A Daring Talk on Men

Karen Straughan, a soft-spoken Canadian activist, gave a controversial speech last night at Ryerson University in Toronto. Her topic was, “Are Men Obsolete? Feminism, Free Speech and the Censorship of Men’s Issues.” This is not a favored topic at Ryerson. Last March, the Ryerson Student Union banned the formation of any campus group dealing with men’s issues because such “groups, meetings, events or initiatives negate the need to centre women’s voices in the struggle for gender equity.” The student union, without debate, also pushed through a resolution rejecting “the concept of misandry [anti-male prjudice] as it ignores the inequity that exists between men and women.”

“It’s the Marxist thing,” said Iain Dwyer of the Canadian Association for Equality (CAFÉ), sponsor of the Straughan talk. “The world is divided into oppressors and the oppressed and you can’t let the oppressors talk.” CAFÉ was due to pay an $1800 security fee to cover damage that might be done by protesters at the talk. A sponsor agree to pay the fee, but then the president of Ryerson, Sheldon Levy, waived the security fee on grounds that it interfered with free speech. Last year protesters pull fire alarms, shouted “rapists” and tried to drown out a talk at the University of Toronto by Warren Farrell, author of several books on men. Last night’s talk took place without incident.

An excerpt from the Straughan speech:

Now I’m not going to bore everyone here with a mindboggling array of statistics to prove that men are not, in fact, obsolete. Anyone can go look at the census bureau’s labor statistics and observe that it is almost entirely men who keep the lights on, the water running and the planes from falling out of the sky. Our comfortable, mostly smoothly operating, safe, orderly existence is built and maintained almost entirely by men. Suffice to say that if all men walked off the proverbial job, at work and at home, for three days, we would be three years cleaning up the mess. It takes a particular brand of narcissism to be able to sit in a climate controlled office building, or stand up on a stage in front of a national audience, and declare that the class of people who comprise 90% or more of the individuals who built and maintain the whole shebang, are candidates for the scrapyard.

John Leo

John Leo is the editor of Minding the Campus, dedicated to chronicling imbalances within higher education and restoring intellectual pluralism to our American universities. His popular column, "On Society," ran in U.S.News & World Report for 17 years.

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