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A men's centre, because women have te women's centre (at university).
May 17, 2012 10:34 PM   Subscribe

Are gender-based safe spaces needed? Students at a Canadian university (SFU) want a men's centre, and though there is some controversy, it seems to be rolling towards approval.

A Men's Support Society approves.
posted by Listener (105 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite

 
There's already a men's center, it's called the philosophy department.
posted by mek at 10:41 PM on May 17, 2012 [25 favorites]


And on the second link (rolling towards) there is a small NSFW image at left that links to a pdf full issue of the student paper which has a couple more men's centre things in it.
posted by Listener at 10:41 PM on May 17, 2012


At this point I don't feel like I'm even capable of formulating an opinion on anything regarding gender, safe-spaces, whatever. Anything can go because at the end of the day all this seems to be based on is a bunch of people saying things and that's about it.
posted by jumelle at 10:48 PM on May 17, 2012 [4 favorites]


For a serious discussion of the coming Men's Centre, I clicked on a link that was a naked woman with cookie pasties.

I suspect that says more about the future trajectory of the centre than the student's opinions on it.
posted by fatbird at 10:51 PM on May 17, 2012 [6 favorites]


Intellectually I understand the desire for a men's center.

Practically, there is a men's movement in the Twin Cities, the Mythopoetic groups, that go off in the woods, take off their clothes, beat on drums, get erections, hug each other, and talk about how it is all all right.

And maybe this was a good thing. All I'm saying is that when you leave groups of men to their own devices, they have a history of getting a little weird.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 10:54 PM on May 17, 2012 [15 favorites]


I am in favor of any space where men have the opportunity to reflect on and challenge norms of masculinity that they find problematic or offensive.

What would be awesome is if they worked in tandem instead of in opposition to the women's center, to address the fact that women's and men's issues are the result of the same social system that doles out expectations, privileges and oppression.


I am a feminist badass lesbian extraordinaire, and this is OK by me as long as it's not a "What About the Men?" center that diminishes the problems women face, or a glorified Man Cave.
posted by nakedmolerats at 10:54 PM on May 17, 2012 [72 favorites]


*I realize that the article didn't say one way or the other if they planned on working in opposition to the women's center. Just that that would be one possibility that's fairly common in "what about the men"? communities.
posted by nakedmolerats at 10:56 PM on May 17, 2012


My girlfriend just added "They bro out!" Which reminded me of seeing a group of men in car on Yucca a few days ago. They had all gotten tacos and had pulled over to eat them. And they were broing out on the tacos.

"Bro!" one was saying. "Get it in your mouth! Get your mouth around it! Come on, bro, eat that taco, bro!"

I have to say, if this is what the men's centre is to be, I'm sort of in favor of it.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 10:57 PM on May 17, 2012 [10 favorites]


Metafilter: broing out on tacos
posted by nakedmolerats at 10:58 PM on May 17, 2012 [2 favorites]


At this time I don’t know yet what a ‘brick and mortar’ centre would accomplish. - the guy who just approved the funding for it

Perhaps he should have created a line item for 'investigation and definition of a men's centre' instead? I am not sure that allocating money and then figuring out what to do with it is going to be an effective method of achieving these goals he hasn't yet defined.

But I also learned from that student magazine that this college has a mandatory gym requirement, for CS students only, so it seems like they are pretty hardcore with their stereotyping already.
posted by jacalata at 11:01 PM on May 17, 2012 [3 favorites]


Being a grad student living in a neighborhood surrounded by frat houses has given me lots of opportunity to reflect on the reasons why I don't drink. While I think a 21 year old drinking age is dumb, the culture of drinking available to college age men is one where, for the most part, they are expected and required to act violent toward other men and sexual toward other women. That sounds like what this kid is complaining about: there's no safe space to address emotional issues without being surrounded by alcohol. It's unfortunate he doesn't understand the optics around calling it a men's center, or being clear that a culture which teaches men to denigrate women is a huge part of the problem, but the idea itself doesn't strike me as totally misguided.
posted by Apropos of Something at 11:02 PM on May 17, 2012 [3 favorites]


What would be awesome is if they worked in tandem instead of in opposition to the women's center

I got the the opposite impression from the article: it seems like the women's center folks are the ones opposing the men's center.
posted by cosmic.osmo at 11:04 PM on May 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


>But I also learned from that student magazine that this college has a mandatory gym requirement, for CS students only, so it seems like they are pretty hardcore with their stereotyping already.

Actually that article was about BCIT, a tech school not part of Simon Fraser U.
posted by Listener at 11:06 PM on May 17, 2012


I listened to an interview on CBC's the Current with Jeff McCaan, the SFU student politician who arranged this thing. He sounds very much like a... politician, and I was impressed with his command of the language.

What I got out of the interview is that the SFU student's society has a "surplus", and part of the surplus has been earmarked for the Men's Centre without any sort of description about what the Men's Centre should be, so it sounds little like putting the cart before the horse.

I kind of get what he's trying to do, but, then again, there seem to be any number of organizations on campus already aimed specifically at men (gay men, men with disabilities, aboriginal men, men who like to drink beer and wear ball caps, men who like to play pinball, Ultimate...)
posted by KokuRyu at 11:06 PM on May 17, 2012


ah, my bad. I figured BCIT must be a department in the university. Why is it in their student magazine then?
posted by jacalata at 11:07 PM on May 17, 2012


Context:

1) Macleans is an organ of the Conservative party. When they bio somebody, it's because that person is an exemplar of Toryhood.

2) That's the treatment they gave Men's Centre advocate Keenan Midgley along with giving his project a shoutout. Midgley seems to also make the Google for anti-union and anti-PIRG efforts at SFU.

3) Therefore, IT'S A FUCKIN' TRAP.
posted by mobunited at 11:07 PM on May 17, 2012 [6 favorites]


Oh come on, Maclean's is actually kind of interesting to read.
posted by KokuRyu at 11:08 PM on May 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


Women have their center and the men want one too, for the sake of parity.

Fine, give it to them.

Then when women assert their right to half the faculty and administrative positions, the men can make no objections.
posted by jamjam at 11:17 PM on May 17, 2012 [14 favorites]


> Why is it in their student magazine then?

The student-run newspaper (what you called the magazine) got that story from CUP, Canadian University Press. Seems it came from The Link at BCIT, which must be BCIT's student newspaper. You can see CUP right at the beginning of the story, just as you would see Reuters or CP (Canadian Press) in a non-student newspaper.
posted by Listener at 11:17 PM on May 17, 2012


There's already a men's center, it's called the philosophy department.

Given "Everyone in the philosophy department is male," it doesn't follow that "All men are in the philosophy department."
posted by John Cohen at 11:19 PM on May 17, 2012 [8 favorites]


Then when women assert their right to half the faculty and administrative positions, the men can make no objections.

