Long live the men's centre! - Macleans.ca

Long live the men’s centre!

Emma Teitel on the controversy at Simon Fraser University


Photo by by Brian Howell

On May 1st, my friend Josh Dehaas wrote an article about a Simon Fraser University student named Keenan Midgley who wanted to start a “Men’s Centre” to complement his university’s “Women’s Centre”–the kind that exists on nearly every Canadian university campus today.

Like the women’s centre, the men’s centre would provide a safe space for its respective gender, one in which to discuss (to quote former SFSS president Jeff McCann) “men’s issues and mental wellness and all the different things that come along with that.” As Keenan Midgley pointed out to Dehaas, suicides, alcoholism, and drug use, are more prominent among young men than they are among women. Not that it’s a competition.

Or maybe it is…

That’s the impression I got from this video, created, I suspect, by some of the most unsympathetic and over-educated people on the planet (I actually lost count of how many times one of the interviewees uses the phrase “hegemonic patriarchy.”) At no time did Midgley or McCann (who was on the CBC this morning promoting his cause) suggest that their proposed men’s centre would curb women’s rights or extract funds from the school’s existing women’s centre, but the people in this video—and those opposed to the very idea of a men’s centre in general—are under the impression that a safe space for men is a dangerous place for women. Or as some of the video’s contributors warn, “a highly masculinized space… a room with a PS3 and a bunch of douche bags playing video games”…

Which is awfully strange because you’d think that women wary of stereotypical fraternity culture (i.e. a room full of douche bags) would be the first to embrace the men’s centre. After all it’s fraternity culture—the kind that assumes men don’t need safe spaces in which to discuss their feelings and insecurities; the kind that lauds cat calling and “slut shaming”— that the men’s centre would likely do without.

Or not.

Either way, however, calling McCann and Midgley patriarchal, hegemonic, douche bags is not a valid argument against their proposal. Neither, for that matter, is weighing your group’s struggles against another’s. Just because group A (insert women/Jews/blacks here) has more problems than group B (white men) doesn’t mean group B shouldn’t seek help.

Or deserve a safe space of its own.


Long live the men’s centre!

  1. Congratulations to the folks wanting to open a Men’s Centre at SFU. I’ve been part of the Men’s Centre in Nanaimo for many years, and it is a place that men come together to talk about steriotypes, and working on some of those male things, that get in the way of truly living. Yes, women had and still have issues that need to be worked on, and I am glad that Women’s centers have done a lot to resolve some of those issues. Yes, it would be good to have those centres open to continue to work on issues of violence against women, and now it is time to start talking about issues of violence against men. We have a court system that awards sole custody to females a huge majority of the time, we have a social system that sends only males off to get killed in war, we have a suicide rate that is multiple times higher for males of all ages over 12, after separation, is eight times higher, and in the seventy’s and eighties is twelve or thirteen times higher. We have a social system that identifies violence against women as a problem, and entirely ignores violence against men, and it is no wonder to me that under this system, some men are violent.
    The Men’s centre in Nanaimo has, for years, enjoyed being a female positive place as well as a male positive place. One third of all phone calls we get are from females who are seeking support, because they realize that the kind of support they want is not available for them. Support in ethical negotiation, for example, is simply not available at other centers. Although some of our programs are exclusively male, we also welcome women and men of all genders who are having struggles with the issues that are associated with being male.
    Lets keep gender as an institution, and lets all work together to reduce the downsides that exist.

  2. My congratulations and best wishes for this important and much-needed service. Many men are at risk and are unable to obtain the support they need. It’s good to know there will be a program to which I can refer the many men and fathers that contact me in desperate need of assistance and support.

  3. I think it’s fantastic. I’d only add about the last paragraph that the target audiance of the center is all men, not just white men.

  4. Let women have their space without denying men theirs. I’m happy the men’s centre got their funding…men get put down whenever they stand up for themselves as if we’re not allowed to have issues or the courtesy to have a safe space to discuss to discuss them. Feminists have silenced men by telling them to “man up” and “stop whining” long enough.