In March 2014, Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario, exploded with fear and anger toward men. The university’s newly formed—and only—men’s group, the Men’s Issues Awareness Society (MIAS), scheduled a lecture by University of Ottawa professor Janice Fiamengo titled “What’s Equality Got To Do With It: Feminism’s Double Standards.” Campus feminists were furious and intended to block it at all costs.
How do you go from zero to full-blown hysteria in a few short weeks?
It helps to have the complete support of university faculty, and the small but very vocal group of feminists headquartered in the Levana Gender Advocacy Centre knew they had it. Only with that kind of support can a few hundred zealots confidently dominate a campus with well over 20,000 other, generally open-minded, students and create havoc.
Campus feminists began by whipping up hysteria against Fiamengo and anyone who questioned feminism. Thousands of comments poured onto the Facebook event page for Fiamengo’s talk, many of which were fearful, angry, and hateful toward men and anyone who dared question feminism. The posts included:
- The Fiamego lecture will attract “Queen’s Most Likely To Rape.”
- “Kingston is now known as The Most sexually violent city in Canada.”
- “MRAs are shit to female safety.”
- “scum in your midst that stalk and assault women”
- “I do not know a woman that hasn’t been attacked.”
- “They have brought someone to say that rape victims don’t exist.”
- One male student, Steve K., was subjected to over 200 hateful comments from feminists when he dared to share his story of sexual assault at the hands of an abusive female.
The feminist group quickly submitted a motion to the Alma Mater Society (AMS) to disband the MIAS in an effort to block the Fiamengo lecture.
In the lead-up to the de-ratification debate, the feminist cabal attacked students who refused to join their opposition to the MIAS and the cabal’s vilification of male students. Irfan Tahiri, vice-president of the Arts & Science Undergraduate Society (ASUS), was one of those who refused and this turned him into a target. But Tahiri stood firm and at the AMS meeting of March 20 stated, “I will not stand here and be demonized because I spoke out and say that I’m opposed to this motion.” Tahiri was not a member of MIAS but had merely defended their right to exist.
AMS member and promoter of the “free speech wall” (which, incidentally, was banned by Queen’s administrators) Tyler Lively was also targeted. At the assembly, Lively revealed, “I haven’t wanted to speak due to the reasons that Tahiri said. I have been called out on Facebook regarding this when I haven’t even said anything. I have been called a rape apologist, a victim blamer, and a misogynist.”
The feminists even filed a motion to block Lively’s ratification as chief returning officer of the AMS at this very same meeting because of his refusal to join them in vilifying their fellow students. The feminist cabal was sending a clear message to anyone who would not join their crusade to silence those who dare criticize feminism: “We will crush you too.” This is typical mob behavior, and the only bright spot in this silly, small-minded affair is that there are still a small number of principled students like Tahiri and Lively who have the backbone to stand up to tyranny like this. No such backbone has yet surfaced among Queen’s faculty. In fact, as you will see, the faculty made it quite clear that they stood hand in hand with the feminist bullies.
Barely a week later, female Queen’s student Danielle d’Entremont was assaulted the night before the dreaded lecture. D’Entremont immediately posted a selfie of her injury to Facebook, and an hour later, at 1:15 a.m., the university’s student newspaper, The Queen’s Journal, tweeted about the assault and followed up with several stories, taking special care to suggest that the perpetrator was connected to the MIAS.
In fact, The Queen’s Journal was so quick and enthusiastic about reporting the assault that one reader expressed her concern that they were not so much interested in the story as “rejoicing that you have a hot story.” Editor Vincent Ben Matak correctly responded that “We aren’t a PR firm. Our job is to present facts.”
But it didn’t take long for Matak to reveal just what he meant by presenting “facts.” Apparently Matak believes that it’s also their job to make them up when necessary. And the “necessity,” in this case, was to lend further credence to the claim that feminists have reason to fear male students, the MIAS, and Fiamengo.
Matak wrote an article titled “Student Assaulted: Woman opposed to the Fiamengo talk was assaulted Wednesday night,” on page 7 of The Queen’s Journal, which included a quote from a Queen’s gender studies professor named Maria Matina, and this quote was clearly intended to justify fear of male students and to dissuade students from attending Fiamengo’s talk:
“Maria Matina, a Queen’s gender studies professor, advised her students to not attend the event tonight. In an email sent to her students on Thursday afternoon, Matina said students should not speak out against opinions expressed at the talk, to avoid risk of being physically assaulted.”