There's a crucial distinction. If there are two centers that allow anyone between the two of them, no one is excluded altogether (i.e. everyone's allowed in at least one center). If you have a quota for hiring, many people who would have otherwise been considered the most qualified will be excluded altogether (to the detriment of everyone concerned).
posted by John Cohen at 11:24 PM on May 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


My girlfriend just added "They bro out!" Which reminded me of seeing a group of men in car on Yucca a few days ago. They had all gotten tacos and had pulled over to eat them. And they were broing out on the tacos.
In my head I heard "they bro out" the same way LMFAO says "I work out" Sexy and I know it
posted by delmoi at 11:25 PM on May 17, 2012 [3 favorites]


Metafilter: a bunch of people saying things and that's about it.
posted by Joe in Australia at 11:26 PM on May 17, 2012 [2 favorites]


nakedmolerats: "I am a feminist badass lesbian extraordinaire ..."

I got nothing to add to this discussion except that I think the above is an awesome turn of phrase.
posted by barnacles at 11:26 PM on May 17, 2012


Now, here's the thing:

1) Men in particular develop serious health problems and don't see doctors enough because of patterns of poor self-care.

2) Men kill themselves and each other a lot. They also beat the shit out of each other a lot.

3) In Canada at least, men's educational outcomes have degenerated past the point of correction for cultural sexism.

(This is not saying that men don't have the Scalzian easier mode. They do. But they still have problems of their own that cannot be solved individually.)

These problems are tough to tackle because it's what patriarchy is doing to its benefactors. Patriarchy strongly encourages men to reproduce its norms when they get together. Men do not like being told this will happen, but it does. That's why all those groups that start out as "We will be a fellowship of men without assholes," invariably generates assholes.

These problems need to be solved outside the very cultural-psychological framework men bring with them -- but it's not the responsibility of anyone *but* men to do anything about them.

So what do you do? It's not easy. I mean, attacking sexism will help, but it probably won't help the guy who reflexively decides he won't go to the doctor about that mole or won't go to the cops about two guys jumping him and beating the shit out of him today -- it'll incrementally help in ways that particular man may not see during a crisis period.

This men's centre thing is a reactionary load of bullshit couched in compassionate language as a political ploy, but the trickery works because it refers to real problems.

So I don't know. I mean, I know *this* is a bad idea, but I don't know how to address those problems, and if I may presume some special understanding for a sec, most men will not even recognize the dynamic where the source of their advantage harms them.
posted by mobunited at 11:34 PM on May 17, 2012 [31 favorites]


Oh come on, Maclean's is actually kind of interesting to read.

Conrad wuz framed!
posted by mobunited at 11:36 PM on May 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


If you have a quota for hiring, many people who would have otherwise been considered the most qualified will be excluded altogether (to the detriment of everyone concerned).
Well, how are women (or any other minority group) supposed to become the "most qualified" if they can't get the positions, or the preliminary positions in the first place?

Anyway, a men's center sounds like it would be fun. Probably a great place to meet other dudes to play video games or something.
posted by delmoi at 11:37 PM on May 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


According to the article, the women's center's website FAQ says that "[m]asculinity ... encourages violence.” The article also says a women's center is needed to stop violence against women. OK, let's go with the violence theme. Most violent crimes are committed by men, but most victims of violent crime are men too. "There have been lab experiments with both men and women where it has been shown that we have fewer inhibitions inflicting violence against men than women." So, couldn't one purpose of a men's center be to focus on violence against men?
posted by John Cohen at 11:42 PM on May 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


John, don't trust the article, Macleans is a terrible rag. The actual FAQ says:

"We know that many men are concerned with the way masculinity denegrates women by making them into sexual objects, is homophobic, encourages violence, and discourages emotional expression."

Like I said: A FUCKIN' TRAP.
posted by mobunited at 11:50 PM on May 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm reminded of a comment in this thread by Jairus:

For real. Anyone who thinks there aren't these spaces everywhere is crazy. I was at a local sports bar just a week or so ago, having a great conversation about men as victims of rape and how threatened men are by male friends who like wearing skirts, when the friendly hockey dad at the next table called us a bunch of fucking faggots.

Wait, I think I did that wrong.


So it'd be nice if it didn't get co-opted as a venue for the Oppression Olympics, because I think there could be some real potential.
posted by ODiV at 11:54 PM on May 17, 2012 [5 favorites]


They should fill the centre with Victorian Chairs, brandy, newspapers and cigars. And rename it the gentlemens centre. Then we men can go their and do business together.
posted by zoo at 11:54 PM on May 17, 2012 [3 favorites]


I think, even if this is made into a sort of men's only space, the center should exist in conversation with women. I mean, I suppose it doesn't necessarily follow that within a few weeks they will be talking about how women screw men out of child support and that single female mothers lead to children who use drugs and commit crimes, but it's not unheard of.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 12:18 AM on May 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


They should just build one big center with a wall dividing it down the middle. One designated women can pass over to the other side anytime she really wants to. If a man crosses over the faculty need to step in and cordon off large areas of the men's side randomly as a penalty and that area becomes unusable. If the men truly want to cross over or get back the cordoned areas, the women have to agree to a merger, but the men need to boot one of their members as a penalty and he will never be allowed back into the center. That man may be allowed back in but only if one of the women truly allows him back in.

Hey, it worked on Fringe.
posted by Rocket Surgeon at 12:30 AM on May 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


There's already a men's center, it's called the philosophy department.

Not sure about the students... but 5 out of 12 philosophy professors are women, including the department chair. When I took the intro to moral philosophy course at SFU, the prof and TA were both women.

The comp sci department looks as male-dominated as I remember it though...
posted by problemspace at 12:30 AM on May 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


mobunited: "The actual FAQ says"

Having actually read that, it sounds like the women's center sponsors a male allies group that accomplishes (at least some) of the aims I mentioned above. A college campus is likely to also have gender-specific group therapy to talk about actual physical issues. So, yeah, in that context, this sounds a lot like White History Month.
posted by Apropos of Something at 12:31 AM on May 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


Practically, there is a men's movement in the Twin Cities, the Mythopoetic groups, that go off in the woods, take off their clothes, beat on drums, get erections, hug each other, and talk about how it is all all right.

And maybe this was a good thing. All I'm saying is that when you leave groups of men to their own devices, they have a history of getting a little weird.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 10:54 PM on May 17 [2 favorites +] [!]

In yet another case of life imitating art, this is actually the premise of a comedy sketch from an early 90s Australian TV show.


Somewhat unrelated, a house mate was having a gripe the other night at an advertisement on TV calling for nominations for the National Business Women Awards, or some such thing. Of course it was the predictable "what about awards for business men huh?". He didn't particularly warm to my response that there already existed an extensive set of awards for male business people - it's called world of business.
posted by Hello, I'm David McGahan at 12:55 AM on May 18, 2012 [4 favorites]


This sounds like when the male engineers at our doomed '07 startup decreed that they needed weekly company sponsored Men's Nights to get away from all two of the women they worked with. It was for "professional development", but somehow it always featured lots of shop talk and decisions presented as faits accompli to the lady folk the next day. Also, they ran up quite a booze tab on the company dime.

