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Update, May 29: According to Artscape, the "E-Day" concert organized by CAFE described below has been cancelled. Many corporate sponsors previously secured had withdrawn their support following the publication of this article and Artscape pulled the venue once they were made aware of the nature of the event.
The Canadian wing of the North American Men's Rights Movement, the Canadian Association for Equality (CAFE), has, rather improbably, been granted charitable status in Canada; meaning both that Revenue Canada felt that what CAFE is advocating for is, at least in some sense, in the "public interest" and is also not overtly political.
As CAFE itself notes:
"The benefits of charity status are significant. Henceforth your donations in support of our important programs are eligible for charitable receipts which are tax-deductible on your income tax returns. Additionally, CAFE will now qualify for a wide variety of grants and bursaries which are largely and sometimes exclusively available to charitable organizations.
Perhaps most significant is that this development, following a detailed review of our programs by the Canada Revenue Agency, serves as a major legitimization of our men’s issues agenda and a great step for our movement. There are only a handful of social service focused men’s resource centres across Canada. As far as we know, CAFE is the first organization to receive charitable status for the primary mission of public education and awareness about men’s issues."
CAFE is advocating for the idea that men, as much as women, face systemic oppression and systemic obstacles and are as equally (if not more greatly) disadvantaged as a result of the expectations placed on men and as a result of the alleged "triumph" of the feminist movement. They claim that rape culture does not exist and that false rape allegations are at least as great a problem as rape itself, they deny the gendered nature of rape and they claim that men are discriminated against by the family courts in custody disputes.
Now, of course, all of this is ludicrous. Several commentators in different forums have exposed how absurd their doctrine is. How it erases actual oppression suffered by men, everyday oppression centred around race, class and sexual orientation, and how it replaces these real oppressions with a false narrative of men being disadvantaged because they are men.
In Canada, CAFE's efforts, with varying success, have been centred around recruiting young men by focusing on university campuses. While getting some mainstream media support from National Post commentators like Barbara Kay, CAFE has also encountered great resistance on the campuses where it has attempted to establish clubs.
This has led to counter campaigns of outright intimidation against feminist activists on these campuses. Harassment campaigns by CAFE ally, the virulent American hate site A Voice for Men, have brought out the extreme misogynist ugliness that is the hallmark of the way men attack women online.
Most recently, at Queen's University, the attempt to establish a misogynist beachhead on campus resulted in typically male vitriol and an assault on an opponent of the Men's Rights club. Karen Straughan, whom Barbara Kay called a "YouTube sensation" and a regular speaker on the Men's Rights circuit, opined that she had "had more visible bruising and swelling from vigorous sex." Interesting human rights movement!
Their first speaker, Janice Fiamengo, was a reactionary with no expertise of any kind in the areas where she spews her vitriol.
The danger here is that, as we have now seen all too clearly, misogynist rhetoric and ideas when placed in the context of alienated and frustrated young men, is a profoundly dangerous mixture. CAFE capitalizes on and disregards the very real emotions of normal growing pains that come with adapting to a new environment and phase of life that all students experience. With little regard for those who may actually be suffering from some forms of systemic discrimination and alienation the Men's Rights Movement (MRM) leads them to embrace an ideology that primarily blames women for the circumstance they feel they are in.
As The Belle Jar noted, this toxicity has direct consequences that play out in the real world in very dangerous ways. The horrific "manifesto" of Elliot Rodger was heavily influenced by the bile of the MRM:
"This is what the Men’s Rights Movement teaches its members. Especially vulnerable, lonely young men who have a hard time relating to women. It teaches them that women, and especially feminist women, are to blame for their unhappiness. It teaches them that women lie, and that women are naturally predisposed to cheat, trick and manipulate. It teaches them that men as a social class are dominant over women and that they are entitled to women’s bodies. It teaches them that women who won’t give them what they want deserve some kind of punishment."
Now CAFE, presumably on the back of its charitable status, is organizing a concert for fathers' rights on Sunday, June 1 on Toronto Island. Every effort has been made, as you can see from the links and pamphlet, to not directly tie the concert to CAFE's "activism." They have even gotten corporate sponsorship for it. (Messages left with one of the sponsors were not returned.) Their claim that the concert is an "equality" event is a pure smokescreen. The movement around supposed "equal parenting" rights is entirely driven by a noxious notion that family courts are biased in favour of women.
Perhaps it is time to ask CAFE's new found sponsors if they think the point of their beers and spirits is to enable a jovial atmosphere of what has been clearly shown to be a very political agenda.
A political agenda that is overtly misogynist.
Michael Laxer lives in Toronto where he runs a bookstore with his partner Natalie. Michael has a Degree in History from Glendon College of York University. He is a political activist, a two-time former candidate and former election organizer for the NDP, is a socialist candidate for Toronto City Council in 2014 and is on the executive of the Socialist Party of Ontario.
Natalie Lochwin is an artist, activist, and the Spokesperson for the Socialist Party of Ontario. She is currently a Socialist candidate in the 2014 provincial election.