Last night, February 10th, the RSM participated in protesting a meeting of misogynists under the guise of “men’s rights activism” on uOttawa campus. As a result, this event, which was organized, led and attended almost entirely by retired and tenured professors and other non-students, turned into a totally inappropriate, disgusting, and illegitimate show of repressive force against students.
First, campus security threatened student protesters with expulsion, a criminal record, unhireability, and homelessness. When these transparent attempts at intimidation were rightly ignored, they called the police, who had planned and prepared to make arrests in collaboration with event organizers ahead of time. No fewer than seven police officers immediately brought a cruiser and a police van to campus and swarmed the Arts (Hamelin) building, forcing the protesters to scatter. These police forces continued to patrol and sweep campus until the event was over.
Why is our campus playing host to events like this, whose organizers are explicitly conspiring beforehand with cops to use repressive force against nonviolent student protesters?? How is it that, only days after Ottawa’s mayor and police force were basking in praise for their condemnation of the violent and reactionary misogyny and hate speech of Roosh V and the Return of Kings meetup planned in Ottawa, the same police force is aggressively defending CAFE’s “freedom” to misogyny and hate speech?
CAFE, the so-called Canadian Association for Equality, is a men’s rights activist (MRA) organization which preaches misogyny, antifeminism, and rape culture. Although it is registered as a charity under the Canadian government and presents itself as concerned about men, this is only a cover. CAFE is explicitly not interested in providing social services to men, or with equipping them with tools to deal with the real issues that they face in our capitalist, patriarchal, white-supremacist and colonial society. Instead, CAFE’s “charitable work” consists entirely in “public education” and “raising awareness.” This means, in practice, that they work to spread a misogynist, antifeminist ideology that despises the gains feminism has achieved through long and hard struggle for women and gender-oppressed people’s equal right to bodily autonomy and self-determination. CAFE is on record as denying the existence of rape culture, the importance of consent, and the ongoing oppression and exploitation of women, especially women of colour, Indigenous women, women with disabilities, trans women and transfeminine people, queer women, women involved in sex work, and all intersections thereof. It is a hate group that builds its base of support upon the bodies of these women, denying that they face oppression and in fact maintaining that they are the oppressors – of privileged white men. CAFE tries to convince men that feminism has brought about their oppression in modern society, and that men need “to take back their power and their pride,” to quote directly from a recent Youtube video by Janice Fiamengo, CAFE’s primary organizer on campus. Fiamengo, who is a tenured University of Ottawa professor, is also known for her viciously racist and Islamophobic co-publications with her partner David Solway. It is clear that although CAFE tries to distance itself from less “respectable” groups like Roosh V and Return of Kings, it represents the same thing – a toxic, hateful, violent, and reactionary force that has no place on any university campus.
The RSM-uOttawa stands with students in universities across Canada in opposing CAFE’s incitement of hate, ignorance, and misogyny. CAFE’s lectures have been protested across the country. At Ryerson, CAFE has been decertified as a group and banned from campus. This is an important precedent, as an expression of the collective will and political power of students. We understand that this same will and potential for political expression exists at our university. For hours prior to the event, we participated in leafletting around campus, engaging students about the issue. Many knew about the hate and violence of MRAs already, but were not aware that an organization like CAFE was hosting events on our campus with the apparent blessing of university administration and security and police forces. Some of the students we engaged wanted to take multiple leaflets with them, so that they could deal them out to even more students in their classes. It is clear that CAFE’s message and agenda are opposed to the values and interests of students at this university.
The RSM invites University of Ottawa students to organize with us in opposition to MRA misogyny and hatred on and off campus! In weeks to come, we will have an opportunity to clearly express our opposition by attending the upcoming General Assembly, the highest decision-making body of the students of uOttawa, to vote for a motion to decertify CAFE. We will demand that the SFUO push to have CAFE banned from campus, and challenge the unacceptable anti-student police presence in our halls that comes with hateful and reactionary events like MRA meetings. Together, we can make our voices heard in a clear and unified call:
Down with rape culture!! Down with the police presence that defends misogynists and reactionaries instead of students! NO COPS ON CAMPUS!! NO MRAs ON CAMPUS!!