On the evening of Thursday April 3rd, students from the Toronto Revolutionary Students Movement (RSM) and several other progressive campus groups at University of Toronto (U of T) gathered at the corner of St. George and Harbord. They stood on the manicured lawn and shouted, “Down with misogyny! Down with U of T! Down with the bourgeoisie!”
What were the students protesting? Once again, U of T had lent its halls to Men’s Rights Activists (MRAs), inviting them to do its fourth event on campus since September 2012. The prim bourgeois facade of the university provided a good cover for the ugly misogyny being hosted inside.
The vilest of the MRAs are associated with the website, A Voice for Men (as if men lacked a voice in our society!). The members of this website are best known for posting photographs of female students who protested their event back in November 2012, publishing their names and other personal information and going so far as to encourage people to “track down and harass” the students. Amusingly referring to themselves as non-violent and civil, they incite hatred against women who dare to speak up against them.
The men came together on a talk that examines how society has changed from being misogynistic to misandrist (yes- this is a serious concern of MRAs). Of the 40 or some people who attended the event, about 40+ came to protest. The group of protestors were modestly sized but effective and garnered a great deal of support from people passing through the area. Several students spoke, but it was the member of the RSM who revealed the true nature of men’s “oppression” – laying the blame squarely at the feet of capitalism.
At 7 pm, the students entered the building where the MRA were hosting their event. They banged on the doors behind which locked MRAs were too scared to come out. Campus pigs were called in to defend them. The students’ chanting thundered down the hallway of the building, “One struggle, one fight! Women, men & trans people unite!”
By 8 pm the MRAs had been flushed out by a fire alarm. The protesters and the MRAs converged outside the building. The students chanted and shouted through their megaphone and one MRA hit a student in anger. The student fought back. Several people scuffled and exchanged verbal assaults. The tension between those who wish to see liberation of all oppressed women and those who refer to women as “fuckmuffins” was understandably high.
The most interesting fact about the MRAs is how easily they have laid claim to the language of equality and anti-oppression. It is telling that this language is so effortlessly co-opted. According to the MRAs they are being silenced and oppressed, their voice drowned out by the evil feminists- they frame themselves as victims.
The RSM rejects the postmodern idea that every viewpoint is inherently valid and that reactionaries are entitled to free expression, we see how backwards politics can be easily masked by a veil of liberalism.
Segments of the population that are suddenly experiencing a loss of privilege have been retreating to reactionary politics to look for answers. Revolutionary working-class consciousness is so low that any loss of privilege is perceived as an act of oppression.
If the MRAs were genuine they would be mobilizing with anti-poverty groups to struggle for shelter beds for the homeless, or protesting the racist prison-industrial complex that kills hundreds of marginalized men. The MRAs who gathered around the U of T campus would do well to fight to save the Transitional Year Program, where many proletarian men and women alike are given a second chance to receive a university education. This is assuming the MRAs are serious when they say they care about these issues and are not just using them as excuses to rage against feminism.
There are legitimate questions that must be addressed – why are men overwhelmingly the ones inside prisons? Why do men often work dangerous jobs while simultaneously suffering poor mental health? The answer to these questions can be traced to capitalism which upholds oppressive gender roles for its own profit. It is not feminism that has made men “disposable” – it is capitalism, where human beings become mere commodities. The MRAs refuse to acknowledge that even with these issues facing men, men are still the ones with power; even the most powerless man can feel superior to women in this misogynist society. Proletarian women are still the most economically marginalized, they are still harassed and assaulted on a daily basis and burdened with childcare, care of the elderly and domestic duties in addition to their undervalued and underpaid jobs.
The modern day reactionary phenomenon known as MRAs shows the agony of the animal who does not know where his pain comes from, but also the vicious claws of a rabid dog. Communists should definitely fight the MRAs, but they should reach the masses before MRA ideology and similar backwards ideas take a firm hold. Communists should also struggle with liberal feminists to assert the correct feminist position, one that traces the root of oppression to the class struggle.
Gender and race are but class in drag!