We ladies might have given a fuck, but we were too busy getting the hell out of there to bother.
posted by SakuraK at 1:13 AM on May 18, 2012 [9 favorites]


This sounds like when the male engineers at our doomed '07 startup decreed that they needed weekly company sponsored Men's Nights to get away from all two of the women they worked with.
LOL, Doomed is the right word.
posted by delmoi at 1:40 AM on May 18, 2012 [3 favorites]


I think this does raise interesting questions though about how do men actually step into manhood. I know when I was at University, it was something I thought about a lot, and my friends did too. In my case, being gay added to the complexities, but trying to find your place in the world, and what it meant to be a man and how you conduct yourself are common themes for college guys. I find it odd that there is so much making fun of the idea of a men's centre. And as for how they dialogue with the women's centre - who cares? I would not expect men would have any say in how a women's centre is run at all. I mean, I contribute regularly to the downtown eastside women's shelter, but I know will never step foot in that centre or try to guide policy. Why? Because it's a women's safe place.
posted by helmutdog at 2:10 AM on May 18, 2012 [3 favorites]


I find it odd that there is so much making fun of the idea of a men's centre.

I, likewise, find nothing ironic or risible about the situation.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm late for my Straight Students League meeting. It's in the student union, right next to the White History Centre.
posted by sebastienbailard at 2:41 AM on May 18, 2012 [6 favorites]


This is about as necessary as a White Entertainment Television.
posted by L.P. Hatecraft at 3:25 AM on May 18, 2012


What would be awesome is if they worked in tandem instead of in opposition to the women's center, to address the fact that women's and men's issues are the result of the same social system that doles out expectations, privileges and oppression.

I agree entirely with this. Like it or not, but there are men who don't feel safe basically anywhere with their thoughts, beliefs and feelings about the way men treat each other and women.

- If you call another guy out for being sexist, you have to be prepared for a physical altercation or to be called a variety of homophobic slurs.
- Speaking of which, calling someone out for being homophobic, or racist, or just plain obnoxious leads down those same roads.
- Trying to intervene on friends at a bar who are trying to pick up an obviously-too-drunk woman is really, really difficult.
- Trying to ensure that women understand that your friend, when he's been drinking, can get a little aggressive and thus don't be alone with him is really tough.
- Trying to interven on a friend who's clearly had enough to drink in a culture that screams more more more is a great way to get un-invited from future parties.

So yeah, while I agree it's a man's world, it's an uncomfortable one for a lot of us. There really aren't safe places to discuss these topics with men who agree and know how to deal. There's no mentorship for this kind of behaviour either; every time I've called someone out for catcalling a woman, I've gone it alone. It's isolating behaviour. My father, grandfather and other male role models don't do this and don't identify with the reasoning behind it, so there's no wisdom to be passed down.

Maybe the outcomes of calling out your peers for their obvious entitlements would be greater if men knew there were others out there. The two centres (women's and men's) could work together on common issues, stage debates and discussions on key topics and raise the level of discourse significantly.
posted by Rodrigo Lamaitre at 3:53 AM on May 18, 2012 [22 favorites]


Speaking for myself, as a straight white male, I really don't feel particularly comforted by the company of my own kind. As friends, sure. Celebrating something, discussing something, carrying out some project - all fine. But in a position of emotional vulnerability? Hell no. At the root, the heart of it, my lizard-brain sees them as competitors. The more scared and lonely I am, the less I want another male near me, and I for damn sure don't want one to touch me. Emotional comfort is a mothering thing, to me. (But I'm further up the sociopath scale than most folks, and have daddy--and mommy--issues, so YMMV.)
posted by aeschenkarnos at 4:18 AM on May 18, 2012 [3 favorites]


I'm a woman, and I've never agreed with women-only spaces. We need safe spaces to have both women and men in them, because we're in this world together, and because most men are safe and do not support violence against women.

I never did go to the women's centre on my campus, partly because it was a women-only space. (Needless to say, I wouldn't support a men-only space either).
posted by jb at 4:49 AM on May 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


I think some of what goes on is that the Right realizes (correctly) that "women-only" spaces are not just spaces that only women can use. The Right is generally OK with "women's spaces" in limited amounts and under controlled circumstances, especially when the spaces are built around things men don't want to do (like, say sewing). Women's spaces of the sort you find on campuses (outside of Sororities and women's bathrooms/changing rooms/etc) are places that are set up in opposition to the Patriarchy. They are places where women are supposed to address political things, which are most certainly not "women's business" as far as the Right is concerned.

The problem with most "men's spaces" that I have seen is that they are not the equivalent of "women's spaces" in the sense of gender-segregated places which are in opposition to the Patriarchy but, instead, a place that reinforces the Patriarchy (and annoys the sort of men and women who support women's spaces, because, you know, annoying the Left is always a good use of resources for the Right, right?). So, while I would support a "men's space" that actually addressed some of the ways that the Patriarchy hurts men (and the Patriarchy hurts most men pretty badly -- it's not rule by men, remember; it's rule by Patriarchs -- old rich men), this sounds more like another "boys only" space which is not something we really need. There are enough of those spaces already.
posted by GenjiandProust at 5:02 AM on May 18, 2012 [4 favorites]


It needs to be staffed by nurse practitioners dressed like auto mechanics or lawn-care specialists, who discuss things with smug jargon and a familiar tone: "Oh, yeah - heart performance and reliability is tied into blood pressure, sure. You need regular maintenance to keep performance at an optimum. Say, I know a guy who does blood pressure - he'll hook you up with some lisinopril. Sweet stuff, it will keep your ticker purring like it was fresh from the showroom."
posted by Slap*Happy at 5:16 AM on May 18, 2012 [3 favorites]


> They should fill the centre with Victorian Chairs, brandy, newspapers and cigars. And rename it the gentlemens centre. Then we men can go their and do business together.

The University of Toronto used to have a place like that.
posted by The Card Cheat at 5:26 AM on May 18, 2012


I went to an all-women's school (at the undergraduate level) and we still had a women's center, as a place where the alternative newspaper could meet, counseling could happen, sexual assault training could be done, and so on. I also went to a single sex school, and while I know several guys who loved and had great experiences at their all-boy schools, my impression of and experience with our brother school was very much not a positive one. If what this does is supply a space for exploring violence or issues, or creating an area to discuss real health and positive relationships, that does sound good. There aren't spaces for that in modern society a lot of the time for guys to discuss such things safely, is my impression.
posted by jetlagaddict at 5:28 AM on May 18, 2012


You guys are interpreting this in the least charitable way possible. When I was a residential advisor, I worked with some really amazing men talking about masculinity and ways to guide male college students into adulthood in the healthiest way possible. The fact is, there aren't a lot of venues in college for 18- to 22-year-old males to have conversations with eachother about serious things. With guidance from some university department like residential life or the office of student services, I could see this being a really helpful program for guys who are looking for spaces outside of fraternities to figure out what it means to be a man who contributes to society in a meaningful way and so on and so forth. Shouting this down before it gets started seems like a shortsighted way to approach the situation.
posted by ChuraChura at 5:30 AM on May 18, 2012 [8 favorites]


I think, even if this is made into a sort of men's only space, the center should exist in conversation with women.