“In fact, my fellow Professors and colleagues will not be attending tonight for fear of violent attacks,” she stated. “I will be there in representation although, I was warned not to speak as I may be sent hate mail, death threats and potential physical attacks.”
The Queen’s Journal immediately published and tweeted frightened Professor Matina’s plea “not to attend this evening’s talk, to avoid assault” mere hours before the talk was to begin. An incredibly convenient coincidence for those who were desperate to stop the lecture.
The problem with Professor Maria Matina is that she doesn’t exist. There is no Professor Maria Matina in the Queen’s University gender studies department—or anywhere else at Queen’s. Furthermore, imaginary professors do not give quotes to journalists. Professor Maria Matina was invented, along with the bizarre quotes intended to scare Queen’s students. This was all clearly intended to spread fear of male students prior to the lecture.
A little background is helpful at this point. Matak has been studying philosophy at Queen’s University for at least three years and The Queen’s Journal listed his interests as “political journalism, social justice and LGBTQ issues” (this description has since been removed but a google search still provides the summary). Adele Mercier is a prominent feminist professor in the department of philosophy and was personally incensed that Fiamengo was “attacking Feminism.” There are only 17 professors in the philosophy department, and gender studies has only six professors. That’s a total of only 23 professors at Queen’s who are relevant to Matak’s area of professional interest. It is inconceivable that Matak, a student of Mercier’s with an interest in LGBTQ issues, would not immediately recognize that there was no professor “Maria Matina” at Queen’s University. On top of that, Mercier is so concerned about her relationship with Matak and the information that she shares with him that she required him to sign a non-disclosure agreement, something unheard of in professor-student relationships. Presumably this non-disclosure agreement protects Mercier while Matak works at The Queen’s Journal, CFRC Radio, the Levana Society, and The Kingston Whig-Standard, or anywhere else for that matter.
This suggests that The Queen’s Journal was playing ball with the cabal, which may have looked to Mercier as their leader. In fact, video of the Fiamengo lecture clearly shows that a significant portion of the audience physically watched Mercier, anticipating when she would speak during the question period, and loudly applauded her every word. Mercier also acknowledged that she taught many of the students in the auditorium, and the audience chimed in with supportive comments when Mercier bemoaned the fact that Fiamengo and men’s groups were critical of feminism. The tone from the Mercier team was more “protest rally” than academic curiosity.
I asked Matak about Professor Matina, and I print this because the offered explanations merely deepened my suspicions. Initially, Matak indicates that Maria Matina is a real professor, suggests that he knows a student in her class, and even says that he verified the information before printing the quotes that would clearly inflame fear and hatred of male students:
Brulé: “You quote a Professor Maria Matina.”
Matak: “Yeah, that was removed from the article.”
Brulé: “How did you hear about this professor?”
Matak: “We actually had someone forward us an email” … “the email that was forwarded to us was forwarded by a student in her class.”
Brulé: “In Maria Matina’s class?”
Brulé: “But there is no Maria Matina at Queen’s University.”
Matak: “Umm … I’m not entirely sure what her name was, um, what we published was the name that the student gave us, um, and I believe that was part of the reason why we took it down, is because we didn’t have the full consent to publish her name, instead of going about fighting that argument we just took it down because it wasn’t completely relevant to the story.”
One thing is certain, Matak was not being entirely honest. Later in that same conversation:
Brulé: “Don’t you think you should have verified that there was a professor by that name at Queen’s?”
Matak: “Well, we did.”
Brulé: “You did verify it?”
Matak: “We did verify it.”
Brulé: “But I called Queen’s and there is no professor by that name.”
Matak: “Well, that’s the thing … there was a lot of, there was a lot of issues with that, just, the nature of the information that we received, and the person in question, that it was about, um, it’s …”
Brulé: “You mean the professor, or the student?”
Matak: “The professor in question, but it was a private conversation, and I just don’t feel comfortable sharing that, the details of that with you right now.”
Brulé: “But knowing that it’s an actual professor is not hard to find out, right?”
Matak: “The story broke a month and a half ago, we took it down, I don’t see how that’s relevant now anyway.”
Not relevant now? Really. (The story is still available at this link, p. 7.)
