A men’s rights advocate spoke at the University of Toronto

The fire alarm went off, but free speech prevailed

A woman challenges Janice Fiamengo

I was expecting the police officers, the provocative placards, and the rent-a-protesters with neon hair and black face coverings.

I was also expecting the fire alarm to go off—and it did—five minutes after Janice Fiamengo’s lecture started in the nearly full George Ignatieff Theatre at the University of Toronto on Thursday evening.

After all, the last time a person spoke against academic feminism on campus, when Warren Farrell visited in November, approximately 100 protesters barred the doors. They wouldn’t try that again, but I figured they’d try to shut things down, and fire alarms can be effective if, during the confusion, enough people give up and leave.

What I wasn’t expecting was a full house 20 minutes later, after the fire department gave the all clear, or that the controversial University of Ottawa professor would make it all the way through her lecture What’s wrong with women’s studies? without an angry mob attempting to shout her down.

Don’t misunderstand me. They denounced her lecture vigorously, but not until the question and answer period after she spoke. During the lecture, most people were respectfully silent.

The general non-violence of the evening—save for the childish fire alarm routine—is a sign of progress. There were no immediate reports of injuries or arrests. The academic’s voice remained strong. The University of Toronto’s Statement on Freedom of Speech and its Policy on the Disruption of Meetings, mentioned though not read by the moderator, served their purposes well.

So what exactly was so controversial? Few protesters ahead of the meeting could offer specific reasons, except that her talk was promoted by A Voice for Men, whose associates have said some hostile things to women. It’s true that Fiamengo dislikes most of today’s academic feminism, but I think the most offensive thing she said was that, when the Titanic sank, 75 per cent of women survived, but only 18 per cent of men did, because men are somehow naturally heroic.

The rest of the talk was a fairly common critique of feminism. She called it empty, incoherent and dishonest. She said its obsession with violence results in police charging men for assault, while absolving women. She denounced a family law system she says is biased against fathers. She said she is infuriated by “affirmative action where men are passed over time and time again.” She talked about the hypocrisy that women’s studies sees violence around every corner in Canada, but turns a blind eye to the deadly oppression of women and sexual minorities in the Islamic world. And so on.

She also praised a local Toronto feminist, Steph Guthrie, who was interviewed in Metro News about the upcoming talk. Guthrie told the paper that instead of trying to shut Fiamengo down like they did to Warren Farrell, Fiamengo’s detractors should go to the lecture, ask tough questions and debate.

And that’s what many of the would-be hecklers did. In order to stand up to that Q&A microphone and challenge her with dozens of balding men glaring and videotaping, they had to have at least listened to Fiamengo’s arguments well enough to come up with their own rebuttals. That left them scribbling down on notepads and keying into smartphones in eager anticipation while she spoke.

That’s not to say many minds were changed. Many asked questions that betrayed either their admiration or disgust for Fiamengo. In fact, some of them didn’t ask questions at all, and instead just ranted about personal grievances at the hands of those evil women or those evil men.

But there were interesting back-and-forths, including one between a self-identified McGill student who asked Fiamengo to explain why “only 25 per cent of parliament is female-identified.” (I wonder how she knows all 308 member of parliaments’ gender identities, but never mind.) “There’s a difference between equality of opportunity and equality of result,” Fiamengo replied.

Only one person really lost her temper, after making a thought-provoking query about the impact of Fiamengo’s assertion that “children need their fathers” on lesbian parents. Fiamengo responded by suggesting there’s research that children do better in two-parent households. She didn’t like the answer. “That’s heteronormative bullshit,” the woman screamed, before a dramatic exit.

I don’t know that Fiamengo made a sound academic case. What I do know is that she deserves respect for gathering evidence and calmly presenting it. She also offered advice all students should heed. “Educate yourselves so you can challenge [each other],” and, “do it will style, not hatred.”

She’s right on that. The freedom to debate unpopular ideas is something universities have a duty to protect. On Thursday night at the University of Toronto, that ideal was challenged but prevailed.