....Wait, don't we women get up in arms when some men try to insert themselves and their "what about us" perspective into threads about sexism and such? Insisting that a men's space needs to "exist in conversation with women" kind of smacks of the same thing, to my mind.

I hear what you're saying, but I suspect that the kind of guys who'd take such a center seriously would be automatically doing it anyway without writing it into the bylaws or whatever, and the guys who would need to be brought to the inter-gender-relations table probably would be writing off a men's center as "too fruity" or something.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 5:33 AM on May 18, 2012 [4 favorites]


Separate but equal is not a solution.
posted by gjc at 5:55 AM on May 18, 2012


Separate but equal is not a solution.

Apples and oranges.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:14 AM on May 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


Of course MeFites shit all over any attempt by men to improve themselves or do anything by themselves. And of course any such actions, if begrudgingly permitted, must be done with the approval of women.
posted by joeclark at 6:34 AM on May 18, 2012 [7 favorites]


I went to an all-women's school (at the undergraduate level) and we still had a women's center, as a place where the alternative newspaper could meet, counseling could happen, sexual assault training could be done, and so on

Which clarifies the problem with these centers. They're not actually places for women (or in this case, men), they're political organizations with a specific set of goals, which welcome some women and are unwelcome to others. That would be fine if they were called "Social Justice Centers" or "Howard Zinn Memorial Society" or whatever, but given the existing nomenclature, they just reinforce the dumb and self-defeating idea that the women running the alternative newspaper speak for all women.
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 6:44 AM on May 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


To digress for a moment... am I the only one who thinks it's odd that the student newspaper features a naked woman on the cover and a bunch of vibrators on the back cover?
posted by freakazoid at 6:46 AM on May 18, 2012


I have worked in women only spaces and services that support women and children for most of my life. These spaces and services were, and are created because women want safety. Women do not have safety when sharing services and spaces with men.

I often get asked by men: “what about the men”? and I just throw it back “if you are so concerned about men, then get out there and do something. Just like women have done”.

I have no opposition in men working with men around men’s issues. I encourage men to set up men-only rape crisis centres and men-only abuse shelters. If these issues are that important to men, as some say – then do something about it.

Meanwhile, stop pestering me, as I have a ton of work to do.
posted by what's her name at 6:46 AM on May 18, 2012 [7 favorites]


I think the problem is that, as with the "Men's Rights Movement", these things are often executed as anti-women, rather than pro-men. And a lot of women's groups are naturally nervous about what looks like an attempt to found an official anti-women space on their campus. Whether this particular case is actually about a safe space for men is hard to say, because the water's been poisoned by a lot of bad faith attempts that look a lot like this.
posted by Karmakaze at 6:47 AM on May 18, 2012 [8 favorites]


Women do not have safety when sharing services and spaces with men.

That's an assumption that is very disturbing to me. It demonizes all men. Some women might not feel safe while sharing a space with men -- but that does not mean that they actually not safe. And maybe it would be better for them to share space with men who are safe and who wish to help women, so that they can learn that it is not all men who are a threat, and that there are lots of men who believe that violence against anyone is bad and who do not support patriarchy.
posted by jb at 7:06 AM on May 18, 2012 [7 favorites]


And if I were ever raped, the one person I would want to be at the crisis center with me would be my best friend - a man.
posted by jb at 7:08 AM on May 18, 2012


but given the existing nomenclature, they just reinforce the dumb and self-defeating idea that the women running the alternative newspaper speak for all women.

Wait, what? The one on campus actually is named after the building it's in, it just seemed dumb to use a label no one on Metafilter would recognize. It's a functional space that happens to be useful for a lot of interrelated activities, some of which, like assault training, are better in an area that actually is single-sex, unlike the rest of campus. No one, I assure you, is under the impression that we're not real women without voices for not participating in things that happen in the women's center.
posted by jetlagaddict at 7:15 AM on May 18, 2012


I'm a woman, and I've never agreed with women-only spaces. We need safe spaces to have both women and men in them, because we're in this world together, and because most men are safe and do not support violence against women.

I never did go to the women's centre on my campus, partly because it was a women-only space. (Needless to say, I wouldn't support a men-only space either).


this is your experience. not everyone else's. i think it is wonderful that there was a women's space for people who wanted/needed it. and i think it is wonderful that you did what was right for you. your experience, however, does not trump that of other people - just as their experiences should not trump your own.
posted by anya32 at 7:25 AM on May 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


This discussion has been going on at SFU for at least a decade, and usually breaks down like it has here, with most dismissing it, since everywhere is often thought men's space.

From what I recall, a few men want the space to use for discussion of masculinity, a few want it for resources, and a few would really like a safe space to sleep after drinking when they don't want to take the bus all the way down the mountain (women can sleep in the women's centre; there is no safe equivalent for men).

Many in favour point out that women are the majority at SFU, and there is a degree of "man blaming" of 18-22 year olds for issues that were a lot more prevalent 50 years ago. A number of people within the women's centre have been talking about setting up a male allies group, which has been in the "conceptual stage" since I was there 4+ years ago.

Depending on how it is organised, I think a safe space for men at SFU would be great. But - like many things - it really depends how its framed. If space could be funded through the student union, and the women's centre could move the allies from conceptual to actual, this could be an excellent thing. If support groups for gay and trans males were also involved, and the international student groups had some input, this would be an amazing space.

Though reading through the Peak student comments on the possible centre, I'm not sure it'll get off the groung - good to know a male student feels this centre isn't needed since women have their own emotional issues, but men's are more general - a comment both anti-man and anti-women in one.
posted by narcissus_and_ambrosia at 7:25 AM on May 18, 2012 [6 favorites]


trying to find your place in the world, and what it meant to be a man and how you conduct yourself are common themes for college guys.

In the days of my youth, I was told what it means to be a man. Now I've reached that age, I've tried to do all those things the best I can. But no matter how I try, I find my way into the same old jam.
posted by octobersurprise at 7:26 AM on May 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


your experience, however, does not trump that of other people - just as their experiences should not trump your own.

Anya, I think the retorts you're responding to were themselves partially in response to a blanket claim that women aren't safe sharing space with men, which seems itself to be an attempt to trump others' experiences.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:31 AM on May 18, 2012


I hope this ends up being as good for the guys there as I wish it was. I'm a feminist chick, and I think men have a hard time of it in a lot of ways, particularly with respect to being able to have peer-supported environment to challenge the ways the culture fucks them up.
posted by rmd1023 at 7:31 AM on May 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


It's unfortunate he doesn't understand the optics around calling it a men's center, or being clear that a culture which teaches men to denigrate women is a huge part of the problem, but the idea itself doesn't strike me as totally misguided.