It is relevant if The Queen’s Journal is promoting hatred of male students and of anyone who criticizes feminism on campus. It is relevant if members of Queen’s faculty are using their influence at The Queen’s Journal to spread this hatred. It is relevant because Matak’s other employer, The Kingston Whig-Standard, also published a public relations piece on Mercier’s behalf. It is relevant because Matak, as a journalist, has written other articles claiming that feminist professors at Queen’s have been threatened, but police investigation failed to find any leads on those cases. Are these fabricated as well?
I emailed Matak for further information since our conversation raised more questions than it answered. I waited several weeks and emailed again, but he has become unresponsive.
It doesn’t end there. At least two other Queen’s institutions were involved in this saga—the Levana Gender Advocacy Centre and CFRC Radio 101.9 FM—and Matak is intimately involved with both.
Matak would have to be connected to the Levana Society, Queen’s University’s Gender Advocacy Centre, located in The Grey House at 51 Bader Lane on Queen’s campus, if he hoped to write anything remotely relevant to the LGBTQ community, and Matak has written several articles on LGBTQ issues.
The Grey House, home of the Levana Society, is one of the feminist headquarters on Queen’s campus and has been home to the Ontario Public Interest Research Group (OPIRG), the Education on Queer Issues Project (EQuIP), and Queen’s Pride Project (QPP), as well as Levana. These groups are so closely related (their membership comprises many of the same people) that some students believe their simultaneous existence is merely a strategy to maximize funding through student fees (some fees are opt-outable). OPIRG usually receives a fee of over $4.55 per student (over $100,000 per year), the Ban Righ Center (another feminist organization at Queen’s) received $3 per student, and the Levana Centre received $0.78. Other examples include: Positive Space Program $0.31 and Reelout (a queer film and video festival) $1.72. The Kingston Coalition Against Poverty (KCAP) receives $2.50, and KCAP not only supported opponents of the MIAS but also claimed to know for certain that a men’s rights activist (MRA) assaulted Danielle d’Entremont. Together, these groups stand to receive well over $250,000 per year from student fees. The Queen’s Journal receives $3.50 and CFRC Radio receives $7.50, pushing the total to more than $500,000 per year. This is a significant sum paid by the whole student body but controlled by a small group.
It should come as no surprise that membership in these groups overlap, since they share the feminist worldview, which is enforced by Queen’s faculty, as explained below. However, The Queen’s Journal and CFRC Radio should be treated differently; they present themselves as part of the media, ostensibly neutral, but their actions indicate otherwise. There were seven articles by three staff writers in The Queen’s Journal in September 2011 bemoaning the possible eviction of the feminist groups from the Grey House for failure to follow the rules and re-ratify, which is anything but neutral.
Whether deliberately, or unwittingly, The Queen’s Journal promoted the interests of the cabal against Fiamengo. But it didn’t end there; these tentacles spread outside of the university.
In the days leading up to Fiamengo’s lecture, more than 80 professors signed a letter supporting the feminists who were promoting fear and hatred of men on Queen’s campus, and The Whig-Standard, Kingston’s top newspaper, obliged by printing an article about the letter, written by staff writer Michelle Ferguson, re-enforcing the message offered by the Queen’s professors through their spokesperson, professor Samantha King:
“I would say that feminist theory and politics has been a central part of the undergraduate curriculum at Queen’s in arts and science for at least the last 20 years. This is what many of us do in the classroom,” says King.
I have read this statement many times, and it still leaves me dumbfounded. Apparently ideological feminism has become so ingrained, so comfortable, so powerful at universities that there is no longer any reason to pretend that universities should not be ideological, but neutral, even skeptical, and no embarrassment about the fact that we have gone from “institutions of higher learning” to “cliques of higher indoctrination” in little more than a generation. But, as this incident so clearly demonstrates, dissent with feminism at university is treated like blasphemy within a fundamentalist religious organization.
Although the interview with Samantha King could still be called journalism, the interview with Mercier is questionable.
Mercier had engaged Alison Tieman from A Voice for Men (AVfM) on Facebook, believing her to be a Queen’s student. Mercier appeared to be defending female guards who have sex with juvenile boys in detention centres. Pressed by Tieman, Mercier refused to concede that the guards in question were guilty of raping the boys, even though a whopping 90% of incidents involved some form of force. AVfM published the exchange, and Mercier demanded that they remove all the material about her, accused Tieman of libel, and threatened legal action.
