In light of the controversial “What’s Equality Got To Do With It?” talk hosted by the equally controversial Men’s Issues Awareness Society (MIAS) this week, it appears as though gender issues are at the forefront of Queen’s public discourse. The recent assault of a female student who criticized the MIAS, has only served to further inflame the already contentious debate.
The goal of the MIAS is to “facilitate an inclusive and rational public conversation focused on ... the status, health and well-being of boys and men.” While a reasonable and perhaps laudable goal, I believe the concept of a men’s rights group is particularly objectionable and ultimately counterproductive in the quest for gender harmony.
Although the problem of male related gender inequality may be very real, it is an undeniable truth that the gender issues facing women today are substantially more pervasive and pernicious then those facing males. Gender issues encountered by men should be addressed and where possible rectified, but any approach to resolving male gender issues needs to be free from confrontational and adversarial approaches with respect to moderate and reasonable feminist agendas.
The very formation of the MIAS implies that men have reasons equal to women’s to fear discrimination and bias. Creating a group whose sole aim is to eliminate the relatively small amount of discrimination towards men is a tremendous misallocation of resources. Societal problems demand a response that is proportional to their societal impact. Men should seek to work within the existing framework of moderate feminist institutions in order to advance their cause.
Opponents to my position will almost certainly raise the issue of the number of feminist groups operating on campus and in our community, and point out men have an equal right to form such assemblies.
Men have absolutely every right to form such groups, but that doesn’t mean they should. Women have been discriminated against overtly and covertly since the start of human history. Men do not have the same historical travails with sex-based persecution, nor do they face contemporary gender prejudice on a level even remotely equal to women.
In order to find an example of the dangers facing women on campus, one need look no further than the recent disgusting and abhorrent assault on a female Queen’s student, who was involved in the debate surrounding the de-ratification of the MIAS. While MIAS Club President Mohammed Albaghdadi was quick to condemn the attack, he also absolved the MIAS of any responsibility, despite the multitude of unanswered questions surrounding the investigation. Whatever the actual circumstances of her attack, it is a prime example of the disparity in severity of discrimination faced by men and women.
While men may have legitimate concerns about their status and well-being in society, I think it is important that any attempts to address these issues are done in context. I strongly suspect there are a number of women’s groups on campus who would be more than happy to include men in their dialogue in order to achieve mutually beneficial outcomes.
Equating the problems faced by men and women in society and suggesting that equal time and effort be spent addressing both is a dangerous falsehood. I believe organizations like the MIAS only serve to exacerbate gender tensions and ultimately harm the process of achieving true gender equality.
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