Setting aside the value of an explicitly women-only space for a minute, from the outside looking in, it seems entirely possible for these spaces to exist at universities without being defined on gender lines. Certainly where I was an undergrad one did, though I understand the involved students skewed heavily female. I think where I am now, the women's group is straddling some weird middle ground, where they use language that excludes men, but are interested in gender equity stuff and welcome men interested in their activities. (Or so I understand. I could be way off base.)
posted by hoyland at 7:33 AM on May 18, 2012


If you can have a women's center you can have a men's center. That's how it should be.
posted by Ironmouth at 7:34 AM on May 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


It's laughable to think that men face the same hazards that women do on campus (or in other places). Women experience harassment and violence because of their gender, overwhelmingly at the hands of men.

That doesn't mean that there should not be some sort of men's center, but just because there is a women's center does not mean that men are entitled to one too.
posted by KokuRyu at 7:37 AM on May 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


Anya, I think the retorts you're responding to were themselves partially in response to a blanket claim that women aren't safe sharing space with men, which seems itself to be an attempt to trump others' experiences

I definitely agree with you - I think saying that all "women" feel unsafe around men is an overbroad generalization, as well. I may have misinterpreted what JB was saying - I do think that some women or "womyn" clearly do see a value in "women's spaces" even if not all "self-identified" women want them. (Aka the Michigen Womyn's Festival, which has its own gender/expression problems).
posted by anya32 at 7:42 AM on May 18, 2012


I wonder if you could run a center that's not gendered, with gender-specific spaces and services available to people that aren't comfortable in the mixed environment?

There isn't intrinsically anything wrong with the idea of a men's center, but the best safeguard against reactionary, misogynist bullshit is for it to have a working relationship with the women's groups on campus. If the relationship is hostile or adversarial, things are going to get ugly fast.

I don't see why this would be impossible to accommodate. Difficult, yes, but not impossible. It'll require that people strip down their egos, show some empathy and understanding, and create safe spaces for everyone involved.

Snark like, "There's already a men's center, it's called the philosophy department," is just going to keep everyone at each others' throats. Feminist struggles to create an open and equal society help men as much as women. We all need this.
posted by Stagger Lee at 7:56 AM on May 18, 2012 [3 favorites]


I'm of the opinion that we would make great progress as a society by ending this notion that male history and etc. is history and etc. generally and by getting to the root cause (as with everything else) as to why: why it is what it is? Because then we can get some real gems such as the recent Gizmodo article with a study that points to hormones that determine which men women date. Whether or not the study has any grounding, I haven't looked into it, but even just making such hypotheses and testing them can lead to significant progress on the opposite gender relations front.

Short: what Rodrigo said. I'm basically in favor of anything that will as safely as possible and ***effectively*** scale back current levels of male aggression and bring some much needed stabilization in the gender relations department. And sure, we're going to need to push the lever a little left of center to begin with, but I feel there will be a need to bring it back to center quickly as to not cause too much of a disturbance.
posted by JoeXIII007 at 8:00 AM on May 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


Over the last 10-20 years we've seen a lot more awareness of the broader range of gender identity issues. Most feminist circles have already accepted that gender doesn't fall neatly along biological lines or binaries. That alone should be a call for support spaces that don't require that you stamp your gender as F on a form. It's not a criticism of existing women's spaces, but I think that everyone needs to be organic and flexible enough to accommodate these things.

Maybe that's become a non-issue since I graduated, but I bet there's still work to be done there.
posted by Stagger Lee at 8:02 AM on May 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


I recall reading about a mentoring-type program for boys of highschool and college age. The focus of the program, as I recall, was in encouraging and helping young men to use traditionally "masculine" strengths and attributes to grow into respectful, responsible, mature adults, and to feel positive about those "masculine" strengths. I think that kind of initiative, as well as crisis support, counselling services, resources, etc would be great. I also think that's not what's going to happen, as evidenced by the naked girl with the cookies.
posted by windykites at 8:15 AM on May 18, 2012


I don't like women's centres being women-only spaces because, for one, my university did not offer another women's centre or place to go for support (in cases of sexual assault, etc) in which male allies were welcome. It wasn't a choice: there was no place that I could go for support where my male partner (someone who has done far more volunteering for women's shelters, etc, than I ever have) was welcome to be with me in support. If I had been assaulted, it would have been my male partner who I would have told first (as he's my best friend), and he would have probably have been the one to take me to a crisis centre and hold my hand, as he has done with all of these other crises in my life.

Secondly, I don't think it's healthy for women to identify men as a group which need to be excluded, any more than it is healthy for men to exclude women. I'm perfectly happy with there being a women's centre focusing on women's issues in which all women and men who are in support of women's safety and rights are welcome. But to exclude all men is to create more barriers between the genders that just aren't healthy. Some people say, "but if a woman has just been assaulted by a man, she doesn't want to have to deal with another man." But that kind of thinking could go a long with "if you've just been beaten up by one black person, you shouldn't have to talk to another black person in the hospital," which is patently ridiculous (and racist). The crime of one person should not be ascribed to another person who just happens to be like them. If a woman has been victimized by a man (whether assault, domestic violence, etc), wouldn't it be so much better for her to meet and interact with other men who will not victimize her, who will support her and condemn the person who hurt her? And isn't it better for men to be active partners in the effort to reduce violence against women?
posted by jb at 8:32 AM on May 18, 2012 [6 favorites]


My wife is a member of an organization called the Young Women's Leadership Program, which is run out of the Permanent Commission on the Status of Women, which is a part of the State government created by statute and funded in the state budget.

There is, unsurprisingly, no equivalent program or commission for men.

What I find interesting about this -- as someone who believes strongly in gender equality and equal rights -- is that it kind of reinforces the normativity of maleness by implication. An implication of having a commission to look into how women are doing, but not one on how men are doing, is that men's interests are already taken care of, just by things working the way things work.

To my mind, the normativity of maleness is a pretty damaging concept, and one that damages men probably as much as it damages women. It damages men differently, in much more subtle ways, and I kind of think that it damages men in ways that make men feel like it's not safe to express how they have been damaged. In particular, I think that it is difficult for men to express themselves in ways that deviate from their perceived normativity without feeling as though their gender and potentially their sexuality are at risk.

A woman can wear a football uniform, say, without -- I imagine -- feeling as though she is abdicating her identity as a woman. Not only can't a man wear a ballerina's outfit (to choose something specifically female representing athleticism) without feeling gender panic, he can't even want to wear the thing without having to confront that panic.* He can't even experience it as a loss of something he'd otherwise want to do. And I think that this plays itself out in weird ways that cause men to become defensive, because women already have permission to want to occupy the conceptual space of maleness in a way that men don't have permission to abandon that space. But the male identity as normative becomes encroached upon as women take it on. (Imagine being a boy named Ashley or Lesley. Now imagine being a girl named Sam or Joey.) So where does this situation leave men?

I kind of have a hypothesis that a great deal of male behavior and especially hypermasculinity -- catcalling, various forms and iterations of bro-ing, indiscriminately broadcasting whether you'd hit that or not, weird almost-violent aggressive behaviors -- are things that men do in part as a response to this. I am not saying that these things are the fault of women or of feminism. I'm saying that they are evidence of men acting out because they don't have permission to express their authentic selves, due to the normativity of maleness.