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A men’s rights advocate spoke at the University of Toronto

  1. GO MEN!!! So called feminists need to sit down and start absorbing the realities of the world. Why is it that men can’t have a voice without being attacked by these lunachicks?

    Boo hoo….you live in Canada and are afforded great opportunities so drop out of women’s studies and start living! There are a lot of great men out there, just like there are a alot of great women. No one takes you seriously when you have neon hair and cover your faces. It’s not our fault that you hate yourself!

    • I lump feminists into all the other groups currently ‘fighting for their rights’…..First Nations (Idle No More), Occupy, any number of protesting Montreal univesity students. All these groups aren’t taken seriously because most people ‘using’ their voice are brain damaged. I feel bad for those members who actually want to make changes but get highjacked by these uneducated angry idiots.

      Most feminists are filled with nothing but hate and have no intention of addressing issues in a productive way. They have branded themselves and perputate the brand by spreading more of their vehement hate. Womens studies are nothing but brainwashing and look to support an argument that is not reflective of todays modern world….(especially in North America).

      I am optimistic we are moving forward and in a funny way that’s what is making them so angry. They are being left out not because they are a woman, but because they are mentally unstable.

      • Feminists are a different matter, for one reason because of the numbers of women, not all feminists, but who feminists are supposed to be representing. And that’s half the population, not a minority group. So they have the potential to become apowerful force in society, and in fact have.

        One problem with academic feminism is that they may not always have a grasp on what life is like for people excluded from that environment, or otherwise not part of it. So their theeoretical ideas and research may not always be that relevant or accurate, or be contributing much worthwhile. and then there are the pseudofeminists, who think they know but have taken no courses or done reading in women’s history, or their psychology, and so on. But I don’t see that they are all “filled with nothing but hate”. What I do see is that many don’t realize that society is changing. They still act as though women are victims of violence the same way they used to be (just because they’re women); and secondly, there is too much emphasis on women from and in other countries, denying what is actually going on here.

        See Feminism’s legacy: contributing towards social inequality, Feb 5, 2012

        http://suemcpherson.blogspot.com/2012/02/feminisms-legacy-contributing-towards.html

  2. The blatantly hateful attitude towards feminist culture is so ridiculous. It’s like hating any area of study— philosophy, geography, anthropology,… What’s next? Get a grip angry people

    • I don’t hate feminist culture, it’s the neon haired yahoos who contribute and high jack the culture itself that I am tired of. Re-read the comment. The whole world is ’caused’ out. Enough.

      Wait a minute, Im feeling hate from you! Are you a neon feminist?

      That’s it, Im forming a new group called ‘GGAP’, Get a Grip Angry People’! It’s perfect, a group to shut down all these angry feminists! Thanks!

    • That’s an absurd argument because feminism is an ideology whereas philosophy, geography, and anthropology are not.

    • That’s an absurd argument because feminism is an ideology, not a field of study like philosophy, geography, and anthropology.

    • The “blatantly hateful” attitude toward feminist culture is happening for a very good reason, and has been long a-building. Feminism has done so much to spread hatred, and make itself hateful, that the chickens are finally coming home to roost.

      And comparing feminism to “philosophy, geography, anthropology” — are you SERIOUS?? Are you trying to be funny?? Those things are respectable academic disciplines, but feminism is a mentally unhinged cult! Get a grip, pleeease!

      What’s next? Why, I propose that we put feminism out of business and shut it down cold.

      And nail up the coffin for good!

  3. “Fiamengo responded by suggesting there’s research that children do better in two-parent households.”

    This is an extreme misrepresentation of events. The speaker said that “research shows children do better with one MOTHER and one FATHER.” The woman who was angry wasn’t the only one. The whole place was in an uproar because, contrary to what Maclean’s has written here, this argument was not presented respectfully. It was extremely homophobic, unsubstantiated, and reactionary to the fact that Dr. Fiamengo could not answer the woman’s question with anything other than “I don’t know.”

    Shame on you, Maclean’s. Start reporting the truth.

