The Student Union of the University of Toronto needs our help.
Members of the U of T Student Union have drafted a motion to present to the university administration to take action against A Voice for Men, including banning the site from U of T servers and seeking to have AVfM’s hosting company shut the site down. .
As the Editor-in-Chief of AVfM, I not only support these students in their clear ambition to attempt to silence opinions they may disagree with, I hope to motivate others to help them draft and present a more effective, convincing and clearly imperative call to action against this website.
Toward that goal, I have included the full text of the existing Motion to condemn (which was emailed to us), along with my own commentary and suggested revisions. Such revisions as necessary for the motion to be a more effective motivator for the school’s administration to take action against this website.
MOTION TO CONDEMN AND TAKE ACTION AGAINST “A VOICE FOR MEN”
Moved: C. Scott Seconded:
Whereas on November 16, 2012, a so-called “men’s rights awareness” group at the University of Toronto invited Warren Farrell to campus to give a talk.
Commentary: The use of the term “so called” to preface “men’s rights awareness” does no service to either the author nor to the proposed motion. The words “men’s rights awareness” are in fact a part of the self identification of a men’s rights awareness organization on the campus of the U of T. The authors of the existing motion are advised to reserve application of the phrase “so called” to informal slang and terms of art departing from the actual names of existing organizations and groups. This reservation will make a revised version of the motion more credible, and effective towards its intended audience, the administration of the University of Toronto.
Whereas Warren Farrell promotes misogynist, hateful views towards women and ideologies that promote gender equity, challenges women’s bodily autonomy, justifies sexual assault and decries feminism as violent;
As the existing motion requests action of the administration of a major academic institution, Dr Warren Farrell should be referred to by his correct title, which is Dr. Warren Farrell.
In addition, the motion suggests necessary actions to be taken against this website. Dr Farrell has no past or present association or relationship with A Voice for Men. Also, if Dr. Farrell is to be included in the motion, the reasons for that should be independently established through citation of his own writings or actions.
Specifically, the motion should include citations from Dr. Farrell’s writing in which he challenges women’s bodily autonomy. The motion should also cite writing or speech by Dr. Farrell which promotes misogyny. Furthermore, the motion should cite where Dr. Farrell justifies sexual assault.
Obviously, the veracity of the vague and unsupported claims about Dr Farrell are not called into question in this criticism. However, to provide the compelling rationale necessary for action by the U of T’s administration, proof of the allegations against Dr. Farrell may be helpful. It may also reduce the amount of conflation between Dr. Farrell, an individual, and A Voice for Men, an unrelated organization.
Whereas students at the University of Toronto made the situation known to the University of Toronto administration, asking for action to be taken due to Farrell’s flagrant violation of the Ontario Human Rights Code;
“The situation,” is unfortunately a pronoun lacking reference. In a formal call to action, “the situation” must be explicitly identified prior to use. It may not be obvious to the U of T administration, or others, precisely what “the situation” is.
Also, although Dr. Farrell’s flagrant violation of the Ontario Human Rights Code, is obviously not questioned by this criticism, this too requires more specific detail; not only the offending actions or speech by Dr. Farrell, but also the specific article, chapter and subsection of the Ontario Human Rights Code violated. Further, although we must all accept the apparent malevolence of Dr. Farrell based only on unsupported assertion, the current motion demands action be taken against A Voice for Men, a web site and organization to which Dr Farrell has no present or past association.
Clearly, a separate MOTION TO CONDEMN Dr. Farrell is needed.
Wheras the University of Toronto administration refused to act; and
Whereas in absence of action from the university, students organized a petition and protest in response;
The motion has as one of it’s major goals the motivation of action by the University of Toronto administration. However, the motion makes claims of inactivity from the U of T administration, which happen to untrue. The office of the Provost at the U of T have at least stirred themselves to examine the events surrounding the presentation and accompanying protest sufficient to publish a clear positional statement . Given that your target audience is already likely aware of the action they themselves have taken, it may hurt your credibility with them and perhaps others.
