge that the additions that we added here are regarding the ideas of misandry and reverse-sexism, both of which are oppressive concepts that aim to delegitimize the equity work that women’s movements work to do.” Marwa Hamad, vice-president equity at the RSU, said the policy will preserve space for discussing misogyny and institutionalized gender imbalances.
The amendment applies to a Women’s Issues clause that provides a strict mandate for which activities the RSU opposes. Outlined in the board’s agenda, the new policy rejects:
“4. Groups, Meetings or events [that] promote misogynist views towards women and ideologies that promote gender inequity, challenges women’s right to bodily autonomy, or justifies sexual assault 5. The concept of misandry as it ignores structural inequity that exist between men and women 6. Groups, meetings events or initiatives [that] negate the need to centre women’s voices in the struggle for gender equity.”
The RSU’s three-pronged policy change could complicate the creation of a men’s issues group which applied for student-group status last week. Sarah Santhosh, a secondyear biology student and the founder of the Ryerson Association for Equality, said she was shocked the RSU passed this motion two days before the executives’ meeting with the Student Groups Committee.
Santhosh insisted her group is not about being anti-feminist, but rather the right to discuss men’s issues on campus – including misandry.
“The ironic thing is my voice is being silenced right now because I can’t even form a group without having to face this really back-handed deal that’s really attacking our group,” Santhosh said.
But Hamad said the policy will help the RSU protect women’s issues, which “have historically and continue to today to be silenced.”
“I think it’s important to remember that when we’re talking about dismantling patriarchy, we’re talking about supporting men, we’re talking about supporting women [and] we’re talking about supporting the entire gender spectrum,” she said.