    • I was at the event and I don’t agree with Fiamengo’s response since I know there is very little research to make such bold assertions and using societal averages to generalize individuals is discriminatory and the same mistake that feminists have made repeatedly in the past.

      HOWEVER, the only people acting disrespectfully were the protestors.

      • That is completely untrue. The people who were there from CAFE and A Voice for Men were just as disrespectful, but no one seems to care about that side of things. I don’t blame that girl for calling Fiamengo out on her bullshit. If I was gay and someone said that to me I’ll call them out, too.

      • “The people who were there from CAFE and A Voice for Men were just as disrespectful”

        Video tells the truth and it will be posted.

      • ““The people who were there from CAFE and A Voice for Men were just as disrespectful”

        Trouble is, there were a grand total of TWO people present from A Voice for Men. So it hard to see the basis for this statement.

        But I am personally acquainted with one of those two….so I will ask him if there is any truth in what you say.

      • The protesters were just responding to the treats and misogyny they received from MRA before the event even started. The protesters didn’t block the doors or harass anyone this year, in fact Macleans and Fiamengo were both disrespectful. Neon haired yahoos? Really? And since when is homophobia respectful?

    • I couldn’t agree more. I’m really upset that this author has completely removed the homophobia from Fiamengo’s speech. And she couldn’t even back it up! She started saying the name of a philosopher who is a complete quack and never did any of the studies that Fiamengo claimed she did. Who cares about feminism or whatever the talk was supposed to be about: Fiamengo was a flaming homophobe!

      • Perhaps because, like most accusations of bigotry seen at these sights, the “homophobia” of which you speak is your own projection. Failing to prostrate oneself to the LGBT cause, and arguing that heterosexual two parent families are better for children may not be popular, it may not even be correct, but saying it is no more homophobic than denying it is heterophobic. And MacClean’s failure to project your hostilities onto others is not some kind of journalistic faux pas.

    • No, she said she a recent study showed that children do better with a mother and father… and something about 25%.

      This is not homophobic, it is her saying she read a study that said this. That is not her being homophobic, though you can claim as much about the study if you like. Maybe it put lesbians at 24%, and heterosexual single parents at the bottom.

      The reaction of the crowd was a knee-jerk response. Given that society is “hetero-normative” (heterosexuals being the majority), is it inconceivable that the study she read, and others, wouldn’t find this? Especially considering these kids grow up in an LGBT family friendly family, and then may not be well adjusted if entering a not so LGBT friendly world.

    • My sentiments exactly! Maclean’s totally misrepresented what Prof. Fiamengo actually said, which was the quote you mentioned about research showing “that children do better with one MOTHER and one FATHER” (this is indeed what she actually said).

      This misrepresentation — probably deliberate to save Fiamengo some public shame for professing such an empirically false claim — angered not only the woman who was challenging Fiamengo, but most of the audience as well. Not only is this statement heteronormative and gender-essentialistic, it is — most importantly — completely UNTRUE. (Latest research studies actually show that children do best in lesbian couples.)

      The way this article was written makes it seem as if the people who challenged Fiamengo were nothing but hystericals and had no arguments of merit. Indeed, there were MANY valid arguments against Fiamengo’s claims, which Fiamengo herself could not defend.

      ALSO, for the woman who challenged Fiamengo with “women comprise only 25% of parliament”, when Fiamengo retorted with “equality of opportunity does not equal opportunity of result”, the challenger responded with “we have to account for the gendered psycho-social influences which discourage women and men from pursuing certain paths”. The challenger’s rebuttal — a legitimate critique against Fiamengo’s statement — was conveniently left out of this article as well.

      Indeed, SHAME on Maclean’s for allowing such a biased article (unfairly biased towards Fiamengo, probably for the sake of not “tarnishing” her professorial “reputation”) to be published. Maclean’s standards are a complete joke.

      • Yes, I expected more from MacLean’s. It’s just shock journalistic crap. Nothing of substance here. Even the tiniest bit of research would show that AVFM and their affiliates are nothing but bitter misogynists who hijack the feminist lexicon and caterwaul Farrellesque nonsense about women being powerful because we have butts and a vagina.

