Controversial men’s rights group fundraising for a Centre for Men and Families
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Adam McPhee is a man. In his eyes, that puts him at a great disadvantage.
“Women have the ‘Walk a Mile in Her Shoes’ campaign,” says the 32-year-old. “But I don’t see a campaign for women to walk around in steel-toed boots. Men have hard shoes, too.”
McPhee is one of a small but swelling group who believe men have become the new underclass. He hopes to open a mancave that will serve as a refuge for his downtrodden brethren. The Canadian Association for Equality, a men’s rights group of which he is a board member, has launched a campaign to establish the first “Centre for Men and Families” in Toronto.
But some gender equity advocates oppose the opening of the venue, fearing it will help CAFE propagate what they view as a misogynist and anti-feminist agenda.
The volunteer group aims to raise $50,000 by the end of August for a facility to address what they see as a wide-ranging crisis facing males. They’ve brought in over $20,000 thus far.
“There’s currently no central place for things like helping fathers in family court,” says Michael Cavanaugh, the association’s communications director. “We also have issues with boys falling behind in school. A majority of homeless people are men. Men are more likely to commit suicide.”
McPhee, who was sexually abused by a girl when he was a teenager, adds there is a lack of support systems for male victims of domestic abuse.
“There are all these things helping women, like places for women fleeing violence,” he says. “But there are men going, “Um, I’m down here. Can I get some help too?’”
Local women’s rights advocates agree today’s males face many hardships, but disagree with CAFÉ’s methods of solving them.
“They tend to be more frustrated about women’s rights being protected and women’s equality being promoted, rather than men’s rights being violated,” says Sarah Blackstock, director of advocacy and communications at YWCA Toronto. “If we’re trying to build a society marked by compassion and equality, this centre won’t help us do that.”
CAFE has attempted to open chapters at several campuses across Canada in the past year, only to be met with heated protests. In June, the Canadian Federation of Students put forth a motion to oppose “men’s rights awareness groups” like CAFE, alleging they “provide environments of sexism, patriarchy and misogyny to manifest and be perpetuated on campus.”
Last November, CAFE came under fire when several women who protested at one of their University of Toronto events, featuring guest lecturer Dr. Warren Farrell, were later profiled on the website register-her.com. The site is run by U.S.-based men’s rights website A Voice for Men and is dedicated to exposing females they allege are “false rape accusers” and bigots.
McPhee denies CAFE is affiliated with the website, denouncing its actions as “completely wrong.” The organization insists it is not launching a war on womankind.
“Just because we need to find out why boys are less likely to graduate doesn’t mean we need less women to graduate,” says Cavanaugh. “But for some reason there’s this pervasive attitude that men don’t need any help because they control society.”
SlutWalk organizer Colleen Westendorf agrees spaces are needed to discuss men’s issues, but questions CAFE’s motives.
“Their approach seems to blame feminism for the suffering of men,” she says. “They say they’re interested in gender equality, yet they deny the ways women are still hugely over-represented in experiencing violence and highly under-represented in positions of power.”
But McPhee argues feminists have swung the gender pendulum too far in their own direction.
“Feminists talk about raising women’s equality to that of men,” he says. “Meanwhile, they’re not raising anything for the men who were already below the women.”
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