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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, was a socialist candidate for Toronto City Council in 2010 and is on the executive of the newly formed Socialist Party of Ontario.

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

| March 5, 2013

The Canadian Association for Equality (CAFE) is back in action on the University of Toronto's campus through its campus Men's Rights Awareness group. CAFE, as I have previously outlined, is an umbrella group for a variety of MRA sub-groups, many targeting university students, that claim to be about "fairness" and "equality" while promulgating a variety of falsehoods and inaccuracies that seek to both undermine feminism and also to perpetuate their reactionary ideological myth that men also face systemic injustice and discrimination as men. They describe this as "misandry," which they posit as a counterpoint to misogyny.

However, CAFE, unlike most of its American counterparts, is always sure to put on a face of openness and tolerance to mask their agenda. 

Back in November CAFE hosted an event at which Warren Farrell, a guru of the MRA, spoke. This was protested by student activists, a protest at which the activists attempted to block access to the event, which led to some arrests. It also led to a subsequent campaign of vicious and obscene intimidation specifically targeting female anti-MRA U of T student activists by the U.S.-based misogynist hate site, A Voice for Men (AVfM). Information about this campaign was posted on the CAFE website, despite their outward claims of not being associated with AVfM, and details of the protest, as well as the subsequent actions by AVfM,  can be found in an article about this I wrote for rabble at the time.

Now CAFE's U of T branch is hosting another speaker; a speaker whose rejection of the social progress that society has made to redress centuries of injustice and discrimination goes well beyond her attacks on feminism.

Janice Fiamengo, an English Professor at the University of Ottawa, was proudly announced by CAFE to be the latest addition to their Advisory Committee on January 5th. Not long afterwards CAFE (1) announced that she would be speaking at their next on campus event, to be held Thursday, March 7th, What's Wrong with Women's Studies? Academic Censorship, Feminism and Men.

CAFE describes the event in this way:

Dr. Janice Fiamengo, U of Ottawa English Professor, discusses the problems of academic feminism at Canadian universities: dubious scholarship, indoctrination, dogmatic teaching approaches, limitations on free speech, effects of “equity hiring,” and the consequences for men in the humanities.

According to CAFE:

The University of Toronto has kindly offered us complimentary use of one of their beautiful theatre venues, for reasons related to the law-breaking protest that occurred at our last event. CAFE offers its appreciation to the University for its strong commitment to free speech on campus.

In a recent Metro News article (2) we find Fiamengo:

 In her upcoming talk, Fiamengo will say that feminism has changed from the pursuit of equality to the pursuit of women’s power.

“It became about women’s power in certain areas and it came to represent men in very negative ways, as oppressive, as dominating, as violent, as discriminatory, as exclusionary,” she said. “It became about women’s victimization and their moral superiority as victims.”

Fiamengo believes that feminism, through the influence of women’s studies courses, has alienated young men in humanities courses.

“If I were a young man going through university, I couldn’t bear to sit through course after course drumming home that I am part of one half of the human race that is violent, responsible for the ills of the whole society,” she said. “In English, there are fewer and fewer young men and I can certainly see why.”

Fiamengo and the self-described "moderate and inclusive" CAFE are seeking to redress a new injustice.

Interestingly and tellingly, the same article includes an interview with an activist who has clearly, and understandably, been intimidated by the actions of the Men's Rights Movement after the November protest:

Heather, a feminist and social justice advocate, says at least one of those young women has been exposed to online bullying and harassment. For that reason, she doesn’t want to see the Janice Fiamengo talk go forward. However, she doesn’t know if she will take place in any kind of protest because she fears the backlash.

Heather, who asked her last name be withheld because she doesn’t want to become a target for harassment, said she doesn’t think a talk criticizing women’s studies belongs at the University of Toronto.

Heather may be right. In fact, the gutless Texan thug, Paul Elam has this to say, about the upcoming event:

University of Toronto Student Union, it is time for you to just shut up, get out of the way and let other people share ideas whether you like them or not.

Of course, it is up to you. You live in a free country as long as people like you are not running it. But whatever you choose to do, you might want to consider what happened the last time you had a bright idea.

And last November, we were not even prepared for anything to happen.

You can bet we are now.

Subtlety  is not his strong suit. Given that "we" cannot possibly include him, as he is in Texas, one can only assume he is talking tough for his brothers in Canada. Namely, CAFE and the U of T Men's Right's Group. Given that they did not disavow his previous campaign of intimidation, they are unlikely to disavow this one.

I wonder if the U of T administration sees this as just more "free speech"?