        MacLean’s enters the world of click bait.

    • I’m tired of people like you cheapening the word homophobic because something doesn’t agree with your worldview. How dare you lie that what Dr. Flamengo said was any of the things you mentioned. Hurt feelings are not the same as bigotry

  4. Dr. Fiamengo is NOT a “men’s rights advocate” and does not identify as such. She is a critic of academic feminism, that is all.

    • The term “men’s rights advocate” (MRA) is problematic. It is no longer clear what this term precisely means, or who is or isn’t an “MRA”.

  5. “personal grievances at the hands of those evil women or those evil men.”

    I was there, that never happened, merely OP’s biased interpretation.

  6. The talk was organized and promoted by CAFE.

    Were you even there? Did you listen to the speakers from CAFE?

  7. Modern feminism is illogical because it is based on the vanilla assumption that, but for lifelong gender socialization and pernicious patriarchy, men and women are on the whole identical. An insurmountable body of evidence by now conclusively demonstrates that the vanilla assumption is false; men and women are inherently, fundamentally, and irreconcilably different. Any political movement based on such a spectacularly incorrect assumption about human nature – that men and women are and should be identical – is doomed to failure.

    The womens movement of today is yet another cause that is sadly keeping certain people employed at the expense of women who truly need the help. It’s a shame that a young Canadian woman would degrade herself in an animalistic fashion to support something that I don’t believe they even have a clue about.

    • Equal, not identical.

  8. i don’t understand why people let them to speak, they are women-haters and she must be punished as soon as possible.

    • What leads you to the conclusions that they are women haters? Is that just your opinion, or can you back that assertion up with facts? As for not letting them speak, do you believe in silencing people’s voices?

  9. When did a positive movement from the past become such an ugly one of today? This speaker does not hate women. Men and women are different. Period. We have come so far…well except for Ryerson who won’t allow a mens group. Wow, that modern womens movement sure is working. Now that’s disgusting and embarrasing for the university.
    The weak will fall to the side, the strong women and men that are educated will prevail. Let me stir it up, and say what we are all thinking……the vocal angry feminists really aren’t the most attractive bunch. Coincidence?

  10. why does the author refer to the men who support fiamengo as balding?? he seems to have a lot of white knight tendencies.

    • http://www.avoiceformen.com/mens-rights/the-catalog-of-anti-male-shaming-tactics/

      Charge of Unattractiveness (Code Tan) – The Ugly Tan Charge

      Discussion: The target is accused of having no romantic potential as far as women are concerned. Examples:

      • “I bet you are fat and ugly.”
      • “You can’t get laid!”
      • “Creep!”
      • “Loser!”
      • “Have you thought about the problem being you?”

      Response: This is another example of “circumstantial ad hominem.” The target’s romantic potential ultimately does not reflect on the merit of his arguments.

    • What does that even mean? Balding implies racisim? The world is losing it. I miss the 60′s.

      • A white knight is somebody who jumps to the defence of the damsel in distress. In this instance I guess the damsel is all those oppressed Canadian women attending University.

  11. There is no one modern feminism, while I do believe that young feminists (myself included) have yet to consolidate on one solid problem facing images and instead follow more individualistic they perceive to face women. That is one of the differences to “modern” and “traditional” feminism. This may be because our issues are less obvious and more complex but no less problematic.

    Todays feminism IS NOT THE SAME as that of the 1960′s and 1980′s feminism which is a good thing since our world is not the same. But to imply that equality has been reached or even more absurd that somehow men are now the oppressed individuals is not grounded in a realistic image of modern society.
    A side note to the people commenting on how feminists look is nothing but pure out dated stereotyping. I wear heels, paint my nails and wear make-up when I go out and do so as a proud expression of how I identify with my sex.
    I also like men. I don’t like misogynists there is a difference between the two.