The most salient portion of that public statement begins in the second paragraph with:
The vast majority of the University of Toronto community understands that freedom of expression is vital to the mission of universities and cannot be reserved for those with whom one agrees. It is therefore heartening that many members of our community with otherwise divergent views have recognized that the disruption of this event by protesters was a threat to free speech.
Again, false claims of the inaction of the school’s administration will likely diminish the credibility of the motion and it’s authors. Convincing the school’s administration of a false history in which they participated is likely a counterproductive strategy to be avoided.
Whereas in response, police were called to campus and violently attacked and harmed activists;
While violent attack on feminist protesters by the Toronto Police department would certainly be problematic, if it were true, video of the event quite clearly shows that police officers, called to the scene to protect ticket-holders from assault were themselves assaulted by feminist protesters.
The U of T student newspaper “the Varsity” reported on 17 November:
One protester was arrested after a scuffle broke out in front of the auditorium’s doors. He was later released with no charges. Another protester was cautioned for assault of a police officer..
Interestingly, the Varsity article also claims that event organizers physically assaulted one or more attending protesters, referring to video of the event – which does not appear to depict any such thing.
However, whether protesters assaulted police, or whether the reverse case is true, A Voice for Men did not have a representative at the event, and conflation of the apparent actions of Toronto Police, of paying attendees, of event organizers, or any statement, real or imagined of Dr. Farrell are wholly apart from this website, A Voice for Men.
Perhaps a motion to condemn, arrest and incarcerate the Toronto Police Department, with supporting rationale, would be in order.
Whereas members of the so-called “men’s rights awareness” group also violently attacked and harmed activists;
According to reporting by Dan Smeenk of the Varsity and according to video by independent videographer Stephen Brule, protesting feminists were not attacked, but themselves engaged in verbal abuse of event attendees, and initiated violence against members of the Toronto Police. Arguing the opposite of what is already documented in video format will likely undermine the credibility of the motion and its authors. False claims used to compel action by the U of T’s administration should be un-disprovable, otherwise members of the U of T’s administration might engage in fact-checking, severely diminishing the impact of the motion.
Whereas several female-identified students who were outspoken at the rally has[sic] since been targeted by “men’s rights” activists on the website AVoiceForMen.com, who are calling for their surveillance by men at the University of Toronto and for their actions to be detailed at an online blog which contains many hateful ideas about women;
The characterization of reporting and commentary by AVFM using the language “ female-identified students who were outspoken at the rally has[sic] since been targeted by “men’s rights” activists on the website AVoiceForMen.com” is an excellent strategy to demonize this website and it’s contributors. However, the following statements “ .. who are calling for their surveillance by men at the University of Toronto and for their actions to be detailed at an online blog” undermines the sinister portrayal of AVFM by admitting that such “targeting” consists only of citizen journalism and commentary.
This admission severely undermines the potentially useful impact of the word “targeting”. Without the anti-climactic reference to reporting and commentary at AVFM, an impression could have been created that the site’s editors advocated violence. This is a missed opportunity to more effectively demonize.
Whereas several of the female-identified students that have been targeted were less vocal or prominent than participants who were male-identified; and
Whereas men have, as a result, begun to harass these woman, the UTSU and female- identified staff at the UTSU;
As with all your claims made without citation or evidence, this criticism certainly does not aim to cast the slightest doubt on the motion or its authors. However, the last time I heard about women or feminists being threatened by MRAs, it became quickly evident that such threats were fielded by other feminists simply claiming to be MRAs. This uncomfortable fact was documented on the feminist website http://haifischgeweint.wordpress.com/ (please consider the link a helpful example of citation).
I’m sure ideological thinkers would not use the same tactic twice, and it’s at least plausible that somebody has threatened one or more of the violent protesters at the U. of T. However, the claims of threats made without citation or source do provide a strong impression of a game of make-believe, which the motion can only ameliorate by citation of such threats.