But it would seem, returning to Fiamengo, that anti-feminism is not her first attempt to strike at the politics of modernity and inclusion, and it would seem that there are other reasons that many might doubt the legitimacy of a campus club that, while claiming to be a moderate and inclusive voice, would have her as a speaker and adviser.

CAFE's newest front person is an outright reactionary and Islamophobe who is rising through the ranks of the extreme right online community by writing for hard right American websites and espousing obviously  extremist views.

In fact, in the most recent article she posted, on February 25,  Fiamengo (who is, one might add, notably obsessed with, and largely only published in, the United States, with its Fox News, talk radio ultra-right subculture) led in with:

Proclaiming himself a conciliator and a moderate with a vision of Americans “stand[ing] with each other” and “paying their fair share,” President Barack Obama is in fact one of the most partisan presidents ever to occupy the White House. Fine-sounding words notwithstanding, he is a leftist ideologue and no-holds-barred political fighter whose practice has consistently been to demonize the American equivalents of the hated kulaks (farmers) and petit-bourgeoisie (small business owners) persecuted in the Soviet Union. Obama’s enemies include those “bitter” people who “cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren’t like them” as well as the presumably benighted bigots who fail to realize that “the future must not belong to those who slander the prophet of Islam.” With his anti-American, neo-Marxist outlook shaped by mentors and heroes such as Frank Marshall Davis, Bill Ayers, Saul Alinsky, and Jeremiah Wright, Obama is naturally inclined to be suspicious of freedom and to feel sympathy for groups such as the Muslim Brotherhood.

This is, to say the least, a fascinating way to characterize the President of the United States. A President who has, in fact, been astonishingly aggressive, imperialistic and  violent in his on-going extra-judicial war murdering people in the  Middle East (including hundreds of innocent bystanders) without any pretense of a trial or due process. To say that this would be the characterization that would be made by an extreme-right zealot would be obvious.

Fiamengo posted this, as she has many other anti-Islamic articles, on David Horowitz's notoriously bigoted frontpagemag.com, a website that promotes Horowitz's outright racist musings like those found in his joint diatribe, Black Skin Privilege, which is promoted as showing that "in fact the most insidious bias in our culture today is black skin privilege."

It would seem that not only have women and feminists unjustly taken power, but so have blacks and other groups.

Fiamengo is not at all shy about this, attacking Islamics directly and vociferously. She wrote an article on Horowitz's racist site in praise of Gavin Boby, an English bigot who crusaded against mosques in British neighbourhoods, sadly often successfully. She writes glowingly:

Only in a nation hobbled by political correctness of the most mind-boggling sort could a speaker proposing nothing more shocking than residents’ right to defend their neighbourhoods be so vociferously denounced. The self-righteous outcries at Boby’s “fearmongering” came not only from the predictable sources -- in this case the Canadian arm of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-CAN), fawningly reported on by the press despite its close ties to terrorist organizations -- but also from self-proclaimed free-thinkers and mainstream journalists. When everyone involved declares their commitment to free speech while seeking to suppress, distort, and censor Boby’s message, one is left staggered by the House of Mirrors confusion passing for informed debate in this country.

Of course, she is writing of the "right" of residents to "defend their neighbourhoods" from mosques. Places of worship. In an article decrying the supposed lack of "free speech" she praises a bigot and others who would seek to deny freedom of speech to Islamics by denying them the very ability to build houses of worship.

She then, as she is aiming at an American audience, goes on to condemn the "notoriously left-wing Canadian Broadcasting Corporation" for not taking up Boby's cause.

But Fiamengo is not content with Islamics. She also "outs," in the extreme right American Libertarian site, PJ Media, the supposed preference given to Canada's Native People and other peoples in a stunningly offensive diatribe in which she belittles fellow academics who come from backgrounds that she sees as having been "favoured".

In one of her multiple attacks on the very students she teaches, who she herself holds in total contempt, she states:

Indeed, some students become so immersed in Leftist ideology -- a kind of secret society whose code language they have learned in fear and trembling and now exercise with pride -- that they believe it the only possible view of the world and have never seriously considered alternatives except as the deplorable prejudices of the hateful unwashed. Their conviction of rightness has revealed itself in a multitude of anti-intellectual and repressive behavior on university campuses across the country.

One could go on and on. There are many more examples of her work that are readily available online.