    • Men and women are both being oppressed in different ways. Anyone on either side (Feminism or MRM) who claim their gender is the only one being oppressed are idiots. But right now it’s impossible to tell which side has it worse because every time MRAs try to open a dialogue feminists shout MALE PRIVILEGE and boo them off the stage. It’s no wonder MRM sites like A Voice for Men are resorting to hateful and offensive articles as a way to promote their message, it’s the only way anyone will listen to them.

      • @ DS: A better term than MRM would be simply “non-feminist”. It is a more useful way of framing the issue, since the existence of an actual “MRM” (other than the *word* “MRM”) is problematic and disputed.

      • Yes I do agree that men can also be oppressed as oppression is indicative of our society. And the male norm is problematic to men who do not identify with the ridged gender requirements. However, such hateful discourse towards feminism is in itself very oppressive.

    • I should have said that the idea men are oppressed by women is not grounded in a realistic image of modern society.

  12. I think Dehaas does a fine job here of chronicling an event of which he understandably has a bias. He’s a man, writing an article on an anti-feminist academic on International Women’s Day, and he’s done it with a fair balance of comedic snark and respectful journalism.

    Macleans OnCampus isn’t the CBS Evening News of 1970 and Josh Dehaas isn’t Dan Rather. He’s written a story from a young adult male’s perspective about a thoughtful engagement of students and academics on the topic of feminism, presented amidst the backdrop of protests against free speech – and if that was the point of the article – he nailed it.

    The single worst thing about this article is Dehaas spent so much time on it, we missed out on his almost-always comedic round-up of Campus Buzz today. Learn your authors, people.

    • The WORST thing about the article is that he neglected to mention that CAFE was the organizer and promoter. They weren’t “guests”

  13. I’ve often wondered if feminism can withstand open debate. Sadly, the answer appears to be no.

  14. I get Susan B. Anthony, I get the 60′s and the 80′s and I also get that things are not totally equal and we have a long way to go. I am all for equal rights for BOTH men and women. But it’s not even clear to me what being a feminist means today. Can someone explain it?

    I work entry-level in a corporate setting, and I see women in very high positions and be treated equally. Granted I do not know their salary, but I see them respected and no one blinks about gender. Everyone I know is highly educated and gender never comes into play.

    What am I missing? What are these green haired monsters stomping around for? Why are men not allowed to have a Mens Group and why are women threaten with men sharing their feelings in this group? It’s almost like certain individuals are doing damage to the movement.

    We live in Canada, one of the best countries in the world. Why isn’t the womens movement more about other nations that stone a women to death for alleged adultery, or nations that can’t even fathom a woman going to school.

    I think some of these ‘feminists’ should be ashamed of themselves and aren’t even representative of what real woman is. I don’t think they will ever get there.

    • “Can someone explain it?”

      they could, but be aware the next time you wish to have a discussion, that definition will change to whatever is convenient for that new conversation. Same applies to what “The patriarchy” is, male privilege, what is objectification, rape culture, and several other concepts. Oh, and misogyny, while defined as the hatred of women, is applied to anyone that disagrees or doesn’t automatically respect an individual woman (because, for example, the woman disrespected him first and people tend to get what they give)… and sometimes it’s definition changes to require some kind of systemic power dynamic (say, when trying to deny the existence of misandry or sexism against men. Sexism sometimes gets this systemic requirement tacked on too). The constantly shifting language, combined with the constant shaming tactics and victim narratives does make reasonable debate very difficult most of the time.

    • Hear hear! It is absolutely true that men are often assumed to be violent, and that they are ignored when on the receiving end of abuse from a woman. They are also regularly and unfairly discriminated against in family law. Men who have careers traditionally held by women, particularly working with children, are frequently viewed with suspicion because many people assume men couldn’t possibly have an interest in children except to abuse them.

      I believe feminism is about the love and respect for women, NOT the fear and hatred of men. Most men I know are feminists. And yes, it’s true that men and women have differences in physiology and psychology, but that doesn’t make us not equal.

      For the record, I find the suggestion that children raised by same-sex parents are somehow lacking something terribly offensive. I am friends with several families with same-sex parents, and the kids are very well-adjusted, confident in themselves and open to the world. It can only be a good thing for a child to have role models who are proud of who they are and the love they have in their lives.

