By Alanna Rizza
The Ryerson Feminist Collective held a rally on Dec. 1 about reclaiming safe spaces on campus, but safety is also on issue off campus.
The Take Back the Campus rally spoke to students facing discrimination, marginalization, hate, and systemic oppression. There was also discussion about the culture on campus that allows for such things to happen.
“The fact that there’s a culture here that fosters a kind of misogyny [and] systemic marginalization. Like I said there’s one more thing that is already present in our world that shouldn’t be on campus,” said Jackie Mlotek, co-organizer of the Ryerson Feminist Collective.
Kristyn Wong-Tam, Toronto City Counsellor for Ward 27, was also present at the rally and said she supports the students of Ryerson for working together on this issue.
“We want Ryerson to be successful. That is everyone’s goal including city council,” she said.
“What I am seeing across Toronto are too many incidents steeped in hatred and bigotry and ignorance.”
Mlotek and Alyson Rogers, also co-organizer of the Feminist Collective, said that students need to work together and support each other when it comes to their safety. They said that it is important to recognize when you may be making someone else feel uncomfortable in their community.
“Jackie and I are both aware that we are cisgendered, white women and we make conscious efforts to use our privilege in good ways [and] to elevate the voices of marginalized populations,” said Rogers.
RSU vice-president equity, Rabia Idrees said that the Feminist Collective approached her about getting speakers for the rally that represented many different groups on campus experiencing this issue.
“I applaud the Feminist Collective for recognizing that if you are going to speak about feminism, it can’t be based on one ideology or one framework,” said Idrees.
Idrees said that she was just in a meeting with Kevin Arriola, founder of the Men’s Issues Awareness Society, discussing the appeal of his student group. Arriola was present at the beginning of the rally, but did not stay for the full event.
“With his presence, this space became unsafe for some students who have been talking to him,” said Idrees.
“Honestly he can be here. Ryerson is an open space for anyone to be, if he wants to be here that’s fine. I’m glad he didn’t do anything kind of destructive to [what was said] and I’m glad that he understood that he needed to leave as well,” said Idrees.
Rogers said that when she saw Arriola at the rally it made her feel “concerned.”
“Kevin, as an individual did not make me feel unsafe in that space, but certainly an individual that runs, represents and is a member of an men’s issues group made me feel unsafe,” said Rogers.
Arriola said that he was curious about the rally and would have stayed longer if he didn’t have an essay due the next day.
“I think it’s great that some students can have a space on campus and talk about social issues. I hope one day groups like mine are able to participate,” he said.
“I harbour no ill will towards the Feminist Collective for hosting this event. I think it’s great. It is my hope that they one day see a need for events similar to this, that address the needs of disenfranchised men and boys, who rarely speak out due to the pressures around masculinity.”