Letters to the Editor — April 3

Letters to the Editor

Stand up for your rights

As men and women, feminists and Queen’s alumni, we write to you today to lend our solidarity and support to those who speak up for human rights, which include women’s rights.

We stand beside you and defend your right to voice your opinion on campus without fear of retaliation. We existed at Queen’s University, at one time or another, to maintain and strengthen a campus culture of discussion, research, debate, and activism free from threats and physically violent repercussions.

We are not here to defend or rebut the words or opinions of one person, we are here to support your right to express yourself, whether in written words, physical presence or community organizing.

As feminists we sometimes feel the risk of identifying ourselves with the “F” word or speaking up, for fear of threats, physical intimidation, or physical violence. Indeed, it would be easier to stay away than to speak up.

The backlash plays in our mind and gives us reason to pause before we share our opinion, defend what we believe, or support others who continue to push for the basic human rights of women. That backlash can shame us or bully us into stepping down, yet it is for these exact reasons that we must continue to show up, speak up, and stand up.

Without our voices, there can be no change.

We stand behind the right to space, the right to opinion and the right to demonstrate. Above all, we stand behind human rights – which include women’s rights – and acknowledge the particular barriers that women continue to face in realizing those basic rights.

We recognize the right of every person to disagree and to campaign on opposite sides of an issue, but also the responsibility we have as individuals to recognize when that discussion goes beyond a constructive effort to strengthen our community. We respect the right to engage in dialogue and constructive debate, but fundamental human rights principles of universality, indivisibility, equality and non-discrimination are non-negotiable and must remain at the forefront of all discussions.

We condemn the use of threats, intimidation, and physical violence in the on-going discussions of gender, sexuality, equality, and equity at Queen’s University and campuses across Canada. This is not the environment we are working towards.

Every voice silenced is a loss in the ongoing struggle for equality.

In Solidarity,

Lindsay Duncan

Arts and Science Graduate, 2008

ASUS President, 2006-2007

Women’s Empowerment Committee Co-chair, 2005-2006

Ani Colekessian

Arts and Science Graduate, 2007

ASUS Social Affairs Commissioner, 2006-2007

Justin Briginshaw

Arts and Science Graduate, 2009

Faculty of Education Graduate, 2010

Elamin Abdelmahmoud

Arts and Science Graduate, 2009

ASUS President, 2007-2008

Student Senator, Arts & Science, 2010-2011

Julia Miller

Arts and Science Graduate, 2007

Ian Black

Arts and Science Graduate, 2007

AMS Vice President of Operations, 2006- 2007

Aubin Calvert

Arts and Science Graduate, 2007

Marlo Toppazzini

Arts and Science Graduate, 2007

Emily Sparling

Arts and Science Graduate, 2007

Alicia Neufeld

Arts and Science Graduate, 2007

MPA Graduate, 2008

Melissa Grosser

Arts and Science Graduate, 2007

ASUS Services Commissioner, 2006-2007

Bernita Rebeiro

Arts and Science Graduate, 2007

Ellie Clin

Arts and Science Graduate, 2008

Caroline Macfarlane

Arts and Science Graduate, 2007

Caroline Cormier
Arts and Science Graduate, 2008

Christina Marciano

Arts and Science Graduate, 2009

Masters of Arts, 2010

Melody Tacit

Arts and Science Graduate, 2009

James Macmillan

Arts and Science Graduate, 2007

Masters of Business, 2011

AMS President, 2006- 2007

Natasha Sadr

Arts and Science Graduate, 2010

Masters of Business, 2011

Jennifer Holub

Arts and Science Graduate, 2007

AMS Social Issues Commissioner, 2005-2006

Tricolour Society Member, 2006

Don’t shirk on proper research

Although Janice Fiamengo’s controversial statements provoked uproar amongst the Queen’s community, her speech helped me immensely to realize the entire purpose of my studies here. Fiamengo’s speech opened my eyes to the necessity of credible research methods to enable a coherent argument both in academic and non-academic settings. Fiamengo’s arguments were flawed, not because of their content necessarily, but because of the way in which she went about asserting them.

Fiamengo made broad claims and gave limited information on her actual research. Fiamengo also failed to mention her theoretical framework, which would have made her definitions and assumptions credible.

Instead, Fiamengo argued that she was grounding her arguments in statistics. Fiamengo cited research that was completed on rape culture in three different schools in Pittsburgh, US. Even if the study showed that rape culture was not as significant as commonly perceived, can the findings really be applied to all of North America? This research only measured a particular student population, a particular geography and a particular time frame. This research does not have the ability to represent the true condition of rape culture on a wider scale. Noting this, I would argue that her arguments could be rejected solely based on the manner in which Janice Fiamengo developed her claims.

Catherine Hart ArtSci ’15

Don’t discount feminism

Janice Fiamengo’s CAFE/MIAS sponsored talk generated far more buzz on campus than her all-crock-and-no-substance, sophomoric, fallacious, uninformed and incoherent rant deserved. Academically, it was garbage: somebody needs to educate Fiamengo that cherry-picked anecdotes, “what if none of it is true” rhetorical questions, and unsupported — and, yes, misogynist — assertions that all feminist research is “fantasy and false” do not an argument make. Politically, it caused nothing but disservice to very real men’s issues.

