by Max von Holtzendorff 

Recently CAFE opened the first Canadian Centre for Men and Families.  There have a been a number of articles discussing the opening of the centre in the mainstream media.  Most have been relatively open to the idea of a men’s center. Sarah Boesveld did an excellent interview for the National Post and Gary Mason wrote a fairly positive article for the Globe and Mail, among prominent examples.

And then there’s the article by Heather Mallick for the Toronto Star. Men’s Rights Group are a Waste of Time: Mallick

Mallick clearly did no research before she wrote the article, and she demonstrates several times in it that she indeed “doesn’t know why men’s rights groups exist in North America or indeed anywhere.”  Mallick seems unaware that there have indeed been substantial efforts to help girls in school, and unaware of the fact that research has for years found that girls perform better than boys in schools.

Mallick also seems to think that helping men must necessarily detract from the help women receive.  At CAFE we believe that helping men deal with their issues helps women, not only the partners, sisters, mothers and daughters of these men, but also women in general, because men who do well when it comes to things like mental health are able to treat everyone in their lives better.

But the most problematic part of the article occurs in the first paragraphs, where Mallick feels it is appropriate to mock Canadian Centre for Men and Families Director Justin Trottier based on his weight.  Now I am sure that Justin can handle the criticism, since I don’t believe he is one of the substantial number of men that suffer from body dysmorphic disorder, but it disturbs me that someone who has experienced the sexism Mallick claims to have experienced in her article feels it is okay to dismiss someone for their looks, mock them for looking mentally ill and, instead of discussing their ideas, dismiss them, saying that such ideas won’t help them romantically with the opposite gender.

Heather Mallick is participating in the female equivalent of the male chauvinism that greeted early advocates for women’s rights.

I don’t know why Mallick feels it is okay to do these things and, since I am not the type of person to judge someone based on their appearance, I won’t presume to.

Perhaps Mallick feels that her own experiences of being dismissed based on her gender or appearance give her the right to dismiss others based on superficial characteristics.  Perhaps Mallick simply feels it isn’t important to extend the same professional courtesies we do to women to men.  Perhaps Mallick feels male mental health is not important.  Or perhaps Mallick simply had a deadline to meet and wrote an article in a hurry, which allowed those unconscious biases that can affect the way all of us think to influence her article in a negative way.

Heather Mallick concludes with the idea that men and women like each other and have a common purpose.  That is also what we at CAFE believe. However, we believe that the best way for women and men to help women and men get along and become equal is not by writing articles dismissing what people say and do based on their body weight and whether they smile the right amount, but by evidence based research and advocacy into the problems faced by both genders.

I hope the next time Mallick writes an article she takes a little more time to ensure that what she writes is actually helping bring the genders together as we move towards equality.

Max von Holtzendorff studied physics and applied math at the University of Western Ontario.  He has had a long standing interest in gender issues.