I have contended, as have others, that the so-called Men's Rights Movement is little more than a wing of a broader North American reactionary movement that uses false and grotesque arguments of reverse sexism ("misandry") and reverse racism to oppose efforts by historically oppressed communities to redress this oppression. They do so by claiming to be "radical" and fighting for "justice" and "freedom of speech" when in fact they are nothing but a continuation of the same old racist and sexist counter-movements that have sought to keep things the way they are from the beginning of all the movements for social justice of the 19th and 20th centuries.

These movements are interconnected. They all share the essential false analysis and they are all equally lying when they claim that all they want is "fairness". They are all explicitly either racist, sexist or retrograde. Often they are all of these.

Crossover backlash reactionary Fiamengo simply proves this.

(1) As an interesting side note, it is well worth checking out the demented, juvenile and misogynist ranting and "commentary" on the Facebook wall for the event.

(2) Humorously and pathetically Paul Elam of AVfM requested that his followers comment collectively on the Metro article, which they did. The comments on the article require no commentary.

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Comments

  @dan kellar

It must take extraordinary effort to not understand that there are many injustices that ARE NOT solely a "women's issue".  In fact, given the self-defined narrow definition of feminism by today’s feminists, as well as their blinkered discourse, one could argue that there many issues that are not at all a ‘women’s issue’.

 

Michael Laxer is a shill pure and simple.  A serious critique with evidence, which asks the tough questions, would have been preferred, but he would not get published on Rabble or by other similar organizations. 

Modern feminism has morphed into to an egocentric clique that quiet openly filters EVERY issue through a gynocentric lens.  There is no doubt that pre 1980’s feminism raised many legitimate issues and ultimately improved society for everyone.  Instead of taking credit for the many successes, achieved through difficult struggle, today’s feminism has taken up inventing issues while maintaining a vigilant silence on the injustices faced by children and men; not a small segment of society.  If anyone dares to address these injustices, only then will today’s feminism chime in.  Not with increased understanding , but with attacks like Michael Laxer is doing here.

Smart people see this behavior for what it is and correctly label it as self-serving and hypocritical.  This is why the term ‘feminism’ has been in decline for years.  Instead of taking on the many other injustices out there, mainstream feminism refuses to evolve. It is stuck in a closed loop paradigm relying on juvenile arguments and equally infantile scholarship.  The egalitarian feminist has moved on.  They continue to do good work, but most no longer identify as feminists. 

Feminism has profoundly influenced western culture.  Thanks to the egalitarian feminists of yesteryear, the average citizen recognizes sexism when he/she sees it leaving the sexist feminist extremely disoriented.  The only converts left are the weak-minded underdeveloped who are emotionally driven to scapegoat rather than take on the effort to understand complex subjects.  Historically, power has always relied on the useful idiots.  History also teaches us that the impediment to all exploitation is progressive and the very human understanding of elementary morality.

Apparently, Michael Laxer does not realize that his behavior is strikingly similar to the opposition the legitimate feminists faced decades ago.  Conservative thinkers, like fish, are the last to be aware of the water.

I take extreme umbrage at being labelled racist and/or sexist for supporting men's rights. There is absolutely no connection between men's rights and prejudice or stereotype.  It is mindboggling that there are still people who refuse to accept that men face certain specific social problems and political issues.  Attempting to face these issues brings greater understanding to the human condition as a whole rather than elicits the ignorance of racism and sexism.  Labelling it as such is merely bullying and harrassment.

 

The point that Fiamengo makes (as well as CAFE, MRA groups, and egalitarian groups in general) is completely lost on the author of this article.  Whether or not men can face systemic discrimination and injustice must be discussed rather than written off as impossible by those who have a vested interest in portraying men (especially caucasian males) as oppressors based on gender and ethnicity.  One would hope that this wholesale bigottry would be easily discernable and correctable rather than intentionally ignored and entrenched.  We will see.  

Characterizing a voice for men radio as a "hate site" is utterly slanderous.  The incompetence demonstrated by what, difficult as it may be to understand, amounts to a disagreement with its positions is revealed by the use of tones emoted by vitrolic name-calling (gutless thug) rather than citing specific flaws in its rationale.  Arguments over misandry or misogyny are best left to acedemics and intellectuals rather than ideology resting on self-evident truths and this is all that the likes of Paul Elam, CAFE, MRA groups, and Janice Fiamengo are arguing for - a right for their views to be analysed on their merits rather than on political popularity.

Michael Laxer, I want to thank you for bringing attention to this issue.  I am glad I read your post, although it made me livid and gave me nightmares.

I am wondering what came of the March 7 speaking engagement.  Big turnout?  Much protest?  I'd love to hear the impressions of anyone who was nearby.

