By Behdad Mahichi
The controversial men’s issues group that was denied student group status on campus has filed an appeal to the Ryerson Students’ Union (RSU) — but another hurdle has come their way.
One day prior to the Board of Directors meeting on Nov. 17 that will either accept or dismiss the Men’s Issues Awareness Society’s appeal, the Ryerson Feminist Collective launched a petition on Change.org demanding the group be refused any attempt to be recognized on campus.
“Men’s rights groups actively seek to delegitimize women who come forward as survivors of gender-based violence and attempt to silence women who speak out against patriarchy and misogyny by use of threats, intimidation and harassment,” the petition reads.
The men’s issues group started in late September with the idea of focusing on men’s issues like suicide, homelessness, high incarceration rates and unfair judicial practices.
Fourth-year politics and governance student Kevin Arriola, who is spearheading the group, said that it has an equal balance of male and female members and holds an egalitarian platform.
However, co-organizer of the feminist collective Alyson Rogers said that the group is lacking certain fundamentals that need to be recognized when addressing men’s issues.
“These groups make widespread statements that everyone experiences inequality. Historically, that’s not true,” Rogers said.
“If you’re operating from an egalitarian framework, there’s no way you’re acknowledging privilege. Even within our group, I’m a white woman, and even while I experience sexism, I acknowledge my privilege of being white-skinned.”
Rogers said that while there are men’s issues to be talked about, not acknowledging patriarchy and privilege would not comprehensively address anything.
“We also think it threatens actually addressing men’s issues,” she said.
Arriola said recognizing privilege and patriarchy is not something he enforces in the group.
“We’re a group that welcomes different types of ideologies. Some of those recognize patriarchy and some of those don’t — and that’s fine,” he said. “Right now, it seems like the feminist collective is an echo chamber of one opinion.”
RSU vice-president equity Rabia Idrees said that men’s issues groups that have tried to form in the past have been overt about their connections to other groups that do promote violence against women and silencing of victims, and were denied status as a result.
“But this group came and said they have an egalitarian framework and also want to be intersectional,” Idrees said. “But you cannot be egalitarian and intersectional at the same time, because to be intersectional you’ve got to have more of an equity focus where you kind of look at a person’s specific need rather than giving the same thing to everyone else.”
Idrees said that the RSU had a rather unprogressive sit-down with Arriola to go over the reasons why the men’s issues group was rejected.
“None of the points would be relayed because he would speak over us every single time,” she said. “One of the things that I did bring up was addressing the fact that men have systematic privilege over women, but he still did not recognize that.”
Regardless of the decision on the appeal (which was delayed at the Nov. 17 BoD meeting), Arriola said he plans to continue operating as an unofficial group. A total of 11 members were present at their November meeting, he said.
In response to the feminist collective’s petition, the Men’s Issues Awareness Society launched their own petition supporting the appeal.
“Nearly 50 per cent of our members are men and women, of a wide range of races, cultures, sexualities, and genders. Our first meeting alone looked so diverse it could have been a Michael Jackson video,” read the petition. “Since then, other lies have been thrown in the mix, that we’re anti-LGBT, anti-racial minorities, and anti-victims.”
“Since then, other lies have been thrown in the mix, that we’re anti-LGBT, anti-racial minorities, and anti-victims.”
Idrees said that even before the group was denied official status, she received emails from specific students who were uncomfortable with their presence on campus.
She also said that many of the issues the group wishes to discuss can be embodied elsewhere.
“Honestly, feminist theory does a lot to dismantle notions of masculinity as well,” she said. “When it comes to exploring notions of the definition of being a woman, a lot of it can be expelled into the definitions of being a man.”
Rogers said that the feminist collective already recognizes and is already in talks for hosting an event partnered with Ryerson’s White Ribbon Campaign — a group described to be working to inspire men to be part of the change for both women and men.
The Ryerson White Ribbon Campaign works to eliminate violence against women, and also address issues of hegemonic and toxic masculinity.
“Too many men suffer because our male-dominated world is not only one of power of men over women, but of some groups of men over others,” reads a section of their website description.