Feminists, Masculinists, Blacklists

September 2003

Researchers for Status of Women Canada have drawn up an enemies' list, and I'm on it. The list of prominent purveyors of "masculinist discourse" is posted on the ministry's Web site.

"The goals of the masculinist discourse are to regain lost privileges and to stop the women's emancipation movement," the study reads. Laval University researchers Pierrette Bouchard, Isabelle Boily, and Marie-Claude Proulx are so nonplussed by us masculinists that they moot the possibility of slapping us with hate-crimes charges.

I found out about the newly issued blacklist after receiving an e-mail from Jeffrey Asher. He's also on the list. Asher used to teach a popular men's studies course until he was dismissed in 2000 on account of what he called a "feminist managerial putsch." I know this because I wrote an article for the National Post three years ago about Jeffrey's fight for due process.

As far as I can tell, the only reason I'm on the list is because I've written a couple of articles about discrimination toward men, and toward male academics in particular. Several journalists and academics and researchers are on the list, including 10 citations for reporters at the feminist-friendly Toronto Star. In fact, the column you are now reading is doubtless an example of "masculinism," since it takes seriously the idea that men – like women – can be victims of discrimination, too.

It fell to the Policy Research Fund, a branch of Status of Women Canada, to mine media databases for examples of masculinism. The Policy Research Fund was created in 1996, because the ministry felt that "good public policy depends on good policy research."

For this particular project ("School Success by Gender: A Catalyst for the Masculinist Discourse"), the researchers canvassed a "corpus of 612 newspaper and magazine articles." They then proceeded to code 12 subcategories of masculinism, identifying, for example, articles that "discuss fathers who claim to be oppressed because their custody rights are taken away," or those that attempt to explain male malaise by reference to "such themes as the loss of the male identity or the quest for a new identity, the consequences of redefining traditional social roles or pressures to redefine them."

It's hard to treat this earnestly as an academic enterprise, and harder still to imagine that Ottawa commissioned it using taxpayers' dollars. But the real gut-thumper lies in the chief recommendation: hate-crimes charges. "We also recommend that consideration be given to whether legal action can be taken under Section 319 of the Criminal Code."

Let us stop to consider the import of this recommendation. It advocates the monitoring of men's groups' Web sites for possible violations of Section 319. That section subjects to imprisonment everyone "who, by communicating statements in a public place, incites hatred against any identifiable group where such incitement is likely to lead to a breach" and everyone "who, by communicating statements, other than in private conversation, wilfully promotes hatred against an identifiable group."

What this counsels is the criminalizing of mainstream dissent. Feminists have long complained of the "white, male establishment." (Some have gone further; Germaine Greer wrote that "to be male is to be a kind of idiot savant, full of queer obsession ... doomed to aggression and injustice not merely towards females, but towards children, animals, and other men"). Should it now be criminal for fathers' groups and other aggrieved Canadians, men and women among them, to grouse about the "feminist establishment" on obscure Web sites? And should journalists be cowed into silence, afraid to cover "men's issues" for fear of landing on a blacklist?

Journalists are paid to investigate controversies – to explore, for example, "masculinist" assertions that there are fundamental differences between the sexes, or that boys and the "masculine" culture must be valued. It is one thing for an academic to take umbrage at these assertions. It is another thing, a dangerous thing, to criminalize these thoughts and to immortalize the names of would-be offenders on a government Web site.