I don't live in Toronto anymore, but it's where I grew up.  People ask me why I didn't go to U of T.  Isn't it a "better" school??  Well, in a word, no.  I'm proud to be a York alumnus.

really, a toothless red herring?

Interesting comment, dan.

I find it very problematic, tho, because I think it makes a common error amongst anticolonial theorists, the idea that the only way to really decolonize people is to colonize their minds with the "correct" form of history.  In this sense, the anticolonial movement is nothing more than a platonic movement concerned with the stories (presented as histories, at least Plato was honest about his myths being myths) taught to the classes of the republic/polis.  And if I am not a platonist, I am much less a dishonest platonist who fronts the myths for which he has a fetish as "veridical."  

It also fails to acknowledge modern scholarship in philosophy of history which clearly defines the "postmodern nihilist" position as tenable and self-consistent.  The issue is that the nihilist position doesn't allow for the politicization of history, as it doesn't allow for the existence of history; history is a phantom with no independent ontology outside of perception, much like categories.  And many of us have grown up beyond regimenting ourselves and others by way of ghost stories, if you follow the metaphor which I am sure you do.  

And you highlight in your response to dsds the very problem with categoristic thinking.  Are you going to tell me that QEII, by virtue of her being a woman, is more oppressed than a homeless guy with no teeth, because he is a man?  The very notion of oppression predicated of gender category membership is sophomoric and stupid.  There are rich, powerful women, and there are poor, oppressed men. Only within narrative systems like the one you wish to construct do we get fictions like "men don't need more rights."  Which men?  Are you suggesting that QEII needs more power/privilege because she is inherently oppressed as a function of her gender?  Are you suggesting that homeless men without dental plans need not be considered, because, gosh, he's a man, part of the oppressor-class?  Is a woman lawyer under the glass ceiling clearing a low six figures oppressed because a man doing the same work will clear a higher six figures?  Is she more or less oppressed than mr. homeless toothless guy?  And these are the sorts of questions begged by modern category-driven feminism, exactly the sorts of questions that will not be answered and which cannot be asked in an academic context, becuse it makes the whole enterprise look decadent and depraved.

@strengverb its not about money for everyone, only those who cant break their mind out of the patriarchal oppressions which money acts as a tool for :)  for many its about total freedom which includes responsibilities that remain until all systems are working to end oppression/colonialism (including the colonised mind).

to say categories are fictitious objects is pretty easy, a good idea even, however, a super theoretical position. In real life land, the systems that actually exists create categories for people who are then able to exercise different levels of power/privilege. all these levels of privelge/power have a historical context that we can't ignore.  to not include such historical contexts (and current realities) in your analysis is silly and perhaps even a bit dishonest (since you must know they exist, in real life).

 

and dsds, its not the government, its the people!  men need to do what Michael Laxer is doing, do what many other male allies are doing, and that is call bull shit (on the net and with their bodies) along side womyn against those who promote the "mens rights agenda". men dont need any more rights, and we certainly dont need to put our energies into movements that protect our rights as supreme over the rights of others who are systemically targeted due to their "category". we need to start looking at responsibilities linked with the rights we already have.

Janice Fiamengo seems to advocate some very disturbing and poor policies.  She might have some valid criticisms of Women's Studies, but her track record is casts doubt on that.

 

But honestly, I'm not sure how you can accuse CAFE of being reactionary.

 

Watch CAFE's video.  They seem pretty genuine.

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=PgvuR3siE6M

“It became about women’s power in certain areas and it came to represent men in very negative ways, as oppressive, as dominating, as violent, as discriminatory, as exclusionary,” she said. “It became about women’s victimization and their moral superiority as victims.”

 

It is no secret that the classical conception of the unrestrained woman was as a narcissist. One typical trait of narcissists is that they project their own bad traits onto others, typically as a way to avoid being properly labelled themselves---"oh no I am not violent, domating, that's YOU!"

 

Ideally, we could move beyond this metaphysical dross---we could teach people that they're individuals and that categories are fictitious objects without any independent existence outside of perception.  But then the gravy train is derailed, and remember, this is about money.  That's why they call it money.

 

"Progressive Feminism" is a product that many newly minted (last 40 years or so) University departments sell---like most gangs, they don't want others cutting their grass.  I mean, progressive feminism isn't philosophy, which has a pedigree thousands of years old.  It's an upstart, perhaps here today, gone tomorrow.  Follow the money.  Ignore the bleating from people earning closer to six figures than five.  Ignore their co-opted student-dupes.  Follow the money.

Backwards Reform Government brings about this kind of movement.  Scary stuff.

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