I'm not sure that a "men's center" filled with undergrads is necessarily going to turn out to be a place where men are able to address how the normativity of maleness has alienated them from their authentic selves, but I do think that this is a question worth addressing. In fact, I think that there are threads within feminism that do a lot of the conceptual work needed to address this normativity and its effects on men. And I think that feminism which resists the idea that men could need to deal with these issues in a space and a way which is oriented toward maleness and which might, at least at first, need to be exclusive, is a feminism committed to the kind of equality which, like the man says, leaves us all blind.

* Yes, transvestitism exists. I don't think it's an especially good counterargument to what I'm talking about -- I kind of think it's existence makes my point, actually.
posted by gauche at 9:02 AM on May 18, 2012 [10 favorites]


>freakazoid
>am I the only one who thinks it's odd that the student newspaper features a naked woman on the cover and a bunch of vibrators on the back cover

The student newspaper, The Peak (how ironic), is mostly stupid trash, with sensationalist and cringe-worthy covers, (and obviously not run by the Women's Centre).
posted by Listener at 10:05 AM on May 18, 2012


There's already a men's center, it's called the philosophy department.

Such a softball setup. We all had one of those. ;)

Practically, there is a men's movement in the Twin Cities, the Mythopoetic groups, that go off in the woods, take off their clothes, beat on drums, get erections, hug each other, and talk about how it is all all right.

Out here we call those folks Radical Fairies.

Oh, straight men? There's a "men's center" in every city. Lots of them, official and unofficial. It is true you usually have to be rich, but white, men, and richness are often connected.

What's next? A white-race theme house? I agree that college men can sometimes suffer from a lack of specific attention, but a lot of that perception is based on the imbalance in the real world.

Oh come on, Maclean's is actually kind of interesting to read.

I used to abstract periodicals for a living. I considered Maclean's to be Canada's verison of People Magazine. There is better stuff to read.
posted by mrgrimm at 10:14 AM on May 18, 2012


I kind of have a hypothesis that a great deal of male behavior and especially hypermasculinity -- catcalling, various forms and iterations of bro-ing, indiscriminately broadcasting whether you'd hit that or not, weird almost-violent aggressive behaviors -- are things that men do in part as a response to this. I am not saying that these things are the fault of women or of feminism. I'm saying that they are evidence of men acting out because they don't have permission to express their authentic selves, due to the normativity of maleness.

That's good insight. I've posted this before ...

" ... it should not surprise us that the structure and the historical context of the fraternity give rise to this phenomenon: an all-male organization intent on proving masculinity in a world where masculinity is seen as antithetical to intimacy amongst men, because that intimacy is too often understood to be “gay.” Until fraternity men learn to be more comfortable with the intimacy fostered through the bonds of brotherhood without demanding its concurrent disavowal through homophobia and the conquest of women, it seems unlikely that women will be much safer on college campuses with active Greek populations.

Bros Before Hos: College Fraternities and Sexual Exploitation

Believe it or not, it really is all about the homos for a lot of guys, and proving that they are not one of them. Until that "normativity" you speak of is corrected, I don't see that much benefit to a men's center, outside of focus on specific health issues.
posted by mrgrimm at 10:18 AM on May 18, 2012


I have never understood the Men's Rights stuff.

Maybe I'm just uber centered or something, but I've never felt any need to anguish over my circumcision, or express angst at being a man in this world, or go into the woods hit drums and talk about Iron John.

There are a lot of problems with being a man in our culture, most I'd argue boil down to the problem of anxious masculinity that patriarchy is rooted in. Manhood, as defined by patriarchy, is nothing innate to being born with a penis, but rather a fragile thing that must be earned through obedience to patriarchal norms and which can be taken away at any moment for the slightest infraction.

So I can see how there's plenty of guys around with a massive case of anxious masculinity.

But to me the idea of a Men's Center seems unnecessary, silly, and pointless.

However, I can't really object to people doing silly, pointless, and unnecessary things. I do plenty of stuff that falls into those categories myself.

Or, rather, I can't object as long as such things are done with private money and aren't diverting resources away from worthier causes. One of the silly, pointless, and unnecessary things I do is play StarCraft. If a group of students wanted to start a StarCraft Center and wanted to use university funding for such a thing I'd object. If they wanted a StarCraft Center but were funding it themselves I'd be fine.

I'm not opposed to a Men's Center per se, though I'd roll my eyes a bit and snicker. But I am opposed to spending limited university funds on a Men's Center.
posted by sotonohito at 10:21 AM on May 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


Midgley says men could benefit from a similar “safe space.” He says his gender deals with more suicides, alcoholism and drug abuse, and suffers negative stereotypes just like women do.

I guess I don't see those problems occurring primarily because they are men.

he centre was important to the women’s movement in the 1970s when women were a minority of the student body and even more rare as professors. Today it’s important, she says, for its work fighting violence against women.

Whereas violence against women is a serious issue that alone justifies 450 square feet at the least.

Really, what are the major problems facing college-age men that this center needs to address?

Midgley admits no men approached him asking for their own space.

Got it. Midgley might be sincere, but the whole thing seems juvenile and political--"if the girls have a space, we need one too." It's hard to tell without knowing his real motivations.
posted by mrgrimm at 10:25 AM on May 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


The gender equity centre at Berkeley hoyland linked to looks like a significant progressive step beyond women's or men's centres. Good to see.
posted by Listener at 10:26 AM on May 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


> I am opposed to spending limited university funds on a Men's Center.

Student society funds, in this case.
posted by Listener at 10:28 AM on May 18, 2012


You know, I'm a feminist woman married to a culturally-gender-non-conforming man, and I think there is a desperate need for an anti-bro men's space. My husband is all man, very masculine, but not in the least bit macho, and bros make him want to curl up or throw up or something. Growing up, and even now, he had almost no support system for learning how to be a man without being a macho shithead, and it has absolutely left him adrift and somewhat bereft.

He's tried the "men's circles," but says that the big forest drum-pounding meetings don't get more than about an hour into them before everyone is yelling about how much they hate their wives and their girlfriends and their mothers and their sisters, with really violent and misogynist language, and that's not helpful or desirable to him. He loves women and is very comfortable around them -- he is happiest at work, for example, when he's on a team that is supermajority female* -- he just isn't one.

I know it's a cliche and a bingo card, but the reality is that Patriarchy really does Hurt Men Too, and it hurts men in different ways than it hurts women. I think that men deserve a space to work out their own alternative narrative of masculinity, outside of the vicious bro machine. Whether this particular Men's Center is that space or not, I don't know, but I think it's not an idea to dismiss out of hand.

*About three years before he left his last-job-but-one, he was trying to figure out why his team meetings were suddenly so uncomfortable for him, all about jockeying for power and visibility and subtle influence plays and alpha crapheadedness, and he realized that with the last spate of new hires, his team was now 52% male. It was a very depressing realization.
posted by KathrynT at 10:30 AM on May 18, 2012 [12 favorites]


I don't see that much benefit to a men's center, outside of focus on specific health issues.