Whereas the message from this website claims to be of ‘equality’ but is in fact a message that is a misogynist, sexist, cissexist, heterosexist and homophobic response to the challenge of cis-male privilege in society;
Facts are sometimes inconvenient, but are often important. The message of A Voice for Men does not claim to be of “equality,” but we do support equal treatment under the law. However, the motto of the site, presently printed in the site’s mast-head is “compassion for men and boys”. However, our complete mandate is for Justice and Compassion, two elements glaringly absent from rhetoric in opposition to the human rights of men and boys. Admittedly the mandate for “justice and compassion” might not be readily apparent without reading some of the site’s content.
However, the claims of several flavors of sexism serves to considerably undermine the credibility of both the motion and its authors. AVfM’s contributing authors and board of directors include men and women of every sexuality and variation. In fact, a routine criticism of the AVfM’s weekly radio show is an excess of female hosts and contributors, suggesting to some detractors that the mandate to address men’s human rights issues is being diluted by too many female contributors.
Rather than making the easily dismissed claims of sexism, or homophobia, more substantive attacks against the site’s senior contributors would likely be more believable. For example, AVFM Radio’s co-host and star, Karen Straughan “Girl Writes What” could be attacked for her clear jealousy of younger, daintier and more feminine women than herself.
Erin Pizzey, the founder of the women’s shelter movement, now on AVFM’s board of directors, could easily be attacked on the grounds of senescence, or a wholly superstitious attachment to her life-long religious faith. Any of AVfM’s gay or bisexual contributors could easily be discredited based on which sex they are, or aren’t attracted to, although since outing the sexuality of contributors is not within the site’s editorial mandate, critics will have to do their own research. Preference for same sex partners can be manipulated by U of T student commentators into hatred of the opposite sex with some aptitude and practice.
However, citing an exhaustive list of every kind of sexism with it’s own name does appear counter productive. In such a complete list, even the sexuality of the site’s management team must be despised by the site’s management team. A more plausible approach for U of T commentators would be to pick only one or two variations of sexism, and then cite content on the site, plausibly supporting such claims.
Whereas the content of the website has generated hateful and violent comments from both readers and writers;
With over 1,700 feature length articles, citation or evidence of “hateful and violent” commentary – if such exists — should not fall on the readers of the U of T student’s motion to locate for themselves. The site’s masthead includes a search bar from which offensive phrases or suggestions of violent rhetoric can be searched for and thereby cited as evidence of the claim of hatred or violence.
However, as tempting as it might be for administration members to register for the site and supply such commentary themselves, this tactic should be accomplished with screen-capture, as commentary advocating or suggesting violence is strictly forbidden, resulting in immediate IP-based banning of offenders from the site.
Be it resolved that the University of Toronto Students’ Union condemn the actions and stances AVoiceForMen.com has taken; and
Be it further resolved the University of Toronto Students’ Union support students that have been attacked by AVoiceForMen.com; and
Be it further resolved that the University of Toronto Students’ Union take action to have the website AVoiceForMen.com blacklisted and shutdown by their website provider for hate speech.
Certainly, if the students at the U of T feel it necessary to silence the expressed opinions of an organization or site they disagree with, they should pursue that censorship wholeheartedly. Indeed, that the authors of the MOTION TO CONDEMN support the violence and hatred displayed so blatantly by the protesters at the November 16 presentation by Dr Warren Farrell, they are encouraged to make their support for such conduct as publicly and loudly as possible.
And finally, it indeed is the position of this site, its editorial board and it’s contributors that men’s rights are human rights.
Thank you all for your kind attention.
In addition to provided suggestions for improvements to the language of the existing MOTION TO CONDEMN, Corey Scott, Vice-President Internal & Services, along with his co-authors at the UTSU may wish to audit one or more courses within the Writing and Rhetoric program offered by the University of Toronto.
“The Writing and Rhetoric minor reflects the belief that strong skills in critical thinking and written communication are central to a liberal education.”
Additional details of this program can be found on the web-site located at http://www.utoronto.ca/innis/wr/