Ontario Students Protest Misogyny on Campus

Anti-sexist activism takes place at universities

Roisin Lyder

Solidarity with Women's StrugglesA wave of anti-sexist activism took place last week on several campuses in Ontario. On Nov. 13 at the University of Western Ontario in London, about 40 students protested the presence of Kitchener MP, Stephen Woodworth, for a talk sponsored by the pro-life group Western Lifeline.

Western Lifeline stated that Woodworth had been invited “to speak about his efforts in support of Motion 312 and other political activities concerning abortion in Canada.”

Motion 312 was a private member’s bill introduced in the federal legislature by Woodworth in March. It called for the convening of a parliamentary committee to determine if the definition of “human being” should be extended to fetuses.

The bill was defeated 203-91 in the House and critics decried it as an attempt to reopen the abortion debate and to limit the rights of pregnant individuals. Woodworth has also faced criticism for speaking on a panel where it was claimed that gay people are sick and can be “cured.”

Student protesters distributed pro-choice materials, drew pro-choice slogans in chalk outside the building, and used the opportunity to ask Woodworth a variety of questions about the ethics of his beliefs.

“Denying people access to safe and legal abortion endangers people’s lives, and results in forced motherhood or clandestine, unsafe abortion,” said protest organizer Rachelle Marek.

The controversy at Western came in the same week that international outrage erupted over the death of a 31-year-old woman in Ireland who was denied a life saving abortion in a country where abortion remains illegal.

On other campuses, students reacted to the announcement that Men’s Issues Awareness clubs would be organizing an Ontario speaking tour for the controversial men’s rights activist Warren Farrell. Farrell argues that men are systematically disadvantaged and discriminated against.

Activists at Guelph and London had planned to distribute flyers countering some of Farrell’s claims, including the idea that men and women perpetrate domestic violence equally, that women earn as much as men do, and that women addict men with their sexuality in an attempt to extort money. The tour was cancelled in both of these cities, however, with the Facebook event page citing “lack of interest.”

Farrell did however speak at the University of Toronto, where a “Rally Against Sexism” was organized by Students Against Sexism. More than 100 people attended. Organizer Peter Hogarth said that they called the rally because Men’s Issues Awareness clubs “use the language of equality and concern for the real problems of boys and men in order to advance a politics that blames women, and the victories of the women’s movement, for those problems.”

Rally participant Alexandra Spalding said that she came to protest Farrell because he “dismisses women’s oppression, claims that rape statistics are exaggerated, complains about boys being ‘feminized’ and calls date rape ‘exciting.’ These sentiments are not conducive to a safe environment for women on campus.”

At one point when activists attempted to block access to the event, the police were called and forcibly removed the demonstrators. Hogarth said that the next goal is to circulate a petition in order to revoke the status of Men’s Issues Awareness on the University of Toronto campus for promoting hate speech.

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