Last week was a busy one at the Gauntlet, as we hit what many in the business of using such a word would call a “scoop.”
On March 6, the University of Calgary Wildrose on Campus student club came under fire for an email to its members that started with “you and I both know feminism is cancer.” The email went viral and representatives of WROC announced that their communications director had been fired as a result.
A perk of being a campus newspaper is our connections on campus. And on March 7, when we asked several WROC members for the name of that communications director, they answered — Robert McDavid.
But after a few days of investigation, a fake Facebook account, calls to the U of C registrar, statements from past and present WROC executives and a confrontation in a Tim Hortons line, we still aren’t sure if Robert McDavid even exists.
It’s important that we try to find him. Because Robert McDavid isn’t just a person. Robert McDavid — and the elaborate scheme to create or protect him — represents a lack of accountability. A lack of accountability that — unlike Robert McDavid — did not start with this email.
The world isn’t Reddit. You can’t hide behind your inflammatory statements, a fake name and a Pepe image. Saying something like “feminism is cancer” has consequences. And if you’re going to say that, you have to be prepared to face those consequences.
There are people in this world — and on our campuses — who have anti-feminist, anti-semitic, racist or xenophobic beliefs. We see it in the anti-Muslim and Holocaust denial posters hung around the U of C. We see it at a “free speech” rally at the University of Toronto in October that devolved into violence as anonymous attendees shouted slurs. And we see it in an email saying “you and I both know feminism is cancer.”
The election of United States president Donald Trump, the rise of alt-right figures like Steve Bannon and the surge in populist “Canadian values” politics instigated by figures like Kellie Leitch and Jason Kenney have all likely contributed to the growing legitimization of these beliefs. But as people feel more comfortable stating these “anti-SJW” opinions, most still refuse to take responsibility for them. If you’re going to be a racist or a sexist, you should face whatever feedback society affords to that.
In the past few weeks, former members have called WROC out for its misogynistic past and present. The Wildrose party has condemned the U of C student group and people of all political stripes have called for WROC to do something. The WROC executive’s response? An anonymous statement from the club saying they were sorry and their director of communications had been fired — a director of communications that, based on the evidence, is probably a fake person.
Not every person associated with WROC is a racist, a sexist or an alt-right troll. But someone sent that email and someone believes it’s okay to assume the WROC membership agrees that feminism is cancer. And — in all likelihood — someone made up a fake person to fire so they didn’t have to take the blame for it. That’s a big problem.
Had the real Robert McDavid — or whoever sent that email — come forward and at least identified themselves, things would be different. But they didn’t, so the WROC is crumbling and their executives have gone into hiding as the search for Robert McDavid continues.
The ideas behind Robert McDavid are real and they are on our campuses. Just like any other person, we must hold them accountable to their words and actions. Hiding behind a fake person won’t last forever.
We’re investigating Robert McDavid because the Gauntlet believes in an informed public. We believe people deserve to know the full story — whatever it is — and not be duped by someone who thinks creating a fake Facebook account will make their problems go away. Because it won’t.
Wherever you are, will the real Robert McDavid please stand up?
Melanie Woods, Gauntlet Editorial Board