  15. Go Men..!!
    For Human rights !!
    For Freedom and free speech..

  16. The events around that talk of Fiamengo are sympthomatic for western women not being able to also take responsibility for their not only freedom (of choices) they have nowadays, but also the priviliges they have attained. The comments on this thread do also show this as on any other with respect to topics like this.

    Both genders are oppressed in various ways – always based on some groups apparent need for something – you may also call it greed, underhandidly sold to others for support of their cause. What seems to be certainly not the case is that real human rights and respect are at the center of all of it, in particular an overlived feminism feeding more female narcicissm (taking victims like hatred against fathers – just imagine you being the child to whom this is done!) avoiding any responsibility and only serving tantertantrums to get what females undeservingly desire (otherwise they could actually try to honestly work on for what they think they should have) is corroding nowadays societies.

    There are other really more important “problems” to focus on. Women in western societies indeed do not really display good responsible attitudes at the beginning in this century and may actually have to take some harsh critics because of that – a consequence of their behavior – exactly the central issue they seem have enormous difficulties with.

  17. “I think the most offensive thing she said was that, when the Titanic sank, 75 per cent of women survived, but only 18 per cent of men did, because men are somehow naturally heroic” (Josh Dehaas).

    I don’t know the figures, but everyone knows by now, or should know, that the Titanic’s downfall was an example of ‘class privilege’ in action. Even without seeing the film(s) one would surely guess at this. In a society, or a set of circumstances, where there aren’t enough boats or great careers to go around, who gets them?

    • “I don’t know the figures, but everyone knows by now, or should know, that the Titanic’s downfall was an example of ‘class privilege’ in action.”

      No. It was both, but if anything gender had a stronger impact on survival chances. The percentage saved by gender and class:

      First class women: 97%
      First class men: 33%
      Second class women: 86%
      Second class men: 8%
      Third class women: 46%
      Third class men: 16%

      Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Titanic

  18. pulling a fire alarm in a packed theater is hardly the ‘childish routine’ described in the article…it is in fact a very dangerous criminal act, perpetrated by dangerous women and those involved ought to arrested and charged

  19. I think its unfortunate that feminists receive so much backlash. The people that you call “lunachicks” are a small group of radicals that you can find in any ideological group – conservatives, Catholics, patriots. However, it doesn’t mean what feminists are trying to achieve should be denounced. Women’s studies classes open our eyes to issues of oppression all across the globe from women who who are stoned after being raped in Pakistan to women who are treated as sex objects in America. We don’t promote hate, we only hate that this is the fact of the world we live in. In North America we still have prostitution, rape, domestic abuse and let’s not forget the wage gap. I don’t deny that men are subjugated in many instances (and Fiamengo raises some great examples) but I don’t think that means that feminism and women studies is unneeded because the majority of the gender issues today are still faced by women.

  20. Feminism degenerated into a criminal association that helps women to abuse children by making them father-less with false allegations of child abuse and violence.

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  22. MRA’s have no valid arguments because they predicate their grievances by ‘it’s all women’s fault.’ Anyone who’s affiliated with A Voice for Men is either a misogynist or supports hatred and distrust of women. Fiamengo is just on the monetary bandwagon that females, the ultra rare ones, get from being a mouthpiece. Just ask the handful of women who ‘support’ these creeps. The moneytrain keeps a rollin’. If they were in any way serious about ‘helping boys and men’ then A Voice for Men wouldn’t be considered a hate site by the SPLC. (Cue all the angry men who will wrongly claim that the SPLC revoked their opinion or that the SPLC is no longer recognized as a legitimate source).

    I’m sure I’ll have to give a link eventually. Bring it on angry dudebros.

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  24. OMG, she said that children need both mothers and fathers! Heretic! Tie her up to the stake and set it aflame!

    Oh, and men invented everything, built everything, discovered everything. The very least women can do is make us a sandwich and stop nagging.

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