Yes, men too are raped (and note that it is men who rape them), go to war (and note that it is not feminists who send them there), and yes they have few places to turn, few concepts to frame their circumstances, receive too little local sympathy: in other words, some men are in exactly the morally and epistemically and hermeneutically unjust and helpless circumstances in which many women found themselves until just a couple of decades ago, and still do in most of the world. Feminists are the best allies of such men, who can learn from feminists and their struggles how to conceptualize their circumstances and how to organize themselves.

The Fiamengo/CAFE/MIAS claim that men “lose custody of their children because they were out working while the mothers stayed at home nurturing the children”, is false in most countries on earth where custody goes to whoever has the most means (i.e. men), false in a country like Canada where joint custody is the norm except where it would be against the interests of the children, and where true, precisely a result of patriarchal structures and distributions of labour that feminists have rightly been decrying for as long as feminists have been in existence; and it is precisely feminists that Canadian men have to thank for the fact that joint custody is now the norm.

Yes, young men commit suicide more than young women, especially those too macho to seek help. (And those who don’t commit suicide have feminism to thank for allowing them to be vulnerable and encouraging them to seek counseling, a most “unmanly” thing to do.) That is not because more young men attempt suicide than young women; according to the Mayo Clinic, twice as many women as men suffer from depression. Rather, it is precisely because — listen up, Fiamengo — men use more violent (thus less forgiving) means in attempting suicide.

Feminists have had their hands full fighting for a century to get women’s issues taken seriously, and now CAFE/MIAS men complain because feminists have not also resolved their issues. If that is not male privilege and patriarchy speaking (“Mother! Take care of MY needs!”), I don’t know what it is.

Fiamengo, who denies that patriarchy exists and even ever has, forgets that it is less than one hundred years ago that women were declared persons in Canada: women had always legally counted as persons in terms of pains and punishments, but it was only in 1929 that women legally became persons in rights and privileges. If that is not male privilege and patriarchy staring you in the face, I don’t know what possibly could be.

The best part of the event was without question the students in the audience. One can legitimately fear the ideological influence of rhetorical bullshit on the simpleminded. But Queen’s students showed themselves glamorously above the simpleminded rhetoric they were fed Thursday evening. I was profoundly touched by the number of young white men who unabashedly prefaced their comments by acknowledging their positions of privilege. That is what can make us of all sexes hopeful for a better and more cooperative future.

Adèle Mercier,

Department of Philosophy

Student apathy not fault of Union Gallery

Last month, the Queen’s University Alma Mater Society voted in its General Assembly against supporting Union Gallery’s appeal for renewed funding from the undergraduates. According to the Queen’s Journal, the gallery was cited as a “niche” service at the Assembly, and ASUS Representative Kanivanan Chinniah said, “If you aren’t willing to engage students, I don’t think you deserve the fee.” This dismissive attitude towards the arts on campus is both offensive to an entire University department and dangerous in its austerity. It is vitally important to advocate for Union Gallery and the values it upholds simply by opening its doors.

Labeling Union Gallery a superfluous niche service is like labeling the University’s art department a niche interest group. It’s arrogant and irresponsible for the AMS to devalue the work of a complete segment of University staff, faculty, students and alumni by denying the importance of one of its essential services. If Queen’s is dedicated to upholding its “longstanding reputation for offering its students an exceptional educational and extra-curricular learning experience,” as outlined in its latest Strategic PIan, then the AMS ought to advocate for resources that are indispensable learning tools to student populations that mayn’t find their strength in numbers.

Personally, I spent four years on Union Gallery’s Board of Directors before graduating from the University’s BFA program in 2007; and I’m currently Programs Coordinator for the OCAD University Student Gallery in Toronto. The skills and experience I gained at Union Gallery directly correlate to my professional life today. My job is my joy, and I don’t want to imagine where I’d be if I’d not started my journey off on the right foot by stepping into Union Gallery.

In addition to debasing a field of work and study, belittling the activities of Union Gallery undercuts the immeasurable, positive impact that the arts have on communities. While artists and art workers are accustomed to being brushed aside as inessential and frivolous, we’ll never understand how the culture of questioning, acceptance and understanding that’s fostered by the arts can be considered so disposable. When the distinctly human compulsions to create, imagine and play are stifled, malaise follows.

Maybe it’s dramatic to compare the closure of Union Gallery to the brand of cultural vacuum that kills societal spirit; however, it’s the little things that count, and a rich, healthy community is composed of many small pieces fitting together. That said, Union Gallery does figure largely on Kingston’s cultural landscape, which is only home to two other contemporary art spaces: Agnes Etherington Art Centre and Modern Fuel Artist Run Centre. The loss of Union Gallery and its commitment to emerging art practices will be a significant local loss.

Chinniah condemns Union Gallery for not engaging students; but I’d condemn students for not engaging with Union Gallery. If the AMS isn’t punished for low voter turnout, then Union Gallery oughtn’t be punished for the same apathy epidemic. If the powers-that-be led by example, perhaps Queen’s students would stop measuring community services by their bottom line.

Vanessa Nicholas (BFA Hons. 2007)


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