To the Communication Graduate Caucus and GSWS Student Union of SFU,
This is a response to the recent open letter that was addressed to the SFU Advocacy for Men & Boys club. Before I respond to the expressed concerns and accusations levied against the SFUAMB, the club’s mission statement must be noted, as it will provide the scaffolding for the remainder of this response:
- The SFUAMB supports and promotes individual freedoms in all of its operations – that is, freedom of speech, freedom of choice, freedom of association, freedom of assembly, freedom of the press, and intellectual freedom.
- Beyond supporting and promoting individual freedoms, the SFUAMB desists from the adoption of any particular ideological framework through which to view and address the issues of gender. It especially desists from the adoption of one or more of the ideological frameworks of any of its present or future executive members.
- Instead of providing a prescriptive framework that instructs members of the club and the community at large on how to view and address issues surrounding gender, the SFUAMB instead seeks to serve as a neutral platform of assembly on the basis of a mutual interest in gender equality and the exchanging of ideas, opinions, and knowledge, with honesty, openness, and veracity in mind.
As president, I will respond to your open letter on behalf of the SFUAMB. And given our mission statement, this means that my personal opinions and political views are entirely irrelevant.
The open letter was written in response to our November 8th 2015 event we held where a self-proclaimed anti-feminist, Karen Straughan, addressed concepts of toxic masculinity and toxic femininity. The event was very successful and, from my observation, everyone in the audience left more enriched and enlightened than they had been prior. Nonetheless, it is clear that Karen’s anti-feminism, along with the perceived intent behind the graphics used in the promotion of the event, are what form the entire basis for this letter and its accusations of SFUAMB being anti-feminist as a club, and even ‘anti-woman’.
Firstly, the anti-feminism that Karen aligns herself with is not synonymous with being against women or against women’s rights. Instead, it is the diametrical opposition of an ideological framework and worldview, much like individualism would be anti-collectivist because it is by definition diametrically opposed. But neither individualism nor collectivism are by definition opposed to women’s rights.
Secondly, the event that Karen spoke at was not on anti-feminism, but rather on the concepts as laid out in the title of the event. Despite putting specific promotional emphasis on toxic femininity for the simple reason that it is a concept much less talked about, Karen actually spoke more about toxic masculinity.
You took issue with the female sign surrounded by a biohazard graphic that we used to promote our event, and called it ‘offensive, hostile, and aggressive’, when in reality it is simply a perfect descriptor of the event title – the female sign denoting femininity and a biohazard sign denoting toxicity. None of our female volunteers or me, a woman, took offense to it or felt aggressed upon. Furthermore, nothing about the visual implies that femininity is inherently toxic, or that all women are toxic. That is simply your histrionic interpretation, and we can’t be held responsible for the liberties you take when you interpret signage. It’s also indisputable that if it were a male sign surrounded by a biohazard graphic, advertising an event on toxic masculinity hosted by the Women’s Centre, nobody would have batted a lash.
But this is all superficial criticism that you levy, which makes sense seeing as there were no representatives from the CGC or the GSWSSU present at the event. We encourage you to watch the actual November 8th presentation, Toxic Masculinity & TOXIC FEMININITY, that has been on the CAFE Youtube channel for many weeks now, and challenge you to find anything anti-woman in its content.
In fact, I have not met a single representative from SFPIRG, the CGC, GSWSSU, or the Women’s Centre at any of the events we’ve held so far, despite having invited many of them personally. Had you taken the time to attend any of our events, you’d be aware that we’ve invited as many feminist and egalitarian speakers as we’ve invited anti-feminist and non-feminist speakers. So far we have kept our promise, as specified in our mission statement, of being a neutral platform for all ideas to be heard and judged on their merits. And we intend on staying loyal to this principle in the future.
You continue by saying:
You claim that men are oppressed by feminism. You seem skeptical of the validity behind social issues such as men’s violence against women and the gendered wage gap, presenting flimsy evidence in an attempt to discredit us and deny our incredibly well-documented lived experiences.
Although you make no clear citation of what exactly you refer to when you make such flagrant accusations (as is the pattern of most of this letter), I can only surmise that you are referring to our Vice President’s letter to the editor of the Peak.
I see nowhere that Jesse claims men are oppressed by feminism, or denies the violence that women face. He was talking about victimization of men in society, by other men and by women. And it happens to be true that men make up the majority of victims of violent crime and half of domestic violence victims in Canada. Once again, it seems to be your interpretation that acknowledging men’s victimization for what it is is somehow trying to invalidate the victimization of women. I also find these accusations ironic seeing as Jesse was responding to an article written with the intent of invalidating men and their deservedness of a space like a Men’s Centre.
While I don’t believe Jesse was trying to discredit anybody, especially not women’s victimization, I cannot say the same for you and your misrepresentation of Karen Straughan’s remarks on why male rapists rape. You misrepresented her statement as her saying that:
men are irrational subjects who commit violence against women because they cannot find consenting sexual partners
What she actually said was that men who rape (not all men) are men who are either very damaged or men who can’t convince a woman to willingly lie down with him. That does not mean that all men who can’t find consenting partners will rape, or that it’s okay for them to rape. It simply means that there is a portion of men that do rape for these reasons. And once again, had you attended the event, you could have asked Karen to elaborate on her point. Knowing her, she probably has research to substantiate it. However, I do not take lightly to such underhanded tactics of misrepresentation.
You then proceed to provide us with ways we can improve our activism, all of which are rooted in intersectional feminism. I think you pose worthy ways of looking at gender politics. But as our mission statement specifies, the SFUAMB is not in the business of telling people how to look at these issues, but instead provide a platform of assembly for people to exchange ideas. Therefore, I encourage you to attend any of our speaker events or socials where you can share these valuable insights.
But the general impression that I have gotten from this open letter is that of “you’re anti-woman/anti-feminist/ misogynist because you don’t discuss gender the way we want you to and the way we demand you should”. This is simply an attempt at maintaining a monopoly on the conversation. Here at SFUAMB, we believe in a free market of ideas – no idea goes unchallenged.
Theryn Meyer, President
SFU Advocacy for Men & Boys
*View recordings of SFUAMB’s other speaker presentations: