Saturday, January 7, 2017

Call it men's rights extremism because that is what it is -- What The Walrus got wrong in their article about CAFE

To ring in the New Year The Walrus magazine decided to run a rather long, and very odd piece about the Canadian Association for Equality (CAFE) and the attempts by its leader, Justin Trottier, to allegedly mainstream men's rights activism (MRA) in Canada.

CAFE, for those unfamiliar with it, and as I have written about several times before, is the Canadian front group for the broader MRA movement generally. While for years now CAFE has tried to portray itself as a benign, charitable organization that is supposedly attempting to help men and boys in crisis, it has overt and clear ties to anti-feminist extremists and to their ideological aims, a point to which we will return. 

The article -- which was penned by no less than The Walrus' editor Jonathan Kay and one of its editorial fellows Lauren Heuser -- portrays Trottier as somehow in juxtaposition to the extremists and as in some kind of struggle against them for the soul of the movement in Canada while acknowledging that, for all his words to the contrary, Trottier seems to not be doing a very good job of this. 

The article highlights this by pointing to some of the speakers at CAFE's recent 2016 conference in Ottawa that Kay and Heuser admit as 'problematic' (another point to which we will return) and by also acknowledging that some of the MRA's most "strident online supporters are directly involved with CAFE."

It ends on a somewhat critical note by stating: 
As rational-seeming and pleasant as Trottier may be, he risks forever being overshadowed by the noisier and more extreme MRA advocates who ally themselves with his cause—some of whom are even given speaking roles at his events. Until the haters get shown the door, the men’s rights movement will never truly come of age.
Given that the article was titled "Don't Call It Men's Rights" this is all very contradictory and strange. It is also inherently, despite the relatively mild criticism on the part of Kay and Heuser, fundamentally a whitewash of what CAFE is actually all about and a bit of a weird decision to dedicate so much space to on the part of what has traditionally been seen as a progressive magazine.

The closing sentence "Until the haters get shown the door, the men’s rights movement will never truly come of age" implies that it is a movement that could possibly be meaningful (and come of age) without the "haters" when, in fact, they are intrinsic to the movement and its worldview. It is akin to saying that a White Rights movement could "come of age" by showing the "haters" the door, i.e. it is absurd and misses totally what the MRA is and what its aims are. Without the haters the men's rights movement would cease to exist.

Much of this ground I have covered before. From CAFE's misleading claims and its campus recruitment tactics to its overt ties with extremists like Dan Perrins to their association with the American hate site A Voice for Men.

In the Kay and Heuser article they mention that at CAFE's conference two of the speakers were Karen Straughan and Janice Fiamengo and while calling them "prominent MRAs" they barely scratch the surface (which could have easily been done with a Google search) of what these two are about. Straughan has a long history as a "contributing editor" with the A Voice for Men hate website and with making outrageous and offensive statements about women. Fiamengo, meanwhile, has written articles on Islamaphobic and extreme right websites and has even appeared on white nationalist radio programs to attack feminism, among the other highlights of her illustrious crusade.

The fact that these two spoke at the CAFE conference says all one really needs to know about any supposed desire to become more "moderate".

Never mind CAFE's attempts to hold an "Equality Day" concert (as if it is men who need equality!) in Toronto a couple years back that was cancelled when many of those involved discovered what CAFE was about or the bizarre interview with NOW Magazine that occurred in its wake.

CAFE and other men's rights groups also actually erase the very real oppression related to class, racism and bigotry, and homophobia that many men face by derailing nonsense about men being oppressed as men or by the mythical concept of 'misandry'.

The fundamental issue with the very notion of the need for a group like CAFE or of the Men's Rights Movement generally really comes through in the The Walrus article when Trottier says "We put aside the question of who has it worst in our society, men or women. That kind of polarizing debate doesn’t help in assisting individual people and families.”

The problem with this is that putting aside the notion "of who has it worst in our society, men or women" means ignoring the existence of systemic sexism and misogyny and amounts to a fundamental denial of the historic and continuing inequality of women, never mind the shocking prevalence of male violence both against women and generally, and the reality of rape culture. There is absolutely no doubt "who has it worst in our society" and it is inherently reactionary and misogynist to imply that there is even a question about this of any kind on a societal level. Doing so is both dangerous and harmful to countless "individual people and families" most especially women and children.

It is incredibly important not to put this reality aside in any discussion of "equality" and it is only polarizing to those who oppose the very need for a feminist movement or for a continued fight for women's rights.

It is through this type of obfuscation and pretend "moderation" that Trottier and CAFE continue to both be totally entwined with the extremists while peddling what amount to thinly veiled denials of the actual reality of our male supremacist society and the ongoing struggle for women's equality.

Further Reading:

Lies our fathers told us: The men's rights movement and campus-based misogyny

A Voice for Men's new Canadian misogynist campaign, CAFE and Ryerson University

Dan Perrins, CAFE & Canada's Men's Rights movement

Mainstreaming misogyny: Canada's new charitable hate movement, CAFE

Guess what's coming to U of T: The Men's Rights Movement, Janice Fiamengo and Paul Elam

Diminishing legitimate 'male' issues: Gary Mason, the Men's Rights Movement and the myth of misandry

Anti-MRA Links & Resources

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