Guest editorial by Allyssia Alleyne
I was going down the escalator at Angel tube station in London when a poster caught my eye: an ominous photo of a rugby ball pieced by a nail with the headline “Real Men Get Raped.” I was floored but intrigued, not used to seeing subject addressed so directly. Survivors UK, the men’s sexual abuse support service behind the poster, had caught my attention and just over a year later, I’m discussing it with my friends and family, both male and female.
This poster is the first thing that came to mind when I heard that a pair of students at Ryerson was hoping to start a men’s issues group on campus. Assuming that the organizers have only the best intentions, they’re also trying to spread awareness about little-discussed issues facing certain groups. I appreciate that. While I don’t believe the prejudice males sometimes experience is anywhere near equal to the oppression that women face (Just take a look at the gender wage gap; the fact that the vast majority of spousal homicide victims are women killed by men; the fact that women make up 50 per cent of the population, but only 25 per cent of federal politicians), I can’t deny that there are ways in which they suffer disproportionately. Their suicide rate is higher, their post-secondary dropout rate is higher and fathers can have a hard time winning the custody of their children.
Do I think it’s important to discuss these realities? Yes. Do I agree with the RSU’s decision to muzzle these organizers? Absolutely not. (In fact, I’ve written about that issue for this newspaper before.) But do I think that starting this new group is the best way to go? It’s complicated.
While I do respect that, especially as a university, we have a responsibility to accommodate contentious conversations, something about the idea of a “men’s issues” club (the organizers are very clear about the fact that they are not a men’s rights club, which you can interpret however you want) makes me cringe.
Maybe the amount of misogynistic vitriol spewed by so-called men’s rights activists on online forums like Reddit is what’s giving me pause.
Or maybe it’s just exasperating to see that a group that is so widely represented and privileged casting a group that is actually oppressed as villains. I have to wonder how the organizers will ensure that this club would be a safe, inclusive space for everyone, when so many male-dominated spaces seem to rank women as second-class citizens. (See the worlds of politics, finance, and clubs south of Queen Street.) It also disappoints me that men (or, in this case, women) feel as though they can’t work with feminists to solve the issues that impact men. I mean, who better than feminists to get involved with conversations around sexism, patriarchy and gender roles? Let’s not forget that the same system of patriarchy that has kept down women historically is what’s hurting men today.
But I am more than willing to put my personal reservations aside.
I would love to see this group get off the ground and prove me wrong, because the last thing I feel is threatened. If feminism can secure the vote for women, bring in awesome workplace harassment laws and ensure cheap and affordable birth control, it can handle a group of people who just want to talk.