I think there's some value there, for sure. Maybe we're getting into TMI territory, but as a freshman I would have loved to hear that it's fine and normal for a guy to insist on always using a condom or to say no to a sexual proposition he's uncomfortable with. Pretty much all information regarding sexual boundaries were communicated as how to let a guy know what you're not comfortable with and how to take "no" for an answer as a man. And for good reason obviously, these are good messages to get out there.

I wouldn't have been interested in a men's centre "because women have one so we should too" though. I think when setting something like this up it's a mistake to frame it with any sort of comparison to the need for women's spaces. You want to help men? Great, go for it! You want bring up the idea of a centre for men in order to shed some light on what you feel are inequities in the ratio of injustice and support? Eh, I'd say your motives aren't exactly where I'd like them to be.
posted by ODiV at 10:36 AM on May 18, 2012 [3 favorites]


as a freshman I would have loved to hear that it's fine and normal for a guy to insist on always using a condom or to say no to a sexual proposition he's uncomfortable with.

But this is standard dorm stuff (or should be) and part of most contraceptive presentatons. It is cliche, but didn't y'all get the folks who come around with condoms and bananas and show you how to put them on (I never understood how it was so complicated)? Part of that presentation was the standard "PC" sexual equality stuff.
posted by mrgrimm at 10:47 AM on May 18, 2012


Part of that presentation was the standard "PC" sexual equality stuff.

It is, but it's different getting that message once, from a presenter, than it is getting it reinforced through your peer group on a regular basis. The former says "men should be like this," the latter says "men ARE like this."
posted by KathrynT at 10:52 AM on May 18, 2012 [2 favorites]


Well obviously my experiences won't be universal, but pretty much all we got on that front is pretty much some techniques and strategies for getting an unwilling guy to wear a condom and then the assurances that refusing to allow him to do something you were uncomfortable with was okay.

The idea that some women pressure men to have sex without a condom was a huge shock and something I really wasn't prepared for. Call me naive.

Now we're kind of veering off topic and yeah, maybe this would be better in a general sex ed talk, but I think it's maybe something that a "men's centre" could help with if they had some input in the content and delivery of this information.
posted by ODiV at 10:57 AM on May 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


Oh come on, Maclean's is actually kind of interesting to read.

Do you mean the magazine, or the toothpaste?

'Cause the magazine is shit.
posted by Sys Rq at 10:59 AM on May 18, 2012


While this particular example doesn't make a lot of sense to me, and I'm extremely skeptical of any "men's rights" organizations, young men do need an alternative to bro culture.

I'm in my mid 20s and I'm still struggling with finding a place for myself in masculinity: both "jock culture" and "nerd culture" are thick with misogyny and homophobia. But what these boys need is, for lack of a better term, a feminist Big Brother that can help them be jocks or nerds without being douches. As it is, it feels like in order to be sensitive and thoughtful about this sort of thing, you have to give up a part of your masculinity to do so.

However, what this means is the school needs mentors, not a building. The organization needs to come first.

The idea that some women pressure men to have sex without a condom was a huge shock and something I really wasn't prepared for. Call me naive.
Same here. I also have had to deal with having a lower sex drive than a number of women, or never getting a response after a hookup, and all sorts of other unexpected sex scenarios that culture didn't prepare me for.
posted by modernserf at 11:20 AM on May 18, 2012 [4 favorites]


I'm an SFU alumni and although I'm not super-connected with the school anymore, I'm having a hard time seeing this as more than a "what about us straight, white guys" kind of thing, primarily because they seem to have approved it and got the funding without even having a clear mandate or articulating what they're trying to address. Furthermore, it seems in line with those people who would go around to the women's centre, Out on Campus and P!RG to demand refunds for the $5 fees that these centres take from student fees, because they don't identify with the mandates of those groups. (They do have a right to get that money back, for it's such a small amount that it seems really petty and mean to do so.) Also, I find it interesting as an alumni that any part of the university has such a large surplus that the Student Society needs to invent ways to spend money. That's certainly not the scenario presented to me when fundraisers call and e-mail me asking for donations to the old alma matter.

That said, if I were still a fee-paying student, I'd be willing to give them a chance to develop an appropriate and complete mandate, but only if they do it relatively quickly.

(FWIW, although I'm a woman, I never once entered the Women's Centre at SFU, and while I understood why it came to be in the '70's, I'm not certain that there is the same need for female only spaces nowadays as there once was - I think dialogue between the genders is where feminism needs to go now. OTOH, I admit I say that with some privilege of my own as a middle-class, able-bodied, primarily straight white woman: it's possible that women with multiple marginalized identities still require female only spaces.)
posted by Kurichina at 11:43 AM on May 18, 2012 [1 favorite]


The first group of students who push for this are, hopefully, going for a drum-circle kind of thing.

They'll graduate before construction finishes and the second group of students will look at it and think, "Dude! Campus beer centre!"

Or maybe they all remember the Freemasons, funny hat clubs of old and are yearning for something akin to that.
posted by Slackermagee at 12:04 PM on May 18, 2012


Women do not have safety when sharing services and spaces with men.

That's an assumption that is very disturbing to me. It demonizes all men. Some women might not feel safe while sharing a space with men -- but that does not mean that they actually not safe. And maybe it would be better for them to share space with men who are safe and who wish to help women, so that they can learn that it is not all men who are a threat, and that there are lots of men who believe that violence against anyone is bad and who do not support patriarchy.


But I think many women's spaces are constructed so that women don't have to deal with questioning whether they are or aren't safe. Our broader society tends to tell women: you're overreacting, it was just a compliment, he wasn't really threatening you. Women's perceptions of safety are often marginalized; one of the points of a safe space is not to reinforce the same paradigm.

I also think it's problematic to approach it as "but some men want to help you!" On the surface this is great, but I think there is a subtle difference between standing WITH someone and standing FOR someone.

I once read an account of a Take Back the Night rally where a group of (enthusiastic!) men wanted to take part and were hurt to be told that this particular event was woman-only. "But we can help! We'll be protective and less people will harass you!" they said. But the point of the march was the exact opposite: one moment where women were going to demonstrate that they didn't need - indeed that it was pretty fucked up - for women to need "protection" to walk down a street.

I guess there's no easy answer, bu I for one wouldn't want male allies to "help" me as much as systematically address the way patriarchy exists in their own communities. That is standing with me.
posted by nakedmolerats at 12:35 PM on May 18, 2012 [6 favorites]


ODiV The idea that some women pressure men to have sex without a condom was a huge shock and something I really wasn't prepared for. Call me naive.

Latex can irritate some people's sensitive areas, even to the point of severe pain. I recall a story here(?) a
while ago told by a woman who had never realized sex wasn't supposed to hurt her, until she and her partner decided to get pregnant.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 9:12 PM on May 18, 2012


(Well, penetrative sex with a male partner, that is. Presumably other forms of sex were OK for her.)
posted by aeschenkarnos at 9:15 PM on May 18, 2012


KathrynT: "I know it's a cliche and a bingo card, but the reality is that Patriarchy really does Hurt Men Too, and it hurts men in different ways than it hurts women. I think that men deserve a space to work out their own alternative narrative of masculinity, outside of the vicious bro machine. Whether this particular Men's Center is that space or not, I don't know, but I think it's not an idea to dismiss out of hand."

