It was, in the most literal sense, surreal.
I was sitting at a table. A proper, creamy black glass of Guinness sat invitingly in front of me. I looked to my left and there sat Tom Golden; to my right, Vladek Filler. At the far end of the table was Attila Vinczer. In front of me, in the open part of the room, stood Dean Esmay having a chat with Karen Straughan. Suzanne McCarley passed between and a moment later Dan Perrins. Documentarian Steve Brule of StudioBrule was at another table, as was the dynamic team from Men’s Rights Edmonton.
These people were not the only faces in the crowd. The room was buzzing with people; some of them members of CAFE, who had reserved the entire second floor of the tavern we were in for the soirée.
Someone tapped me on the shoulder. “Hi, I am (name) I go by (username) at AVFM. I Just wanted to say hello.” It happened again and again and again.
I had a buzz and my Guinness was still full. I felt much the same way the entire, late September weekend as one person after another, many of whom I had talked to and worked with — admired — online for years, materialized right in front of my eyes as genuine, flesh and blood people that occupied space in the “real” world.
And then there were the “strangers.” There was a man who drove 1,500 miles straight from North Dakota to attend the event, and who was getting up the next morning to drive straight back. Another man, a mechanical engineer from Toronto handed me his card and we ended up chatting about his writing for AVFM. Others just walked up and handed me cash, insisting that I add it in to the war chest.
All of them, to a man, and woman, wanted to help. They either wanted to give or to work or both. I made plans to talk in the days ahead with several of them.
Of all the things that happened in Toronto that weekend, between the talk given by Miles Groth and the Rally for Men and Boys in Crisis, this particular moment, on a personal level, was the most profound for me; the most compelling, and the most deeply emotional. And it hit me in the midst of all the gentle camaraderie that filled the air, the handshakes and hugs, that we just took a vital and important next step in the right direction for the MHRM.
Please allow me to shift gears a little and pull you with me through a somewhat circuitous overview of the rest of the weekend. It was one of mostly ups, and a couple of downs that I would prefer to characterize as learning experiences more than mistakes. That is not semantics. We are indeed new at much of this. Opportunities to learn abound.
The “mistakes” come honestly. We still have too few people forced to do too much, as evidenced by Attila Vinczer strapping a boulder to his shoulders and dragging it up the side of a mountain to organize and execute the Rally for Men and Boys in Crisis.
We will need more help for him and others early next year when AVFM Contributing Editor Karen Straughan, aka Girl Writes What, steps up to the podium at the invitation of CAFE and delivers a lecture I am sure we will all remember. And the help should be there, as the AVFM team will be there in greater force, and earlier than we were this time.
There were some oversights in planning on the part of AVFM (read: Paul effed up) regarding our participation in events where police have been charged with maintaining distance between us and counter protesters. My inexperience and subsequent lack of foresight in this area showed. As I will be addressing with the AVFM management team in the near future, we will be taking measures to make sure that NO ONE from AVFM crosses lines and engages with counter-protesters for any reason when we have assured police that the boundaries set will be respected. No exceptions.
We will encourage other MHRA groups to conduct themselves similarly, but of course we have no authority over any other group; only our willingness to publicly affiliate.
There were other areas for improvement and learning that are best left for the management meeting before we make any declarations on site.
There is one other matter that needs to be addressed here, and it too is a matter where we are still finding our way and learning the ropes.
At the lecture given by Dr. Miles Groth, he addressed the vital need for the establishment of men’s issues groups at colleges and universities throughout the United States and Canada (and I am assuming other countries as well). As usual, Dr. Groth spoke with the authority and authenticity of a man who has been a genuine advocate for men and boys far longer than many of us have even been aware of these issues. CAFE makes excellent choices for engaging and informative speakers and Dr. Groth is no exception.
There was however, a statement from Dr. Groth that I found to be of concern, and I know many others in the audience did as well.
He said at one point, and I am paraphrasing as accurately as memory will allow, ‘Programs like the White Ribbon Campaign and Walk a Mile in Her Shoes are worthwhile and important.’
Even with my deep and continuing respect for Miles Groth, I must make a public statement objecting to this in its entirety.
Programs like the White Ribbon Campaign and Walk a Mile in Her Shoes are not only not worthwhile and not important, they are the epitome of the slanted, sexist, gender-based view of violence promulgated by disingenuous, corrupt ideologues that now infest academe like a disease.
They are programs of control via shame, targeting men as an oppressor/abuser class in the false model of patriarchy. Both of these programs are primary examples of the academic and cultural misandry that we are pledged to combat.
As such, they should be rightly and unambiguously condemned and exposed, as well as the hate-driven agenda they represent.
I am forced by my values and my knowledge of these programs to speak publicly in dissent of Dr. Groth’s remarks, and to respectfully encourage him to revisit those programs and consider revising his views.
That being said, this is where another valuable lesson comes in for all of us, I think.
Our history in this now real world emergent online movement for the human rights of men and boys has been understandably harsh on those, even among our friends, who get it “wrong.” It takes a lot to understand these issues, and frequently we (including myself especially) can be unforgiving on those who from time to time miss the point, even for a moment. Going forward, I do not think this will serve us. We need to recognize our allies and stick with them, even through what we think to be their mistakes. Our dissent should never be silenced, but should be respectful and should recognize the immense value of people who skillfully support the cause of men and boys.
Miles Groth is such a person, a man who has dedicated years of hard work, and who continues to do so, providing an alternative for young men to the current ambiance of hate on modern college campuses.
I venture to speculate, as I have not yet discussed this with Dr. Groth, that his intent was to project what we all know to be true. There is no problem in this community with programs that address the needs and concerns of women. We support them when not steeped in hatred and when not leaving tread marks on the backs of innocent men and boys.
In fact, I have no doubt if women’s groups were interested in pushing non-gendered programs to address any social malady, including rape and other forms of violence, we would be among the first to speak up in support of them. But we are not so anxious to prove our support of women’s organizations that we will endorse work that is rooted in hate and ignorance.
My disagreement with Dr. Groth’s recent words, however, is offered with the utmost respect for him as a scholar and an advocate for men and boys. He has certainly earned that much many times over.
In the days ahead there will be much more written about the event in Toronto on this website. And we will also look forward to early and more diligent preparations to visit there again to support the appearance of our very own Karen Straughan on the University of Toronto campus.
In the meantime, I want to say thank you to all those who supported this event, who came in person, and all those who sent in their well wishes and who followed events as they happened. We felt your support there to the last man and woman who actually got to go.
Finally, there are now just two days left in our current fundraiser. We have made good progress toward meeting goal again, yet we do have some distance to cover before it is over.
I would like to encourage those who have not yet donated to please do so now. AVFM is working hard to take activism to the next level, and we are getting there. But we can’t do it without you. Please make a contribution, in whatever amount, to help us reach the goals we need to reach in order to help men and boys.
Addendum, with my apologies to James Huff, Robert O’hara, Erin Pizzey, Mike Buchanan, and David King, who took time out of their schedules to do a special edition of AVFM Radio, covering the rally live and reporting on it afterward so that anyone who wanted to could come as close as possible to being there. Thank you all for what was another great example of the work you do on a regular basis for men and boys.