American based misogynist hate website A Voice for Men (AVfM), along with their Canadian ally the Canadian Association for Equality (CAFE), have decided to kick off 2014 in Canada with a bang.
At least, one has to assume, in part to compensate for the spectacular flop of their much ballyhooed "historic" rally in Toronto in September that drew scarcely any participants and even less of the mainstream media attention they so crave, they have decided to up the ante on their typical tactics of targeting individual feminists and activists as well as their already established tactic of trying to recruit at universities.
In a shockingly disgraceful attempt to undermine the efforts of Sexual Assault Voices of Edmonton (SAVE), AVfM is reaching for all new lows. SAVE is:
a broad-based coalition comprised of educators, NGO's, sexual assault counselors, the Edmonton Police Service, caring/invested businesses, and individuals who are committed to creating a safe community and city for everyone. Our common goal is to reduce the incidences of sexual assaults by reaching those who are responsible: the perpetrators. Why? Because sexual assault is a problem in our community. Every week, the Sexual Assault Centres and police see people who are feeling confused, ashamed, and in pain because they experienced sexual violence. We believe Edmonton can be a leader for change.
What you can expect from us is a series of campaigns with the aim of educating the public to reduce the incidences of sexual violence. Through these campaigns we will raise awareness, challenge myths, fight victim-blaming, empower bystanders, and stand in solidarity with survivors. We see Edmonton as a community that is looking for a shift to one that that is about respecting one another. SAVE wants to be part of this change. The way that we think about and respond to sexual assault is evolving. And it's time.
AVfM and the Men's Rights Movement, however, feel that rape culture is a lie, that men are sexually assaulted by women in socially significant numbers, and that false rape allegations are a serious and widespread problem, despite the fact that all of these assertions are easily proven to be and are demonstrably false, as was shown (among many other places) in a piece I co-wrote on rabble.ca with Natalie Lochwin.
As a result, AVfM and its Edmonton wing have called for its supporters to harass Karen Smith, the Executive Director of Sexual Assault Centre of Edmonton which is part of the SAVE effort, by knowingly making anonymous false sexual assault allegations against her. In a Decmeber 31, 2013 piece entitled "Stop Edmonton’s Sexual Assault Specialist, Karen Smith, from her possible crime spree!", they say:
We have for some time suspected that a member of the hate group known as Sexual Assault Voices of Edmonton, (which we sometimes refer to around here as Edmonton’s SS-A) may be a serial rapist. We have no actual proof of this, nor really, anything else to back up this claim except that she’s part of a known hate group and is obsessed with rape and believes false accusers are rare and don’t matter.
Now, because it’s so very difficult to report things to the police -- it’s emotionally wrenching and all, plus they might ask pointed questions that make you feel uncomfortable -- we support efforts to allow people to anonymously identify potential predators like Karen Smith of Edmonton might be.
So, if you were sexually molested or assaulted or otherwise the victim of criminal conduct by Edmonton’s Karen Smith, here is a form you may use to report what she did and when she did it. [Link removed]. Complete assurances have been given to us by Men’s Rights Edmonton that this form will only be used appropriately and will not be used in any “official” investigations and its contents alone will not be used as evidence against potential sex offender Karen Smith of Edmonton.
As an article in The Raw Story noted, the following day, January 1, 2014:
Paul Elam, founder of the website A Voice For Men, hosted an online discussion Wednesday with his site’s editor-in-chief, John Hembling, and feminist critic Karen Straughan to discuss their plan to harass executive director of the Sexual Assault Centre of Edmonton.
“I have looked at a number of cases where people have reported alien abductions were they were prodded and poked and had different orifices in their bodies explored by aliens in spaceships, and a common theme among these is that it turns out, in most of these cases, it was Karen Smith,” Elam said. “It wasn’t aliens.”
They followed this up on January 6, 2014, with an inane "petition" accusing Elizabeth Sheehy, a law professor at the University of Ottawa, of "promoting and enabling the spread of hatred and violence against man," for having written the book Defending Battered Women on Trial. This is due to Sheehy's belief, at least in part backed by prior Supreme Court of Canada decisions, that women who kill their abusive partners do not deserve to be prosecuted as murderers.
As Sheehy writes:
It’s true that in my book’s conclusion I make some recommendations that might seem “biased,” for example urging prosecutors to charge manslaughter rather than murder. But the fact is that among the 91 women whose cases I found, only four were convicted of murder and two of conspiracy to murder; seven were either not charged or had their charges withdrawn; 22 were acquitted; and the rest either pleaded guilty to, or were convicted of, manslaughter. Is it an appropriate expenditure of taxpayer dollars to prosecute battered women at full tilt, in light of the compassionate response of Canadian judges and jurors who hear all the evidence? Is it a just response, for battered women and their children, who have already experienced captivity and for whom testifying at trial is a “trial by ordeal”
That’s for those who read my book to decide for themselves.
To call her writing hate speech or as advocating violence against men is absurd. AVfM, and their Canadian counterpart CAFE, however, believe that men are abused at rates equal to women, despite the fact that, again as I among others have shown, this is not remotely true.
All of this is disturbing on its own, but even more so in light of CAFE's ongoing attempts to establish themselves as a legitimate organization on Canadian university campuses; an effort they have been at for several years now.
CAFE has presented itself as the "moderate" version of AVfM and have claimed to not be anti-feminist. Despite inviting men's rights Guru Warren Farrell and anti-Islamic writer Janice Fiamengo to University of Toronto events that were protested and that resulted in AVfM inspired campaigns targeting activists, CAFE has insisted that it simply wants to advocate for "equality for men." They have centred their public activities around creating totally unnecessary "men's centres" on campuses and attempting to fight for "men's issues" while claiming it is their opponents who are extremists and not them. They have often insisted that they are not connected with the embarrassingly extremist and openly misogynist AVfM so as to not be labelled as an extremist group themselves by university administrators and student unions.
And yet CAFE spokespersons have repeatedly podcast and been interviewed on AVfM, and now CAFE has announced that they are hosting the aforementioned AVfM regular, Karen Straughan (aka Girl Writes What ), who as we have seen is a part of the campaign to make false sexual assault reports against Karen Smith, as a speaker at Ryerson University on January 24, 2014.
Karen Straughan is listed as a "contributing editor" for AVfM and is notorious for her ridiculously extreme anti-feminist You Tube rants. David Futrelle of Manboobz has called her out for her outrageous comments in the past, including one in which "Straughan suggested not only that abused women regularly 'demand' the abuse they receive, but that many of them also get some sort of sexual charge from it."
CAFE, apparently, deems her behaviour and comments worthy enough that she should speak at an event of theirs. Not surprisingly, given the fact that they are not recognized as a campus club, CAFE has yet to announce the venue for the event.
The Ryerson Student Union unanimously blocked recognition of CAFE's campus club last year, a decision for which they came under fire from some quarters who claimed that they were treating all "men's rights groups" the same way. Robyn Urback called "men's rights" the "new taboo" in a National Post piece in which she said: "The student union justified the decision based on claims that the student group was backed by two external organizations, A Voice for Men and the Canadian Association for Equality, which were suggested to be 'hate groups' by the then-student union president."
But it would look like the student union was unquestionably right.
The connections between CAFE, its campus clubs and the misogynist hate site AVfM are abundantly clear. It is time for university administrations and student unions at all campuses to respond accordingly.