The Kingston Whig-Standard‘s Michelle Ferguson penned her second article on the Queen’s story, with the decidedly biased title “Queen’s prof targeted by group,” after members of AVfM accused Mercier of being a “rape apologist.” Ferguson interviewed Alison Tieman and challenged her about Mercier’s claim of libel. She allowed Mercier to explain her Facebook comments but glided past the complaint that Mercier appears to defend female rapists and Mercier does not condemn the prison rapes. This is notable because feminists are outraged at any form of rape when the genders are reversed, and have even coined the term “rape culture,” which feminists argue includes the dubious “crimes” now known as “stare rape” and “regret rape.” Feminist outrage has become so intense in some jurisdictions that California responded by expanding the definition of rape in the newly enacted “Yes means Yes” law that addresses an issue that critics believe is grossly exaggerated. And yet Ferguson never directly asks Mercier whether she believed that the female guards were rapists. The article ends with Mercier’s assertion that her detractors are nothing more than “thugs” and an “angry and volatile fringe group.”
Matak also works at the Whig, so getting what appears to be a public relations piece for Professor Mercier, who owns Matak’s confidentiality contract, printed in the Whig would have been a piece of cake. It’s a small town.
The Levana Society, a prominent feminist group on Queen’s campus, organized an event billed as a response to Fiamengo’s talk called “What’s Feminism Got To Do With It,” a play on Fiamengo’s lecture title “What’s Equality Got To Do With It,” scheduled for April 8, 2014. This event appears to have been at the behest of Mercier, who made a public challenge at the Fiamengo lecture and was initially listed as a speaker. Clearly, Mercier is deeply influential at the institutions discussed here, even revered perhaps.
I attended the event, hoping to hear an opposing view, and asked for an interview with the speaker. The organizers not only denied an interview but also called campus security to have me physically removed from the building. Apparently a student recognized me from the Fiamengo talk and decided that I was an “undesirable,” referring to me as “whatshisface old guy.”
It’s unclear whether my crime was “being old” or “being male,” but Queen’s security wasted no time enforcing the order. Incidentally, it didn’t seem to matter that I, too, was a recent Queen’s University student. Unfortunately, I was of the wrong age and gender.
The organizer allowed only CFRC Radio to interview the speaker and record the event. Dan Vena, a Queen’s cultural studies student, feminist, and co–founder of “Men Who Like Feminism,” conducted the only interview of Jaclyn Friedman, thus ensuring that no difficult, or even interesting, questions would be asked.
Professor Adele Mercier controls her students not only through non-disclosure agreements, but also with the looming threat of being labelled a “misogynist.” Fiamengo was a threat because if students felt free to criticize feminism, it would undermine the power that fear of the dreaded “misogynist” label holds over non-feminist students and faculty. The power of shaming critics with the accusation of misogyny, and the liberal use of this tactic by feminists, was clearly demonstrated at the AMS assembly and the events leading up to it. As noted above, Mercier’s students dutifully organized against the MIAS, labelled non-feminists, including Fiamengo, as “misogynists” and “rape apologists,” created false quotes and fictitious professors, and used The Queen’s Journal to spread lies and incite fear and hatred of male students. More than 80 professors joined in and publicly declared feminism to be the overarching ideology governing education at Queen’s. Faculty expressed their support for the feminist students who sought to vilify non-believing students. Even The Kingston Whig-Standard helped with an interview supporting Mercier, the 80-plus professors, and the notion that their detractors were nothing but a fringe group of thugs. This was organized bullying of non-believers at Queen’s University. Kingston may be a small town, but small minds should have no place at a university.
Criticism of ideological feminism at Queen’s inspired the sort of response generally only seen from religious fundamentalists confronted with a blasphemer in their midst. It could not be any clearer: Queen’s University accepts and enforces feminism as a sacred ideology. This is shameful. Every student at every university should feel 100% safe and free to question any ideology, perhaps especially feminist ideology, since it has had such a profound impact on law and public policy for more than 40 years. But that cannot happen at Queen’s, a university where faculty incite hatred and fear of male students in order to protect their ideological stranglehold on campus life and where administrators refuse to defend their students’ legitimate quest for knowledge. This is completely unacceptable and should result in dismissals and lawsuits against Queen’s.
All other requests for interviews with campus feminists were denied. Calls to Adele Mercier’s office went unanswered, and no voicemail was available.
Addendum: Vincent Matak has since responded with new information via email. I will publish his thoughts and a response in an upcoming article.