Ryerson prides itself on inclusion, but some feel men need a space to discuss issues on campus, too. Shannon Baldwin reports.
Post-secondary institutions across Canada have a wide spectrum of female support groups, women’s centres and help lines for women in need. Yet, there are no support groups for men only.
Marwa Hamad, Vice-President Equity at Ryerson Students’ Union, said there is no need for a men’s centre at Ryerson. Equity service groups are supposed to reflect issues concerning marginalized people.
“Would it make sense to make a straight people centre or an able body equity group?” Hamad said.
Instead of creating a men’s centre, Hamad said that men who are not members of any equity service groups on campus can still stand by and support their fellow students.
“All of the groups are open to folks of any gender, religion or race as a safe base to come and feel comfortable expressing your opinions.”
But a sign outside of the Women’s Centre at Ryerson reads, “STOP to ALL Male Allies. Your presence may make women who use the centre uncomfortable… you may be asked to leave at any point.”
Second year architecture student, Steven De Boyrie said, “If there’s a place for women there should be a place for men.”
The argument is that men have issues that also need to be addressed. The Men’s Issues Awareness 2012 newsletter states men have a sucicde rate three times than women and deal with more physical violence. According to the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, 25 per cent of male drinkers are high-risk for alcohol abuse, as opposed to 9 per cent of female drinkers.
“Most people aren’t aware of the issues…I wasn’t aware,” said Egi Troka, Campus Outreach Chair for the Canadian Association for Equality (CAFE) at York University.
The association advocates for men’s issues. Ryerson does not have a CAFE chapter. In a society that upholds the stereotype that men are strong and women are oppressed and victimized, it can be hard to pay attention to both sides, she said.
The purpose of a men’s centre is not to bash feminism or women, but to create a balance and a safe haven for both men and women to express their feelings.
Hamad said it is still important to note the difference between discrimination and oppression.
“It is likely that a man can walk home and not feel afraid of being assaulted. That a man can apply for a job and not have to worry about his gender influencing the outcome,” she said. “Women aren’t in a position of power in society. Women can’t oppress men.”
Simon Fraser University in Burnaby, B.C. has a mandate to open a men’s centre at the school. They received $30,000 to do so, the same amount as the Women’s Centre.
The Women’s Centre disputes this and states, “The men’s centre is everywhere else,” on their website.
Iain Dwyer, who is on the board of directors for CAFE and who formerly worked at the Eyeopener, said his goal is to have a men’s centre on every campus. But second-year architecture student Kevin Bilics thinks, “If guys want to talk, they’ll go to the gym.”