Where is the outrage, the crystallized and appropriate rage that filled the side walk and lecture hall at the University of Toronto in 2012? When Warren Farrell, an advocate of men and boys rights gave a lecture on suicide rates among men, the U of T campus exploded into this:
Again, this was a lecture about suicide rates among men. The protesters identified a concern that the agenda of the speaker and those in attendance represent part of an ongoing effort to spread hate speech and erode the rights of women in society - to reverse the gains of equality by modern feminism.
Yet this past week when Martin Singer, the dean of York University, capitulated to a male student's request that he not have to associate with female classmates for religious reasons, the response was uproar and righteous indignation from everyone. Everyone, that is except for the feminists.
He likes women enough, see? But he doesn't mind if you hate them.
I'm not so naive as to lump all people who share an ideology or are activists in a particular movement as speaking strictly with one voice. I know that the feminist movement is one as diverse as the women, men, and LGBT folks who identify themselves as such and the even greater diversity that is recognized through terms like intersectionality.
Lastly, I also am mindful that the specific religion (the specific sect of the student in question has been withheld by York) really is incidental as is the group which the University opted to shield away from the student (one can easily substitute women for, black, homosexual, etc.) And keeping that in mind, the rage directed at York University's dean is rooted in moral principle, specific groups need not even be identified.
BUT, all that being said, women were unquestionably disregarded as accommodation was deemed appropriate for an individual's religious practice at a secular Canadian university. And the only significant response to this that I have come across is an excellent post by Anne Theriault at the Huffington Post Canada: Why Did Your University Throw Women Under the Bus?
I suspect the reason for this is a tragic self-defeating viral strain that runs in some areas of gender studies, something called "culture-relativism." In feminism, this is the caveat that women as an oppressed class under the white male patriarchy share their exploited status with any men who's religious and or ethnic identity places them outside this patriarchy. In a nutshell, the brown man is just as oppressed as any female. History shows that there is plenty of evidence to demonstrate truth to this; the problem is the get out of jail card that culture relativism hands to misogyny perpetrated under the veil of religious practice (under the veil, you see what I did there?)
My introduction to this feminist Achilles heel was through former Muslim and refugee Ayaan Hirsi Ali, who identified the problem in her memoir Nomad. Hirsi relates an example of this using an interview between journalist Pamela Bone and feminist author Germaine Greer:
I then asked why it was that Western feminists seemed so reluctant to speak out against things such as honour killings.
Greer: "It's very tricky. I am constantly being asked to go to Darfur to interview rape victims. I can talk to rape victims here. Why should I go to Darfur to talk to rapevictims?"
Bone: "Because it's so much worse there."
Greer: "Who says it is?"
Bone: "I do, because I've been there."
Greer: "Well, it is just very tricky to try to change another culture. We let down the victims of rape here. We haven't got it right in our own courts. What good would it do for me to go over there and try to tell them what to do?
The exchange appears on page 225 of Nomad, and lest myself or Ayaan be accused of taking the exchange out of context, you can read the original 2007 article by Bone here.
Where I'm left confused is at the lack of a visible, loud response to this accommodation at York University. If confronting misogyny and hatred towards women is somehow off-limits when those disgusting opinions and acts are wrapped up in religious expression, then there is a very dangerous implication for public policy in a secular nation.
I can understand a feminist's impetus to demonstrate, block entrance thereto and attack Warren Farrell and so-called Men's Rights Activists out of a fear for what they "could" be advocating or the theoretical slippery slope backwards they "could" be undertaking. But why the silent indifference towards the dutiful religious zealots who's very system of belief declares all women fundamentally less than human beings, chattel, property, and the permissible targets of rape, beatings, and acid attacks? Beliefs for which our great institutions are clearly so easily ready to abandon humanity to avoid offending? I fear we simply have it ass-backwards.