Academic journal article Culture, Society and Masculinities

Patriarchy and Higher Education: Organizing around Masculinities and Misogyny on Canadian Campuses

Academic journal article Culture, Society and Masculinities

Patriarchy and Higher Education: Organizing around Masculinities and Misogyny on Canadian Campuses

Article excerpt

The spread of "men's rights" organizations on Canadian university campuses raises several important questions. What can be learnt about the relationship between men's rights organizations, institutions of higher education, and the broader conceptualization of feminisms, masculinities, and patriarchies? I argue that just as the academy has provided a space for the emergence of broader and innovative understandings of masculinities, so too has it provided a uniquely fertile terrain for the emergence of reactionary and patriarchal responses to those innovations, which appropriate the conceptual frameworks and language of feminism and intersectionality. An initial consideration of this process situates the academy as an important and formative space in the shaping of those conceptual frameworks which underpin broader social struggles over gendered roles and practices.

Keywords: masculinities; men's rights; patriarchy; father's rights

In November of 2012, the University of Toronto was the scene of a confrontation that caught many in the university community off guard and resulted in one arrest. The catalyst was a guest lecture given by Dr. Warren Farrell, a controversial American author and speaker who was described in a 2001 interview as a "masculinist" (Benfer, 2001).1 The talk was organized by Men's Issues Awareness at the University of Toronto, a group affiliated with the umbrella organization Canadian Association for Equality. Farrell, who writes and tours widely on issues pertaining to men, was greeted with protests organized by a coalition calling itself "U of T Students United Against Sexism." According to the University of Toronto student newspaper "protestors accused Farrell and the men's issues awareness movement of misogyny, and of protecting and denying male privilege" (Smeenk, 2012, n.p.).

The event-later condemned in the media by both the University of Toronto Students' Union and the national student association Canadian Federation of Students-was approved by the University of Toronto's Office of Student Life. Opposition mostly came from student groups: media reported that between 50 and 100 protestors delayed the event by blocking entrance to the venue. Toronto police officers on horseback, reinforced by campus police, intervened and the talk eventually proceeded (Bredin, 2013; Smeenk, 2012).

The protest, confrontation, and police intervention at University of Toronto - which was caught on video and has since spread widely via YouTube and other forms of social media-coincides with a growing and increasingly active presence on Canadian university campuses of groups affiliated with the Canadian Association For Equality (CAFE). Described by observers as a "men's rights" advocacy group (Bredin, 2013; Smeenk, 2012), the group's website (2013) states that it is "committed to achieving equality for all Canadians." The male focus becomes readily apparent however: the organization's primary "Men's Issues Awareness" campaign aims "to engage in consciousness-raising, public education and efforts to change public policy" around areas such as "Boys Crises;" "Men's Health;" "Family law and Fathers rights;" "Crime and Punishment/Legal Biases against Men;" "Media, Social and Cultural Misandry (hatred and contempt for men)," and "Academic Misandry (e.g. in Gender Studies and Culture Studies programs)."

Although CAFE refers to itself as a national organization its primary presence is in the province of Ontario, where it is based and where it now boasts six campus chapters (University of Toronto, York University, University of Guelph, Carleton University, Trent University, and McGill University in the neighbouring province of Quebec). A seventh group has been seeking recognition at Ryerson University, where the students' union rejected its application in early March 2013, citing an anti-misogyny policy (R. Diverlus, personal communication, March 20, 2013).

This article offers an exploratory and speculative consideration of the recent spread of the "men's rights" movement on Canadian university campuses. …

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