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Violent language from Wildrose on Campus Club unacceptable

By Melanie Woods, March 7 2017 —

This week, the University of Calgary Wildrose on Campus (WROC) and U of C Conservatives student clubs planned to co-host a screening of The Red Pill, a documentary about the men’s right’s movement. However, the two  clubs quickly backed off the screening following a wave of backlash to an email to WROC members inviting them to the screening.

In an email with the subject line,  “Feminism is Cancer,” WROC invited members to a screening of the film, saying “you and I both know that feminism is cancer. To create a dialogue on campus, we have decided to take action.”

The negative response to the email was quick. MLAs from all parties called the group out on Twitter and WROC pulled out of the event, with the U of C Conservatives cancelling their involvement in the event completely about an hour later. In a Facebook statement, WROC said the “comments made do not reflect the opinions of the executive or the club.”

But here’s the thing — these comments do reflect the clubs. The phrasing in that email was violent, unacceptable and a big problem. It’s good they apologized for it. But WROC hired that communications director in the first place. That email sat in the inboxes of its members — including its executive — for hours before they did anything. And they only acted  once national attention turned on the controversy.

The clubs were right to pull out of the screening and apologize for the email. But the clubs also planned the event in the first place.

The Red Pill spotlights Paul Elam, a founder of the men’s right’s website A Voice for Men who publishes and says things like “should I be called to sit on a jury for a rape trial, I vow publicly to vote not guilty, even in the face of overwhelming evidence that the charges are true.”

WROC can backtrack all they want, but the problematic phrasing of that email is only the tip of a larger ideological iceberg. The film — and the email that everyone is so riled up about — co-opts an inherently brutal and violent perspective towards women that is unacceptable on a university campus and political discourse.

The notion of “feminism as cancer” has recently been adopted by figures such as Milo Yiannopoulos, Brietbart News and the seething mass of men’s right’s activists festering on Reddit. While many might chuckle and slap a Pepe meme and “Men’s Rights Activist” designation on anyone who uses that phrase, it has a violent and dangerous history we cannot disregard.

On Dec. 6, 1989, 14 female engineering students were killed at École Polytechnique in Montreal by a man claiming he was “fighting feminism.” The day of the massacre is now marked as the National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women.

This isn’t an issue of free speech. It is an issue of perpetuating violent, harmful and dangerous ideology. Politically, I don’t agree with most of the provincial Wildrose Party’s policies. But I do believe in their right to speak about their party’s platforms and policies. I do not believe in their right to promote violent and hateful rhetoric. “Feminism is cancer” is that kind of violent and hateful rhetoric.

While Wildrose MLAs publicly condemned WROC following the incident, the party as a whole isn’t much better.

In a Twitter argument on March 4 with Calgary mayor Naheed Nenshi, Wildrose MLA Derek Fildebrandt called racists “someone who is winning and argument with a liberal or socialist.”

This wasn’t the first time Fildebrandt and other Wildrose members have come under fire for hateful terminology — don’t forget the Wildrose candidate who claimed that all gay people should burn in a “lake of fire.” We must demand better of our official opposition and we must demand better of our campus groups.

Clubs like the WROC or the U of C Conservatives exist to promote a party’s policy and ideas on the U of C campus. If “feminism is cancer” or “racism is a term only used by losers” are official Wildrose ideas, that’s a bigger problem than a poorly worded email.

Correction: A previous version of this story noted that Fildebrandt’s tweet was deleted. In fact, it is still up and has been linked accordingly in the story. The Gauntlet apologizes to its readers for this error.

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