Tuesday, April 16, 2013

So why exactly did RSU reject Sarah Santhosh's men's group?

If you recall recently Sarah Santhosh and two of her fellow Ryerson University students were working on starting up a men's group on campus. Well Santhosh and her people met with the Ryerson Student Union (and the new rules that suddenly appeared two days before before the meeting) and a few hours later they were informed by email that their group had been rejected.

After slowing down and thinking about this I eventually came to wonder something.


Why would a group that simply wanted to create a space for men to talk about and address the things that affect them be rejected by a student union that basically pats itself on the back for being so diverse and so inclusive?

I'm not sure that the article I linked to doesn't have all the reasons for the rejection but the one that are mentioned are damning enough.
[RSU President Rodney] Diverlus said committee members raised concerns about the group’s association, and whether or not they were directly or indirectly associated with the groups A Voice For Men or Canadian Association For Equality.
The RSU seems to be concerned that the group may have associations and ties with A Voice For Men or Canadian Association for Equality. Just as I asked last time where are these associations and ties? Well I'm a bit of an lurker at A Voice For Men and dug up a few things of what they think about Santhosh's efforts. Here's Paul Elam* of A Voice For Men pointing out how these women that are trying to start this group are being silenced on the premise that women have been historically silenced. Hypocritical much?
[Marwa] Hamad, without any explanation as to what she was actually talking about, claimed that the measure will help RSU protect women’s issues, which ironically according to her, “have historically and continue to today to be silenced.”
It leaves one to necessarily wonder just how a group manages to be silenced when they are the only ones allowed to have the floor. The only women at RSU that are being silenced are the ones that are trying to speak to the issues faced by men.
I guess women are allowed to speak as long as they are talking about the "right" things I suppose. For the record while Elam, founder of A Voice For Men, has claimed absolutely no ties to Santhosh's group but he has encouraged people to show support for their efforts.

Santhosh had this to say about ties to such places: "We’ve already emphasized countless times that we are not a men’s rights group, we’re not trying to advocate men’s right over women’s rights and we’re not trying to somehow disqualify women’s rights".

So where is this suspicious coming from?

Well if Diverlus is any indication the suspicious seems to come from nothing more than group by gender association. In order to back up his claims that there are no systematic issues that affect men he does what a lot of people do, reach for analogies.
“We know that oppression and the marginalization of men is something that doesn’t exist just like the oppression and marginalization of straight people or white folks in our society,”
So because straight people and white people are okay that means there are no issues that affect men on a large scale? I can't help but notice that despite the information that Santhosh and her folks are presenting Diverlus is basically ignoring it and just saying that men don't have any problems. You'd think that a shorter life span, lagging in education, higher diagnosis rate of mental illness, and an outrageously higher suicide rate would be things that are affecting men and things that people might want to get together and address....

If you look back at the stated goal of the group, "create a progressive and constructive voice and lend representation to any and all Ryerson students concerned with the issues of men and boys.", you will see that there is absolutely nothing in there about ties to A Voice For Men, a desire to silence women, or a desire to overstate the issues of men. Yet that is exactly what the Ryerson Student Union got from it.

I like the last quote from Santhosh in the article:
“What they have in mind when they say women are the minority, they think of positions in power in government and corporations where men usually hold the higher positions. But they don’t take into account that…only a very small percentage of [men] are in power,”
So true. I can't be the only person that has noticed that whenever there is an attempt at trying to shut men's voices out of a conversation there is this desire to pull out the "men have the power" when in fact that is very much not true.

Maybe what's happening is that there is a small percentage of men that have power and that small percentage is held up as sole representation of the status of all men. And while I can't speak for Diverlus and his life I wonder if he is assessing the need for a space for any and all men based on that status of himself and men like him, concluding that since he and men like him don't need such a space then no man needs such a space?

(Or even the darker possibility that he knows that in order for he and men like him to keep the position they have they must work hard to push other men down. Or perhaps darker still he knows that suppressing efforts to help men curries favor with lot of unhealthy women's advocates, unhealthy women's advocates that have a lot of status and power.)

This is something that we have to get past people. We have to get past the mentality that one group speaking up inherently hurts another group or that all efforts that seek to help one group must be associated with the worst of the worst.

From what I can tell the Ryerson Student Union is blocking this group because there are some vile and mean MRA groups out there. Now I'll be the first to say that those groups need to be dealt with and there needs to be a rise of those who seek to work with and help men without resorting to such tactics.

Funny thing is that is exactly what Santhosh was doing. She and her partners were trying start up a space meant to help guys out and even in the face of having no ties with those extreme MRA elements the opposition simply created those ties (via heavy use of implication in lieu of actual evidence). So you can't blame this on A Voice For Men, Spearhead, or the extremists at Men's Rights Reddit (but if you do think that then that means we get to flip that coin over and say that the blame for people not wanting to work with feminists lies on the shoulders of Feministing, Feminste, and Manboobz). No the responsibility for this one lies squarely on the shoulders of the Ryerson Student Union.

* - Yes I know that Elam doesn't have the best of reputations when it comes to MRAs and I frankly disagree with some of what he says. On the other hand before you try to say that his show of support for Santhosh means that Santhosh is up to no good I require one thing. I require proof that anything that Paul Elam supports is inherently bad using some proof other than the negative things that he says and believes.