The below poster on a door at the University of Queensland reads “This women’s room is a safer space for anyone who is not a cis-man.” And if you’re wondering what cis-men are, the subtext clarifies them as “those who identify as men and were designated male at birth.”
The poster was created by the UQ Women’s Collective, a Feminist campus organization. We learn this from their symbol at the top right, which sports a classic Feminist logo and reads “Feminism, Activism, Community.”
Some questions come to mind when viewing this poster. Most importantly, shouldn’t spaces – especially ones watched over by those who claim to advocate equality – be equally safe for all people? And if a particular place is safer for one demographic, doesn’t that mean that it is less safe – i.e., more dangerous – for another?
What is the moral basis upon making certain places safer some, and more dangerous for others? What are the mechanisms by which these Feminists intend to enforce the unequal protections they wish to afford those who enter this space?
Does this mentality jive with the notion of equality? And if it does not (as indeed it does not in this case), don’t they deserve to be reminded? And if they are recalcitrant, do they truly deserve our recognition and support as a group that advocates gender equality?
This Feminist group will likely defend or rationalize this statement by stating that this isn’t a direct threat of harm per se. And that would be true – in somewhat the same way that it wouldn’t be a direct threat for a white person in the 1960s telling a black person that “something bad may happen to you if you walk down my street after sundown.” Imagine such a person then claiming to say such things in the spirit of racial equality.
This poster at UQ reminds me of the poster at the Women’s Resource Center at Ottawa University which said that men on campus should keep to well-lit areas, wear bells around their necks, and be accompanied by police wherever they go. Here it is:
How dehumanizing such a poster is. It is amazing that we would tolerate it. It is amazing that so many men themselves would tolerate it. But in our “enlightened” society in which the discourse on gender equality is dominated by Feminism, and our broader culture is enfeebled by a spirit of political do-nothingism, these things are a natural occurrence.
Those who oppose advocacy for men and boys often argue that men simply do not face sexism. But the warehouse of evidence we have accumulated begs to differ.
Far too often, higher education (and school in general) has become a hostile environment for men and boys. One might think, given the incredible decline in academic achievement among male students, that a wide range of governing bodies interested in closing the gaps would spark a conversation to reassess the well-being of men and boys in all areas of academic life.
Unfortunately, they have yet to pick up the torch and light the way. Third-party organizations have instead taken it upon themselves – and given much of their own resources – to issue a call to action. Much of higher education has yet to answer the call.
The time has come to stop acquiescing to a spirit of sexism on our university campuses. These kinds of attitudes need to be called out in no uncertain terms. People should not be made to feel unwelcome on campus simply because of what group they happen to be born into. The only thing that should be unwelcome in academia should be narrow-mindedness and prejudice.
[Ed. note: this post originally appeared at A Voice for Male Students and is reprinted here with permission.]