By Skyler Ash
“I think it’s just horrifying,” said Arezoo Najibzadeh, an organizer with Ryerson’s Feminist Collective. “I don’t see the benefit of having them on campus.”
Najibzadeh is referring to the proposed men’s issues group that’s trying to gain group status here at Ryerson. The group was launched on Sept 26, 2015 by Kevin Arriola, a fourth-year politics and governance student at Ryerson.
“I don’t think they should have student status on campus,” said Alyson Rogers, another organizer with the Feminist Collective.
Rogers said the group’s affiliation with Canadian Association for Equality (CAFE) is a large part of why she’s so opposed.
“[CAFE] have a long history of harassing and threatening women who speak out against them,” said Rogers. CAFE was banned from Toronto Pride in 2015 for being deemed a misogynistic, anti-feminist organization.
Najibzadeh and Rogers aren’t the only women on campus who are concerned with the group’s presence. Both have been receiving messages from women at Ryerson who are worried about this group being allowed on campus.
“We’ve had women say that they don’t feel safe on their campus and they don’t want to come to their classes,” said Rogers.
Similarly, Najibzadeh said, “it’s really scary to be receiving messages from community members expressing concern over their safety, and their sense of safety on campus.”
Despite these concerns over the group, James Turk, director of Ryerson’s new Centre for Free Expression said, “the feminist organizations or me or others who find what they have to say detestable should comment on that and expose them for what they are, not try to ban them.”
Turk said that under Canadian law, the group has a right to speak. He argues that a democratic society is made up of people who can share various points of view and make decisions based upon discussion. Turk wouldn’t advise that this group be banned, but rather, “revealed to be the small-minded, detestable kinds of people they are.”
Turk said that he, “finds what they say deeply offensive, as do many other people.”
“I think once people realize what we’re about, they usually make up their mind pretty quickly,” said Arriola. Arriola said that 45 per cent of the group is female, and that two of their three executives are female.
Alex Godlewski, the group’s social media executive, said she joined the group when she began to speak with men about the issues they face.
“I think that men’s issues need to be talked about more,” said Godlewski. She said men’s issues are being neglected, and it’s time for them to be acknowledged.
“We’ve made that clear from the start that we were open to a variety of different viewpoints,” said Godlewski. “You don’t have to think one particular way.” Everyone is welcome, “If you’re a feminist or anti-feminist, or you’re egalitarian.”
“We are a group that operates under an egalitarian framework so just a basic belief that everybody deserves equal rights and equal support from the state,” said Arriola. He said that there has been a lot of support for the group.
“People who have come up and talked to me most of them have been positive, I could maybe count the amount of negative ones on one hand,” said Arriola. He said he’s, “not too worried about those opposed people, though.”
“We live in a society where everyone sort of has the same rights,” said Arriola. “People are assigned identities based on their gender and that this has created inequality for all.”
Rogers, an intersectional feminist, wants to, “emphasize that men do have issues, but it’s also really important to recognize privilege.”
On Oct 27, 2015, the Ryerson Student Union (RSU) rejected the group’s application to become an official group at Ryerson.
“I think the very fact that we got rejected proves that we do need this group because they’re trying to silence men’s voices,” said Godlewski. According to Godlweski, the RSU acknowledged that the group was egalitarian, but they were still rejected.
“They knew that we were for equality and they still shut us down. We’re definitely going to fight it,” said Godlewski. The group plans to appeal to the RSU, but nothing has been confirmed.