Students say Janice Fiamengo’s ideas have ‘no place on campus’

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Clapping, chanting, and a vuvuzela interrupted University of Ottawa professor Janice Fiamengo and her speech on “men’s issues and feminism’s double standards” on March 28, causing a loud feud between participants and protestors.

Representatives from the Canadian Association for Equality (CAFE) gathered at the University of Ottawa to discuss men’s issues, but were shut down by a protest set in motion by the Revolutionary Student Movement (RSM).

Demonstrators, who had been disguised as part of the audience, went from sitting quietly to yelling, banging on desks, and blasting a vuvuzela horn in an attempt to stop what they called hate speech.

The Fulcrum communicated with the RSM via email, because members want to remain anonymous for security reasons.

“We feel that these ideas have no place on our campus and refuse to legitimize them by allowing them space to organize,” a representative for the RSM wrote. “As was demonstrated, campus security will not protect our community from events that are harmful to men, women, and trans people in the community, so we decided to stand up for what we feel is right.”

Loud debate between protestors and attendees ensued for close to 20 minutes until campus security arrived. Eventually the lecture had to be moved to another room. Security denied entry to the new room and removed noisy protestors.

The event’s speaker, Janice Fiamengo, is an English professor at the U of O and has been working with CAFE for the past year and a half. She got involved with the organization after she heard a lecture on a similar topic by American activist and author Warren Farrell was protested at the University of Toronto.

Fiamengo said her talk was intended to dispel the “myth” of rape culture. She said that while the comments made about Anne-Marie Roy, president of the Student Federation of the University of Ottawa (SFUO), were “disgusting,” they don’t demonstrate rape culture.

“It’s not helpful to use terms like rape culture to discuss the very few incidents on campus that have recently come to light,” she said. “To claim it is the culture that exists is simply to engage with a simple fantasy, whose only purpose is to make women afraid unnecessarily, fill women with righteous outrage, and to make men feel they are some way to blame.”

Fiamengo was continually disrupted throughout her speech, called a “shame to the university” by one protestor, and told to quit her job. Fiamengo said the protesters were just proving her point.

“(There) is an element on university campuses that would like to quash all dissent,” she said. “They would like to silence anyone who merely articulates an opposing point of view without even hearing it,” she said. “In a free society people debate ideas and freedom of speech means even freedom for speech you find repugnant.”

The RSM said the U of O is not the only campus to have rejected this event, and that students “have a right to decide what does and does not happen here.”

“It is clear that other campuses also feel the ideas being put forward by men’s rights activists are dangerous and hateful,” a representative said.

Fiamengo said she believes promoting the idea of women having a high likelihood of being raped is “simply nonsense.”

“There’s a lot of exaggeration that goes on, and I don’t think it helps women to understand what our situation is on the university campus,” she said. “It’s very unjust, (labelling) all men as potential rapists.”

But Elizabeth Seibel, a protestor at the event, said she felt the subject was not worth debating.

“I felt like at a time when we’re really trying to make sure that everyone feels safe on campus, this was a very counterproductive speech that creates an unsafe atmosphere for many students and pushes back the progress that we’ve been trying to achieve.”

Preceding an identical event featuring Fiamengo at Queen’s University on March 27, a female was assaulted outside her home. Some believe she was assaulted because she spoke against the lecture, but Kingston police have not confirmed a connection. Seibel said she heard about it because her friend knew the woman assaulted.

“A lot of people had been linking the two events, because she was very against the event and then was assaulted before the event took place,” she said.

A representative for the RSM said the assault is an example of the hatred promoted by men’s rights activists, and that it is clear she was assaulted because she was against them.

Ruben Avila, the master of ceremonies for the event, is a U of O graduate who now studies social justice at the U of T. He refuted any allegations that the assault was linked to CAFE. He said that “any kind of violence and abuse is obviously not supported” by the group.

“I guess what people are trying to allude to is that somebody from our group did that, but only three of us came up from Toronto,” he said. “There was another handful of students who were leading the Queen’s initiative on campus and we can account for them, so it was none of us from our group. We’re all accounted for. We can verify that on our side of things … we’ll have to see if any facts pop up and we haven’t really seen any substantial development from that perspective.” f