“You’re scum. You’re fucking scum,” the young woman screamed in my face from just a few inches away. Spittle escaped her enraged lips, sprinkling my jacket.
Dr. Warren Farrell is someone who I have a great deal of respect in. There are relatively few leaders within the Men’s Rights Movement worth noting, but of the few that there are, Farrell is at the top of the heap. He got his start as a feminist leader and his credentials are solid.
Farrell served in the leadership of NOW (National Organization of Woman) as a champion of second wave feminism until the organization began to develop policies that Farrell saw as anti-male.
He’s written five ground-breaking books, all developed from the basis of a world-view that is grounded in statistics and fact.
His dedication if anything, is to equality. While Marc Rudov seems to be in it mostly for the money (he is hilarious, however), Farrell appears to very much follow his heart.
Which brings me back to how I am a fucking scumbag.
Let me be clear: I’ve been called mean names plenty of times in my life, even by women. This, however, was the first time that I was verbally assaulted by a young,
attractive woman inches away from a police barricade. And why was I inches away from a police barricade being spat upon by a fanatical young women?
Simple. Because, like Farrell, I follow my heart. And in following my heart, I was attempt to boy to the god of greater learning by attending a lecture being given on a Friday night by Dr. Warren Farrell himself.
Personally, I’ve always though Farrell to be fairly balanced in his approach. He is thoughtful. He bases his statements and views on completed research and demonstrated fact.
So, you can imagine my surprise when I approached the J.J.R. MacLead Auditorium at the University of Toronto and found the immediate area over-run by at least one-hundred protesters.
Several dozen had physically barricaded the entrance with their bodies and what appeared to be some contraptions made out of lengths of wood and rope. Others picketed the area with signs stating “Warren Farrell supports rape culture.”
“Fuck Warren Farrell, fuck Warren Farrell!” they chanted, again and again.
A row of five UofT Police Special Constables patrolled the area near the door. They weren’t making a move to do anything other than keep the peace as best as the y could. They weren’t going to be much of a match for one-hundred protesters.
I approached one of the officers and asked, “I’m here to attend the lecture. How can I get inside?”
“You won’t be able to right now. For your safety, just stay clear of this area by the door and we’ll get you inside when there is an opportunity.”
I thanked her and retreated about twenty feet. Soon I met others who were waiting to get inside. I talked to a few of them. They were polite, but I noticed that we were all a little hesitant to share too much about ourselves. How could we know if who we were talking to was secretly a reporter from a left wing blog. The presence of so many unfriendly look protesters suggested that prudence was in order. If we said too much, would our photographs end up on some website assassinating our character?
One of those I met, a Chinese man who introduced him as a pastor was a little taken aback when I spoke to him in Chinese, but I quickly gained his trust and he opened up to me. He worked with high school students, he said. His son was 17 and hated school. He was only motivated to play video games. This man, who I’ll refer to as Pastor Li, just wanted to learn. I had seen him talking with several of the protesters, asking them what exactly it was that they were protesting.
Although I discovered Farrell during a long period of time spent in China and thus haven’t had the opportunity to access and read any of his books yet, I’d familiarized myself as best as possible with his positions on-line.
Judging by their hastily drawn up signs, these protesters seemed to think that he was supportive of rape. Had he really even suggested that?
A little Internet research clued me into the basis of some of their claims. Farrell discussed the complexity of date rape accusations in his book, The Myth of Male Power.
“If a man ignoring a woman’s verbal ‘no’ is committing date rape, then a woman who says `no’ with her verbal language but ‘yes’ with her body language is committing date fraud. And a woman who continues to be sexual even after she says ‘no’ is committing date lying… we have forgotten that before we began calling this date rape and date fraud, we called it exciting.”
Taken by themselves, these carefully selected quotations help me understand how one might see where those who view Farrell as controversial are coming from. Taken in the context of what he wrote in his book as an entirety, he has clearly never suggested that rape is in any way OK. When I asked him about it, Farrell told me that he regards date rape as even more serious than stranger rape, because in addition to it being a violent crime, there is a loss of trust as well.