This is spot on. The more I think about it, the more I think the underlying rule here is that Patriarchy or a specific normalized masculinity hurts people in rough correlation without how far they deviate from it. So, women get more hurt by patriarchy than men because they deviate a lot from Patriarchy. But gay men get hurt by it (to the extent that people with penises "shouldn't" act in certain ways) and lesbians get hurt by it (to the extent that people "shouldn't" act in certain ways unless they have a penis), and even straight men get hurt by it to the (usually limited) extent that they don't want to conform with normalized masculinity.

As a straight guy, watching myself pass in and out of that normalization is actually how I came to / come to understand what Patriarchy is, even though my deviations from "passing" as a patriarch are usually pretty small. And, given the totally reasonable requests from women in the thread that we engage in feminism by reforming ourselves, there's got to be some organizational technique we can employ.
posted by Apropos of Something at 1:23 PM on May 19, 2012 [2 favorites]


if you've just been beaten up by a black person, you shouldn't have to talk to another black person at the hospital

Is clearly flawed. However, it's also clearly a completely different thing. The situations are not analogous. Because, in my mind, if you're black and you just got attacked by a white supremist, you should have the option to talk to another black person about it. Rather than a white officer or therapist. You're completely within the bounds of acceptability to prefer treatment by a black doctor if one is available. It doesn't mean you'll never talk to a white person again. It means that you want to expose yourself in a vulnerable way to someone who shares your vulnerability and can relate to your experience, without fear that they'll retraumatise you by unintentionally downplaying your experience, or even just by a display of the same type of strength and lack of vulnerability that has just hurt you.


What you seem to be forgetting is that there are positions of power and positions of weakness. The weak or oppressed need a safe place where they don't have to function within the framework of that oppression. Where they can get away from their oppressors.

Don't misunderstand me. I'm not at all saying that all men, or all white people, are oppressors. I AM saying that there is an overriding structure of opression of woman-ness by man-ness, and that it's totally fair for woman-ness to want to get away from that.

It doesn't at all mean that those women will spend their lives shutting men out in the rest of the world, and can in fact help women to function with, and around, men in the outside world.

Something else that you're not realising is that women who have been repeatedly traumatised by men are often unable to function in certain ways around men. That is something that needs to be dealt with, for sure. But if you have a woman who becomes a scared, scurrying, silenced creature around men, one thing you need to provide her with is a space where there are no men so that she can learn how to be anything else. Then she can deal with integrating.
posted by windykites at 2:54 PM on May 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


I am in favor of any space where men have the opportunity to reflect on and challenge norms of masculinity that they find problematic or offensive.

...

I am a feminist badass lesbian extraordinaire, and this is OK by me as long as it's not a "What About the Men?" center that diminishes the problems women face, or a glorified Man Cave.


I see. So it's okay, as long as everyting that goes on inside it is on your terms? How enlightened.
posted by Dasein at 3:16 PM on May 19, 2012


It's a student-funded and student-run center so it is open to a certain amount of public scrutiny, yes.
posted by mek at 3:53 PM on May 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


To me the problem with a Men's Center is it would be full of men. How about a No Gender Bullshit Center?
posted by Foosnark at 5:53 PM on May 19, 2012


I see. So it's okay, as long as everyting that goes on inside it is on your terms? How enlightened.

Obviously I cannot actually tell the Men's Center what they can or cannot do.

I meant that as a person who has been called an angry dyke/feminist, a person that many people might accuse of being anti-men's issues, I actually think this center is a good idea.

However, I personally think it'd be less beneficial if it turned out to be just a space where men complain about having to pay for dates, without critically examining the system through which men are expected to provide material benefits for a woman's romantic or sexual response. Because I've seen a lot of discussions online that are just about "men have to pay for dates, that's sexist"! and they never seem to actually get to "how could we change that"? or "what does that tell us about masculinity?"

I'd like to see them build the center and see what they do with it. Even if I didn't like the direction it went, I still think it's a good idea in theory.
posted by nakedmolerats at 7:50 PM on May 19, 2012


Gender based centers seem silly to me. They're also a way to make non-gendered or transgendered people feel even more extremely uncomfortable on a college campus. We will be unwelcome in either place, no matter what we do. The choice of which bathroom to use is already uncomfortable and frightening at times for many of us--imagine what entirely separate buildings must be like.

The sooner we can stop segregating people based on their genitalia, the better.
posted by Estraven at 1:59 AM on May 20, 2012


Macleans is an organ of the Conservative party. When they bio somebody, it's because that person is an exemplar of Toryhood.

Hey, now! I vote NDP. Hrmph.
posted by jacquilynne at 7:36 AM on May 20, 2012


This happened at my university awhile ago.

There had been a small women's room, that women would go to to nap (many women feel more uncomfortable napping in public spaces because they are more likely to be harassed, indecently assaulted etc), breastfeed, sit out headaches or study etc, on donated couches.

For many, many years there was regular ranting in the school paper about the unfairness of this! Like, the entire time it had existed, basically.

Each time, the student council pointed out that 'women' weren't just handed a women's room. A group of women got together to make a petition for it, presented a case that it would be useful and used by students to the council, and then decorated and furnished it themselves. Any other group could do the same.

Finally, about 15 years later, a group of men got together and did the same thing! Yay!
See? Gender equality in action.

(Actually, the less awesome facets to the story were, it was partly the Women's Rights Officer who actually coordinated a lot of this, which has a weird stereotype of women meeting the needs of men before getting their own needs met, the room was not used, furnished, cleaned or frequented regularly, and due to that, I think it no longer exists.
But, the student council took the right approach for it, which is that if there is a need, and support for it, it should be accommodated. And it put a bit of a nix on the complaints about the women's room for awhile, because there was a men's room, it just wasn't being used).
posted by Elysum at 7:34 PM on May 20, 2012


I am a philosophy student at SFU. I am a woman. The chair of our department is a woman. Many of my fellow students are women. It is not a boy's club, although there are still remnants of the time when it was.

We do have a women's centre on campus. It's a depressingly dark little room with a fridge and a microwave and a selection of used seventies rumpus room furniture. On the three occasions where I have used this room, there have been one or two young women napping on these hideous orange couches. There are posters and leaflets around which no one seems to read. It's not at all welcoming, comfortable or cozy. If the men on campus feel that they would like something comparable, by all means they should have it. Ugly orange couches for everyone!
posted by alltomorrowsparties at 11:52 PM on May 23, 2012


Ugly orange couches for everyone!

Yup, I mostly see that used as a napping space, also. And, fair enough. It's a little less risky for a male student to go to sleep anywhere on campus, than for a female student to do the same. Sucks, but at least there is safe napping space.
posted by Elysum at 4:11 AM on May 24, 2012


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