My research follow the protest that I witnessed has indicted to me that feminist groups appeared to have taken discussions that Farrell has had regarding university research projects that he has completed and wildly misinterpreted statements made during candid conversations about what the results indicated. Their anger at him stems to from statements he has made about his personal beliefs, but rather explanations of the results of academic research into, for example, the participants of incest.
He has been criticised of course for using the term “participants” instead of “victims” and “perpetrators” when referring to cases of incest. Anyone trained in conducting research knows, of course, that you are supposed to enter into the process as little bias as is humanly possible. Using non-neutral terms, such as “victim” is naturally biased, so for research purposes, I can see why the more neutral term “participants” is preferable when trying to develop an accurate calculation of the harm imparted by incest and in attempted to produce meaningful solutions to correcting the harm produced by cased of incest. To make the world a better place, you first need to understand what is that you are dealing with.
I’m unconvinced that Farrell has even made any statements condoning rape or incest, only that he has made every effort to understand the world for what is truly is, even if that means approaching research work as a professional, which demands that one temporarily let go of pre-conceived notions, even about something that may seems as cut and dry about father-daughter incest. It is the professional’s responsibility as a researcher to do so when creating studies intended to produce reliable results.
I could get into more detail regarding the claims made against Dr. Farrell and the fact-based responses to these claims, but in my mind, I find it unnecessary. Anyone who has taken the time to actually study Farrell’s work would understand him as a man who is extremely dedicated to doing good and understanding others. When I spoke to him about later about the Friday night event, Dr. Farrell told me about the one time prior where a lecture he was given had been picketed. He had simply invited the protesters to hear him out. By the end of the lecture, they were fans.
That’s not how this Friday night ended, however. These protesters were not simple picketers. When a member of the event staff attempted to leave the building, he was physically attacked. It took two or three other staff members to rescue him when he quickly thought better about attempting to exit when he was immediately set upon by the protesters blocking the door. I watched as they struggled to close the door behind them after dragging their colleague to safety back inside. The protesters wanted inside now.
Finally, after an hour long stand off between those attempting to attend the event and those who refused to allow them, two dozen members of the Toronto Police Service arrived on bicycle to re-enforce the five or six University Police constables struggling to keep the peace.
They arranged their bicycles in a semi-circle around the building entrance and forced the protesters to the side. The protesters fought back, trying to force back the police, striking them. One was arrested. (He was later released without charges).
Now that the police held control of the entrance, I approached one of them, asking when I’d be able to gain access for the event. He said that he wasn’t sure. He told me to wait. I asked if there was somewhere less dangerous that I could safely wait. He said no. I should just stay where I was.
One of the protesters decided to help me out. She approached me aggressively, swearing in my face, calling me a scumbag for no other reason than that I appeared to be asking to go inside.
I adapted as peaceful a tone as I could and answered her, “I’m just here to learn. I’m not interested in choosing sides at the present. I just want to hear the guy out.”
“You’ll pay ten dollars just to hear him out?” she sneered, her spittle still flying in my direction.
“Yes, I said. I consider knowledge and learning valuable. I don’t mind spending a little pocket money to acquire some,” I responded, hoping to diffuse her attack by being as reasonable as possible.
Her assault paused for a moment. My calmness appeared to have left her disarmed for a few short seconds. But then she regathered her attack and began to scream in my face again. I was still a scumbag.
I looked back at the officer that I had just spoken to. He and two other officers were focused intently on me and the young woman, watching carefully.
“Sir, I’m being harassed just for being here. Is there somewhere safe where I can wait to go inside for the lecture,” I repeated my earlier request.
Over my shoulder I could see other protesters moving closer. There eyes suggested that they were tiring of talk. I suddenly felt very unsafe, despite the presence of several armed police officers a few feet away from me. A female officer moved up to police bicycle barricade, reaching past it to grabbed my arm. She pulled me away from the circle of angry looking protesters closing in on me.
“Let’s get you inside,” she stated evenly, stepping between me and the approaching protesters.
Two other officers took my arms gently and pulled me towards the door. It opened and then closed behind me. I was inside.
Continued in Part II